Major league owners and players reached an agreement to get through whatever season can be played in 2020, with players being guaranteed service time and a pro-rated share of their salaries. As part of the deal, the amateur player draft will be reduced to as few as five rounds, with bonuses for any players not selected being reduced to virtually nothing.
The deal sets terms for payment of salaries in the event of no season or a reduced season, as well as interim pay, service time, and arbitration criteria. All these things are good for both owners and major league players.
For those amateurs who had their hearts set on being drafted and turning pro this summer, most will be forced to take a bonus that is a fraction of what they would have received under the slotting system in the Collective Bargaining Agreement(CBA), or to stay in school with an uncertain future in next year’s draft. Some will head for Japan or other leagues overseas.
MLB now has the right to move the 2020 MLB draft back from June 10 to as late as July 20, with a signing date as late as Aug. 1. A firm date has not been set. The rounds have been reduced from 40 to as few as five, though Manfred has the option to increase that number if money is coming in. MLB also can shorten the 2021 draft to as few as 20 rounds and move it to the same dates. .
In both years, the payment of draft bonuses will be delayed significantly. While signing-bonus slot values will remain the same as the 2019 draft – abandoning a cost of living increase — the maximum up-front payment in 2020 and 2021 will be $100,000 within 30 days of an approved contract. Fifty percent of the remaining value will be paid on July 1 the next year, then the balance on July 1 two years later.
Undrafted players cannot get more than $20,000, even if a team is under its allotted draft pool, in both the 2020 and 2021 drafts. Currently, players can receive a bonus up to $ 125,000 after the 10th round. And of course, clubs will now have enormous leverage over players who are drafted, since they can offer much less than the slot bonus money and tell the player to take it or leave it.
A college junior who is undrafted in the scaled down draft would either have to take a $20,000 signing bonus, or return for his senior season. Seniors typically have to settle for very small signing bonuses as they have no bargaining leverage, having used up their college eligibility.
A player selected in the sixth round under the current slotting system would receive a signing bonus of $318,200 for the Tigers’ first pick, down to $ 249,000 for the last pick in the sixth round. The last pick in the tenth round carries a slot bonus of $ 142,300. Under the new deal, these players may not be drafted at all and could only receive a signing bonus of $ 20,000.
For the vast majority of players who are drafted, their signing bonus is the only decent money they will receive for playing baseball unless and until they make it to the major leagues. In the interim, many are paid below minimum wage as they work their way through the minor leagues.
The reason for the change is to save money and set the stage for restructuring the draft system, which MLB would like to achieve in the next collective bargaining agreement. In 2019, the total value of bonus pools is $266,480,400. The slot values of the first five rounds adds up to $238,094,400. That’s a savings of $946,200 per team for 2020 and 2021. The cost to current MLBPA members is nil.
In this deal, the MLBPA has bargained away the rights of amateur players whom they do not represent, and really have no business representing. Amateur players had no representative at the table while their future bonuses were being bargained away, and their careers put on hold.
For the sake of less than one minimum salaried major league player per team, hundreds of amateur players will have their hopes of playing professional baseball at least delayed, if not dashed entirely. Let’s not forget that when major league owners are praised for giving minor league players a whopping $400 per week while the 2020 season is on hold.