There is no substitute for gaming the system. Smart has a pretty solid record of outrunning Rich, until Rich changes the rules in its favor. Major League Baseball’s wild west has always been the international signing world, a nefarious land of shady agents, doctored birth certificates and various and sundry dirty businesses done on the sly.
In the interests of both cleaning up this ugly side of the game and ensuring more cost certainty for owners, the league continues to make steps towards an international player draft. At this time, only baseball players from Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico are eligible for the Rule 4 player draft. Players from other countries are signed as free agents, often much earlier in their careers than draft eligible players.
Limits on international spending are part of the most recent collective bargaining agreement between the players association and the owners. The next step: establishing a bonus structure for a potential international draft.
Baseball America has the full breakdown of slot amounts for the international signing pool, viewed as a precursor to an international draft. All teams were given a $2.9 million bonus pool for use during the 2012 international signing period. For next season, the pool amounts will vary based on the final standings from last season, with the Astros “earning” the largest pool and the Nats earning the least. There is a catch, as BA explains:
However, teams were not just assigned a straight bonus pool figure for 2013-14. Instead, all 30 teams are assigned four slot values, with 120 slot values total (see the chart at the end of this story). The slots values are tiered, with the top slot ($3.246 million) worth the most, then the No. 2 slot ($2.873 million), all the way down to the 120th slot ($135,000) having the lowest value.
BA believes this pool structure hints at a very real possibility of an international draft as soon as 2014. These 120 international slots turn into hard draft slots with the greatest of ease.
The BA link has all 120 slot values laid out in plain English. Will the international draft be any better for international baseball players than the current cut-throat meat market? It couldn’t possibly be worse. As dicey as the proposition of MLB dictating rules across borders, bringing some order to the international signing scene is a welcome good idea. Taking money out of Caribbean teenagers pockets doesn’t sit so well but if waiting and developing better players serves the needs of both the players and the teams. Mostly the teams, if we’re being honest. It always helps the teams.