Report: MLB considers canceling amateur draft due to coronavirus pandemic

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports
Major League Baseball may cancel its annual amateur draft as coronavirus fallout continues. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty Images)
Major League Baseball may cancel its annual amateur draft as coronavirus fallout continues. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty Images)
(Coronavirus coverage on Yahoo)
(Coronavirus coverage on Yahoo)

Major League Baseball is considering skipping its annual amateur draft and putting off the next international signing period to preserve cash during the coronavirus shutdown, Ronald Blum of the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Cutting the amateur draft is one of several issues on the table right now. Talks between MLB and the MLB Players Association have been ongoing since the weekend, with the main issues being a resolution on how and when players will be paid, and how major league service time will be credited while games are not being played.

From The Associated Press:

Talks between management and the players’ association are ongoing and include the contentious issue of major league service time, which determines eligibility for free agency and salary arbitration. MLB has proposed crediting full service for 130 games or more and proportional service for a shorter season, the people said on condition of anonymity because those details have not been made public.

Service time is key piece of the puzzle

A lot of what happens will revolve around the service time talks. Each player is credited one day of service time each day they’re on the major-league roster during the regular season. That time served is used to determine eligibility for free agency and salary arbitration.

According to the AP report, union representatives believe a full season of service time should be credited regardless of how many games are played. That would bump everyone’s clock up one full season. The owners will reportedly only concede 130 games, which could end up impacting some players status and ultimately their pay beyond the 2020 season.

Eliminating the draft is still viewed by some close to the situation as “far-fetched”, the report says. That it has been mentioned, however, could mean it’s a compromise option in the event the owners give ground on the service time front.

Skipping the amateur draft and the next international signing period would mean less guaranteed money on the books. Signing bonuses for amateur players total about $400 million annually, the AP report says. Without ticket, broadcast and sponsorship fees coming in, teams fear they may have to lay off administrative staff.

The AP explains the path to the draft’s potential cancellation:

While bonus rules for the draft and international players are part of the collective bargaining agreement, management could attempt to cite the national emergency as reason to make unilateral changes. With a Republican administration in Washington, the union would have a difficult path with a legal challenge before the National Labor Relations Board.

Draft details

The 2020 MLB draft is scheduled to take place from June 10-12. It had been planned for the event to take place in Omaha, Nebraska, site of the College World Series. The NCAA announced last week that the College World Series will not be played this season. With the MLB season looking likely to be delayed into June or even later, the draft may have been pushed back anyway.

MLB's next international signing period is scheduled to begin July 2.

If canceled, this would be an unfortunate development for the prospects looking to begin a professional baseball career in 2020. It’s an unprecedented time to be sure, especially given the uncertainty of when life and sports will return to normal. But this would still not reflect well on the owners if presented as a cost-cutting measure.

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