On Thursday, the original 2020 Opening Day, news began to leak that Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Player’s Association had agreed on a deal on how the likely-shortened 2020 season would affect the players in terms of pay, service time, and more. But some very interesting parts of the deal had to do with the MLB draft.
Jeff Passan of ESPN reported this about the draft.
Earlier in the day, Kiley McDaniel of ESPN had other rumors:
Before we get into the impact of this, and what this likely means for the future, there’s one more detail from earlier in the year that you should know:
Basically, college baseball seniors (and…maybe others) will get an extra year of eligibility to go back to school.
So, what does this mean?
A 5-Round Draft And Delayed Bonuses Will Likely Make Many Players Choose to Go To High School or Stay In College
The top guys that we expect to make top money will absolutely still get drafted, like Austin Martin and Spencer Torkelson, likely to be among the top 5 picks. But a lot of players in those other rounds are bigger questions. High School players often make up those middle rounds. A 7th round pick could still make hundreds of thousands of dollars. But now in the 2020 draft, they would only make a maximum of $20,000, and they’d get exactly $2,000 of that bonus to live on for their first pro year.
College Seniors will now also have more leverage than before to get signed. They no longer have to sign or either quit baseball or try indy ball (teams often use this to sign them for under $10,000). Now, they could go back to school and try to get drafted again.
There’s also a still-undecided upon story for college juniors. It’s undecided about whether the extra year of eligibility will apply only to current college seniors, or all players. If Juniors will also get an extra year, they also have less pressure to sign.
High school players on the bubble may choose to go to Junior College. JuCo players, unlike 4-year players, are available in any draft, so many of those high schoolers would just try their luck in the 2021 draft, further stuffing that draft with prospects.
This could make this year’s draft a huge gamble for teams. Out of those five rounds, will players even actually sign if drafted? We could see a record number of non-signees, and compensatory draft picks pushed into the 2021 draft, which I’ll address in a second.
The Incoming Class of 2020 Players Will Not Support The Current Minor League System
With a draft that is one eighth of the current length, filling out the rosters of short-season teams will be very different. Often, as many as half of a short-season league’s teams come off of that draft year. Now? Likely we’ll have teams filled with older prospects.
Is that a bad thing? Maybe, maybe not. But it gives the short-season leagues that have fans less reason to bring fans out to the stadium.
Then there’s international players. The 2020 signing season would be pushed back until January of 2021. That means, no influx of those players. That would not affect the 2020 season significantly, since most of the 16 and 17 year olds do not play their first season after signing. But then, in 2021, there will be a huge hole in players in development systems.
What’s that going to mean for 2021?
This Plan Sets The Stage For MLB’s Plan To Eliminate Teams and Shorten the Draft
We haven’t seen or heard much about MLB’s negotiations with MiLB lately, for good reason. I wouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t happening right now, and that makes a ton of sense for them.
But if you don’t remember the proposal, here’s a quick reminder: MLB wants to eliminate 42 teams, mostly short season teams, and appears to want to eliminate short-season baseball leagues. They also had plans to push back the draft, and shorten it.
This temporary plan does the latter part, to extreme levels. But it sets the stage for eliminating minor league teams.
This season, short-season leagues will lose a big part of their draw thanks to a short draft. The following year, the international players who also make up a chunk of players for these teams, will start going through what could be a drought of incoming players.
The 2021 draft will likely also be shorter, to half the normal length. I think that is clear that they are anticipating less rosters to fill up.
And, of course, many minor league teams are running the risk of going out of business due to the novel COVID-19 virus and game cancellations. Minor league baseball is not postponing games, they are cancelling them. And many minor league teams are not owned by billionaires, and can’t absorb losses. That may do part of the job that MLB is trying to do.
Like it or not, MLB is setting forth a plan with an expectation that their minor league proposal will go through.
The Astros Punishment Becomes Far Lessened
A big part of the punishment of the Houston Astros was losses of the first and second round picks over the 2020 and 2021 drafts. That’s pretty big, since picks beyond the first two rounds have far lower chances of making the Majors or becoming stars.
But now? Many of the players that would’ve been in the 2020 draft will likely push their draft days back to 2021 and the longer draft in that season. That means that the Astros punishment would happen in a draft that’s shallow anyway, and then the other half will take place with a draft that will likely be stocked with deeper talent than usual, giving them better picks that year than they would normally have.
Ditto if the Red Sox punishment also has a loss of draft picks, they will not be hit as hard either.
I know punishments are not at the front of anyone’s mind, but this is just another negative side effect of this agreement.
The Major League Baseball Player’s Association gave up the futures of its future to get what they wanted
The MLBPA got the biggest thing they wanted: 2020 will count as a year of service time in Major League contracts, even if the season doesn’t happen. That’s a good thing, and players deserve it. It’s huge.
But to do it, they gave up on the players that are not members, but will be one day. Minor League Baseball pay levels are still a hot topic amongst fans, but not amongst MLB. The Player’s Association gave up the pay those prospects will get, with a shorter draft, and a ridiculously low cap on undrafted signees bonuses. The bonuses being spread out over a few seasons in general isn’t all bad, especially for young players prone to overspending, but they will be lower. Fewer players will come into the game because of it.
And, as young players see how little they’ll get paid, more and more will be like Kyler Murray, regardless of how much or little talent they actually have…they’ll choose the higher paying sports.
And that won’t be baseball.