International Draft-Bud Gets What Bud Wants Again

Bud looks like he is going to get the international draft he
has wanted for a decade.
As part of the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, Bud Selig went out of his way to solve the non-existent problem of bonuses paid to amateurs. This included a de-facto cap on bonuses paid to international free agents. As if these new restrictions were not enough, the CBA contains what amounts to a sequester on the international bonus pool if MLB and the MLBPA can't agree on an international draft.Selig has been pushing for an international draft since the 2002 CBA. Only logistical hurdles associated with instituting an international draft stopped it from becoming a reality.

With a restrictive tax on international free agents already in place it is unclear what impact a draft would have. One club would be restricted from loading up on the top international free agents in a given year even if it meant blowing past the limits. The penalties are so steep it is unlikely a club would do so anyway.  Having seen what has happened to Puerto Rican baseball since the US territory was included in the draft has to concern fans of the sport.

Currently there is a disproportionate percentage of international players playing in the minor leagues when compared to the majors. An organization will give a chance to a Dominican they signed at 16, and has played in the Dominican Summer League for a few years after investing time and money into the player. Conversely a club has no interest or investment in an undrafted American player. Maybe including American and international players in the same pool will level the playing field.

After the 2011 collapse I looked at the Red Sox record in signing international free agents. While Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez were used as trade chips and became major league players, it has been a long time since the Red Sox had drafted and developed an international, amateur free-agent who helped the Red Sox at the major league level. In the short to medium term the Red Sox will be counting on Xander Bogaerts and Jose Iglesias to reverse that trend.  So far Felix Doubront looks like he will be a solid contributor if he can keep his head on straight and stay in shape.

If the Red Sox are doing a better job at signing and developing international free agents, none of these restrictions are good news. With a playing field that is designed to be level, the Sox will not be able to use their financial muscle to sign the best international players.