Report: Disagreement over international draft could lead to lockout

For the first time in 21 years, there's talk of a baseball lockout. (Getty Images/Elsa)
For the first time in 21 years, there’s talk of a baseball lockout. (Getty Images/Elsa)

And you thought people were joking when they said the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series would lead to the baseball apocalypse. There appears to be some concern the sport could experience a lockout for the first time in 21 years, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

There are a number of issues the owners and the players’ union disagree on, but the international draft appears to be the biggest point of contention:

The owners offered to resolve two of the biggest issues by offering a straight exchange, telling the players they would eliminate direct draft-pick compensation in free agency in exchange for the right to implement an international draft, sources said. The players, however, rejected the proposal, wanting no part of an international draft.

The owners’ proposal to end direct draft-pick compensation essentially would create unrestricted free agency in baseball for the first time. But the union strongly opposes an international draft, in part because foreign-born amateurs do not have the same leverage and opportunities as their U.S.-born counterparts, including college, sources said.

As Rosenthal goes on to explain, the owners want to implement an international draft in order to save money on signing international free agents. Doing so, however, could be a logistical nightmare, and would impact a significant amount of future talent.

It’s important to note that the players’ union doesn’t fully agree with the current system either. Some players have openly complained on Twitter about international players receiving bigger contracts than minor-league or first and second year players.

But, as one union source told Rosenthal, the trade off the owners are suggesting isn’t exactly fair.

As one union source put it: “We aren’t giving them something that affects 30 percent of big leaguers and probably 50 percent of minor leaguers in exchange for something that affects less than 20 players every year, especially guys who are staring $17 million in the face.”

Some players do see the current qualifying offer system as a detriment but, as this source points out, that only impacts 20 or so players per year. On top of that, those players can always just accept a one-year, $17 million offer if they aren’t comfortable hitting the market. It’s not exactly the worst problem to have.

An international draft, on the other hand, would impact hundreds of players every year. And prevent some of those players from receiving significant contracts. Even if some on the players’ union side don’t fully support the current system, the drawbacks of implementing an international draft are far more significant in their minds.

There are other hurdles to clear as well. Rosenthal mentions both the competitive-balance tax and changes to the Joint Drug Agreement as other areas where the two sides don’t see eye to eye. The international draft seems to be the most contentious issue of the bunch.

The two sides have until Dec. 1 in order to reach a new collective-bargaining agreement. If they can’t agree on these issues by then, the owners will consider locking out the players.

Does that mean a lockout will definitely take place? No.

Let’s keep in mind this story is coming about a week before the Dec. 1 deadline. It’s the perfect time for a source on the owners’ side to leak this news hoping players get worried and cave to their demands. It should also come as no surprise that a union source told Rosenthal they “will fight” if the owners won’t meet their demands. Both sides want to try and look strong with negotiations down to the wire.

There’s a lot of money at stake here. And considering how much both sides seem to enjoy cash, you would think an agreement would be reached before either side suffers losses.

There’s no need to stock up on Cubs World Series Blu Rays or buy up every copy of “Angels in the Outfield” at your local Best Buy just so you can get your baseball fix in 2017. While this isn’t exactly encouraging news for fans of baseball, there’s no reason to worry about a possible lockout just yet. If things look grim in a week, you have our permission to panic.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik