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MLB players reject owners’ proposal to gut amateur draft

Prior agreement would allow MLB to reduce the draft to five rounds

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2018 Major League Baseball Draft

Major league baseball players and owners dealt a severe blow to the hopes of hundreds of amateur players in March, when the two sides agreed to let commissioner Rob Manfred reduce the amateur player draft from 40 rounds to as few as five rounds, and to reduce bonuses for undrafted players to a maximum of $20,000 each.

According to a report from Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic, the owners put forth a new proposal that calls for a ten round draft, but the players selected from rounds 6- 10 would have their signing bonuses cut in half, which would become a hard cap on the bonus amount, and limit each team to signing just five players each for the $20,000 bonus amount.

The prior agreement has been loudly and properly criticized for the devastating effect that these terms would have on amateur players who are hoping to turn professional in this draft. The signing bonuses that these players receive is the only decent money they will see for several years, and maybe ever, as they try to work their way up through the minor leagues to major league baseball.

The owners can go forward with a five round draft, which is expected to go forward in a virtual format in June. The rejection of the latest proposal is the first sign that the MLBPA has any empathy toward it’s future members.

The issue of amateur signing bonuses is just one of several matters that remain unresolved from an agreement reached by the two sides in March that established a framework in the event of a reduced baseball season in 2020.

The two sides also agreed on a one time payment of $170 million for all players, as well as service time, and that players would receive a pro rated share of their salaries depending on the number of games played. The owners have indicated that they expect further reductions in salary if the games have no fans in attendance, while players have stood their ground, taking the position that the terms of the previous agreement covered all issues.

Under the previous framework, a player drafted in the sixth round would have a slot bonus of $250,000 to $319,000, and that could be adjusted up or down without penalty, as long as teams do not exceed the total bonus pool that they are given for the first ten rounds. The last pick in the tenth round carries a slot bonus of $142,300. Players selected in later rounds could receive bonuses up to $100,000.

The March agreement also allows teams to defer half of the signing bonuses for a year, and cuts the draft from 40 rounds down to 20 rounds in 2021. Amateur players had no representation in those negotiations.

While the terms of the amateur draft continue to be the subject of negotiations, the larger issues for players will be their salaries for the 2020 season and whether they will be able to spend time with their families during the season.

MLB continues to pressure Minor league baseball to reduce the number of affiliated teams from 160 to 120, which now seems inevitable, and are attempting to reduce salaries for major league umpires as well. Umpires are paid evenly over twelve months, but MLB owners would like to cut their salaries on a pro rated basis for games played during the season.