Major League Baseball has reportedly decided on terms for the 2020 MLB Draft, which will be much different that we’ve seen in recent years. This year’s draft will last only five rounds, down from the usual 40, per Jeff Passan of ESPN.
The agreement between the league and the union on March 27 gave MLB the right to shorten the 2020 draft to as few as five rounds, and to shorten the 2021 draft down to as few as 20 rounds. The union was reportedly pushing for a 10-round draft, but the two sides couldn’t reach agreement on the format.
Sense among agents was that baseball operations departments wanted a 10-round draft, but ownership was adamant on cost containment. That union and MLB could not agree on a draft is another example of problematic relationships.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) May 8, 2020
The 10-round proposal the union rejected included an interesting twist: essentially it was two five-round drafts. Meaning teams would not have been allowed to use slot money from R6-10 to pay guys in R1-5. Proposal also limited the number of undrafted players teams could sign.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 8, 2020
The signing bonus slot values will be the same as 2019, and any undrafted player can sign for no more than $20,000.
MLB was thinking of capping the number of non-drafted players who could be signed for $20G at 5, but it will be unlimited, according to sources.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) May 8, 2020
The previous limit for picks outside of the first 10 rounds (which determine the size of each team’s bonus pool) was $125,000, with any overages counting toward the bonus pool.
The Dodgers have a total slot value of $5,928,400 with their six picks in five rounds. In addition to their regular picks, the Dodgers also have a pick in Competitive Balance Round B pick (No. 66 overall), acquired from the Twins in the deal that sent Kenta Maeda to Minnesota and brought Brusdar Graterol to Los Angeles. That 66th pick has an overall slot value of $1,003,300.
Had the draft lasted 10 rounds, the Dodgers’ bonus pool would have been $6,838,100. The total difference, MLB-wide for bonus pools of a five-round draft vs. a 10-round draft, is just under $30 million, an average savings of roughly $1 million per team.
It seems like a small amount of savings for team owners in the short term, but it’s part of a larger, cost-cutting plan long term. The limiting of incoming players (for potentially two years, with a shorter 2021 draft, too) greases the skids for cutting possibly a quarter of all minor league teams beginning in 2021, all part of a massive restructuring of minor league baseball as we know it.
Dodgers 2020 draft bonus pool
Teams that spend five percent more than the bonus pool are subject to loss of future draft picks, a penalty that to date has proven an effective enough deterrent that nobody has dared reach it. There is a penalty of 75 percent on any amount over the pool, which the Dodgers and several other teams have been happy to pay. So effectively, the Dodgers can spend up to $6,224,819 in draft bonuses before being subject to any real penalties.
But normally, a decent chunk of the bonus pool is reserved for larger bonuses for later picks. Now, with the $20,000 signing bonus limit for undrafted players, that changes things.