Who bargains over the international draft now?

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Last week at Baseball Prospectus, I wrote about how the new minor-league bargaining unit within the Major League Baseball Players Association is going to be bargaining for more than just money. Some of that, as described in the article in question, is in relation to how MLB will no longer be able to just unilaterally change rules in the minors, but instead would have to bargain over rule changes just like they have with the MLBPA in the past. There are other areas where change is coming too, though, also related to the way the PA has bargained in the past.

I’ve said this before, but it’s just weird that… well, let’s just quote me from this past July, shall we? This is from a piece celebrating the fact that the PA and MLB couldn’t come to an agreement on instituting an international draft to replace the current international free agent signing period:

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Michael Harris II’s deal is a team-friendly extension I don’t hate

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The Braves are somewhat notorious for inking severely team-friendly extensions with their pre-arbitration players, to the point I’ve used their past work in this arena as an example of how young players end up pushed into signing deals they feel like they have to sign. Ronald Acuña Jr. was clearly an elite player in the making even as a rookie, and the Braves signed him after that initial season to an eight-year, $100 million contract — the largest-ever extension for a player with less than one year of service time. That sounds like a big deal, but again, Acuña was expected to be the kind of player who would someday command over $300 million on the open market, so, as significant as this deal was, most of the risk really was still on Acuña’s side, not Atlanta’s.

Unlike the Acuña one, where you can at least go, “hey, $100 million is still an absurd amount of money,” the Ozzie Albies extension is maybe the worst one a player has ever signed. As I wrote at the time, the issue was that it made sense: for Albies to accept, for the Braves to offer. It’s a horrid deal, and while Albies isn’t a star like his teammate, he still served to deprive himself of the kind of arbitration payments a player of his caliber could pull in, and was forced to do so because of how changes to international free agency shifted leverage and payouts away from the players, how little minor-league players are paid, and how teams have tried to erode confidence in free agency, and, in turn, the arbitration process its values feed into.

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Rob Manfred is lying about Minor League compensation (again)

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Admittedly, I’m not much of a math guy. I can do basic arithmetic, though, and luckily, with the way Rob Manfred spins his stories, that’s about all you need to show that something is amiss. It’s not that Manfred’s numbers used to show how much MLB teams are spending on minor-league players are inaccurate in a vacuum, necessarily: it’s that everything he says with those figures is intentionally skewed so that it looks like more is being done than is, and that compensation is already in a good place.

This is from Manfred’s letter to the United States Judiciary Committee, in an attempt to justify the continued existence of MLB’s antitrust exemption:

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MLB, MLBPA mercifully fail to come to international draft agreement

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​The threat of an international draft remains, in the sense that there will be negotiations in the future, other collective bargaining agreements around which to discuss the possibility of revamping the entire structure of international player acquisition. The good news, though, is that the most recent conversation is over, and no international draft arose from it. The MLB Players Association rejected MLB’s final proposal on Monday, refusing to give in to MLB’s desire to not only create an international draft, but to do so in a way that would create even more of a discrepancy between the earning potential of domestic and international amateurs.

Per ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez, the PA’s international members (primarily Latin-American players) were opposed to the introduction of a draft, and the union at large listened:

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A reason to be optimistic about the failure of international draft talks

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​The MLB Players Association has been pretty quiet about their feelings on an international draft, which shouldn’t be a surprise: those negotiations are ongoing, with a deadline of July 25 to work out a deal with Major League Baseball’s owners, and the PA rarely comments on ongoing negotiations in public. We know that, at this point, the PA has submitted proposals where a draft does, in fact, exist (boo), but the good news is that submitting proposals isn’t the same thing as a future where a draft is created (hooray).

We received a reminder of this during the All-Star week festivities, where executive director of the MLBPA, Tony Clark, got a chance to speak with the media, and did so in a way that… well, it doesn’t really have me feeling optimistic heading into the weekend before the deadline, but I do feel better about the chances that no agreement is reached than I did. As Evan Drellich tweeted:

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MLB, Players Association resume bargaining over international draft

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In case you had forgotten, Major League Baseball and the Players Association, rather than settling the issue during this winter’s collective bargaining, kicked figuring out whether or not there would be an international draft down the road. The deadline for this second round of discussions is July 25, so you’re going to be seeing quite a bit about the international draft and proposals for it over the coming weeks. As things stand now, the MLBPA countered MLB’s proposal before the weekend, with a source telling The Athletic that it “called for significantly more money than the league’s proposal.”

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Rob Manfred mentioned MLB expansion again. However…

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“I would love to get to 32 teams,” Rob Manfred recently told ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. in a lengthy story. You don’t really need to read the whole thing unless you really want to, as it’s kind of what you’d expect: you don’t get to do a long interview with the commissioner of Major League Baseball if there are going to be a lot of tough questions and pushback. Still, though, Van Natta Jr. got Manfred to mention expansion during their talk, which was one of the early things he discussed back in his first term as commissioner, after taking over for Bud Selig:

No matter how they see the CBA’s fine print, owners seem thrilled with Manfred’s job performance. And why wouldn’t they be? Despite its array of problems, league sources say baseball has grown into a $10 billion-plus-a-year sport, up from $8 billion when Manfred became commissioner. Owners also loved Manfred’s reorganization of the minor leagues in 2020, and in the past decade, franchise valuations have more than quadrupled. Not surprisingly, billionaires want in, and expansion is coming. “I would love to get to 32 teams,” Manfred tells me.

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On that Super League nonsense

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I’ll be the first to admit I’m not completely learned in the ways of men’s soccer’s worldwide economics. I know enough to know, however, that the system that is in place — in Europe, not in the United States’ MLS version of the game — does a better job of promoting competition than an American league like Major League Baseball does. There is a reason that, over the years, you’ve seen more than one writer pine for the idea of relegation in American sport leagues, especially in one like MLB where tanking or actively not trying is so rampant: the threat of being demoted to a lesser league and replaced by a team that is actually trying would provide the kind of motivation missing from the day-to-day and long-term operations of quite a few MLB teams.

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Canada doesn’t want any part of MLB’s 2020 pandemic season

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The U.S. government would love to use MLB as a distraction, again

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A return to normalcy. It’s an empty promise when “normal” is so terrible for so many, when normalcy is what helped bring us to this moment in time where even more lives than usual are in danger, when profits are being placed above the welfare of people and their lives. It’s an old promise, though, and a time-tested one that’s effective in its messaging, even if what it promises is underwhelming or outright untrue.

“A return to normalcy” is basically all that’s powering the campaign of the assumed Democratic candidate for president, Joe Biden, a campaign that’s hoping you’ll ignore that the “normalcy” it’s promising is what helped the current regime rise to power in the first place. It’s a card both the Dems and the Republicans can play to great effect, though, in terms of maintaining power and avoiding doing anything more than acknowledging the symptoms of some real issues. Just look at what Senate Majority Leader and Republican Mitch McConnell has been saying lately, about bringing Major League Baseball back:

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