MLB lockout: What is the international draft and why does it matter?

LIMA, PERU - 2019/08/03: Basketball; Dominican Republic flag in a screen during the match between Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Granthon/Fotoholica Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
LIMA, PERU - 2019/08/03: Basketball; Dominican Republic flag in a screen during the match between Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Granthon/Fotoholica Press/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

Over the course of the MLB lockout, there has been more and more buzz generated around the international draft and what that would mean for the future of the league. But while the international draft may a buzzword at the moment, many baseball fans don’t understand what an international draft is and the difference it could potentially make for baseball players around the globe moving forward.

The concept of an international draft is certainly nothing new, and it’s a concept that has served as a dividing line between MLB and the players for some time.

With that in mind as the basis, let’s answer some basic questions about the international draft and why it matters

What would change with the international draft that is one of the sticking points of the MLB lockout?

In its current state, the MLB draft includes players from the United States, Canada, and players from any United States territory (such as Puerto Rico). Expanding that to become an “international draft” would mean that any player from any part of the world could be drafted.

Recent MLB Hall of Famer David Ortiz and current San Diego Padres player Fernando Tatis Jr. are both on record voicing their displeasure with the thought of an international draft. Here is one of the biggest reasons, according to Tatis Jr.

Is the Dominican Republic the country with the players expected to be most impacted by the international draft?

Among the top countries, yes. Another country with players that would be impacted would be Venezuela.

As a note, on last year’s Opening Day MLB rosters, the United States had the most MLB players with 561 (71.92 percent of all players). The Dominican Republic (80) and Venezuela (54) rounded out the top three.

And let’s not forget that some of the game’s biggest stars (Tatis Jr., Shohei Ohtani, Juan Soto, Ronald Acuña Jr., Jose Altuve, and many, many others) were signed as international free agents. All came from various parts of the world as well.

How would a proposed international draft take place?

According to ESPN baseball insider Jeff Passan, MLB teams would be placed into “pods” of seven or eight teams. Those pods and the teams within them would rotate draft positions to ensure every team had a chance to obtain top talent from around the world. Under this process, every MLB team would pick among the top seven or eight (or potentially higher, of course) once every four years.

Under the proposal, it would be a 20-round draft with 600 picks. Undrafted players could reportedly be inked for a $20,000 maximum. And yes, international picks could be traded.

When would any proposed change occur with the international draft?

MLB is currently proposing changes occur before the 2024 season. That timeline is under question as Ortiz has been adamant that for the system to work in the Dominican Republic, it will need time to be implemented and guaranteed to be successful.

Why are the players so vocal against an international draft?

Francisco Lindor of the New York Mets added his thoughts in an interesting tweet here, saying the concept is being used as a way to “divide players” during negotiations. Many players have also voiced their disdain for the concept being such a big piece of current discussions despite the concept being bantered back and forth for years, with Ken Rosenthal saying earlier in the week that the issue was a “non-starter” for players with Latin ties.

Why is MLB pushing for an international draft and how is it tied in with a qualifying offer?

The league is tying in the elimination of a qualifying offer (QO) with the institution of the international draft. Under the current QO structure, any team can extend a qualifying offer to a departing free agent, forcing the free agent to either sign a one-year deal for a specified amount of reject the offer and explore free agency. If he signs with another team, the team he left receives a compensatory draft pick.

Players don’t like the qualifying offer because they believe teams may shy away from negotiating with a free agent if they have to give up a draft pick. MLB is reportedly willing to drop the draft pick compensation if MLBPA agrees to the international draft.

In one of its biggest arguments, MLB believes an international draft will ensure that money received from being drafted actually reaches the players who are drafted rather than a bulk of it being taken by agents or other people supposedly acting on the player’s behalf.

Next. Is this a flaw in the MLBPA argument?. dark

What comes next in the discussion about an international draft?

For the issue to become a part of the future MLB fabric, those players with Latin ties will have to shown and given assurances that the next generation of baseball players coming from their respective countries will benefit from the new draft structure more than it hurts them. If MLB can’t guarantee that, expect this to continue to be a huge hurdle for both sides to overcome as negotiations continue.