Major League Baseball will not implement an international draft for 2014 and may not revisit the subject for another three years, temporarily allaying fears of those worried one would destroy the vibrant baseball culture in Latin American countries, sources told Yahoo! Sports on Friday.
The league and the MLB Players Association are expected to announce Friday they did not reach an agreement and plan to table the idea of an international draft for the rest of the current collective-bargaining agreement, which ends following the 2016 season.
The parties had negotiated with a June 1 deadline to put in place a framework for a draft. While talks will continue and could evolve before the expiration of the CBA, sources said, centralizing such a potentially huge operation proved too difficult over the next calendar year.
The international draft has been a pet project of commissioner Bud Selig, who said he plans on retiring in 2015. He has dispatched top lieutenants to fix a system many in baseball see as corrupt, with rampant identity fraud and performance-enhancing-drug use among teenagers vying for tens of millions of dollars in signing-bonus money.
Baseball ultimately envisions an operation that keeps the heart of the trainer-based system while weeding out the crooked parts that also have included kickbacks to scouts.
The greatest fear among Latin Americans – from outspoken Yankees coach Tony Pena to players who signed a petition opposing a draft system – was that a draft would turn the affected countries into Puerto Rico, whose baseball pipeline dried up once it was subject to a draft.
Already MLB has taken steps to curb a market that exploded with multimillion-dollar bonuses after so long being a well for cheap labor. With the current CBA, the league instituted sliding bonus pools that give the worst teams from the previous season more money to spend during the next signing period that starts every July 2.
Still, compared to domestic money spent on amateurs, the numbers pale. MLB has a suggested slot system for international players as well as domestic amateurs. According to Baseball America, there are 55 slot values in the June draft for at least $1 million each while there are just 11 slots earmarked for players not subject to the draft.
Certainly the prospect of signing 16-year-old players, which account for most of the big international bonuses, brings additional risk and thus may warrant a lesser bonus. At the same time, with the incredible infusion of Latin American talent, the pipeline has become more important to baseball than ever, and, at least temporarily, the lack of a draft will keep happy such a vital segment of the game.
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