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MLB owners, players union can’t agree on international draft

Qualifying offer for major league free agents remains in place through 2026

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New York Mets v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association could not agree to the framework of an international draft, so the current collective bargaining agreement, which runs through 2026, will still retain the qualifying offer system for free agents.

The two sides remained far apart in the total pool for international amateurs. The players wanted $260 million in total, and the league offered $191 million, per Ronald Blum at the Associated Press.

The MLBPA on Monday rejected what MLB called its final offer for an international draft, before the July 25 deadline agreed to in March as part of the collective bargaining agreement.

“Our Draft proposals – unprecedented in MLBPA history – sought to establish minimum guarantees in player signings, roster spots, infrastructure investments, playing opportunities, scouting opportunities, as well as enforcement measures to combat corruption,” said the MLBPA. “We also made proposals to compensate international signees more fairly and in line with other amateurs, and to ensure that all prospects have access to an educational and player development safety net.”

Evan Drellich at The Athletic has details on the final positions of players and owners in the negotiations on various things, like caps on bonuses, structures of the system, and more.

Among the problems of imposing an international draft was that the players it would have affected were generally opposed to it. From Alden Gonzalez at ESPN:

Latin American players, largely favoring a free-market system and concerned about how the livelihoods of those tasked with developing young players in their home countries would be impacted, were adamant against an international draft. The MLBPA and MLB ultimately agreed to table discussions during CBA negotiations, setting up Monday’s deadline. Failure to reach an agreement would maintain status quo.

Another issue is that tying the international draft to the qualifying offer didn’t see to match up financially. Ben Clemens at FanGraphs wrote in March, “It’s unlikely that there’s no qualifying offer penalty at all, but I think a fair estimation of its magnitude lands in the $10-$20 million per year area, and I wouldn’t be shocked if it even came in a bit lower than that. There simply isn’t much indication that players suffer lasting harm from it.”

Marc Normandin in his newsletter last week wrote he hoped the two sides wouldn’t come to an agreement on the international draft, after hearing MLBPA executive director Tony Clark’s comments during All-Star festivities.

“[The qualifying offer is] not a burden, it’s just annoying, and it’s certainly not worth, to borrow Clark’s turn of phrase, mortgaging the future of international baseball players,” Normandin wrote.

With no agreement, international amateurs can be signed as before, with a hard cap on bonuses. The international signing periods will run from January 15 to December 15 each year.

Status quo remains.