Major League Baseball’s amateur player draft annually takes place during the first half of June over a three-day stretch. Clubs then have approximately one month’s time to sign the drafted players. The 2014 draft took place between June 8-to-10 with a deadline for players to sign on July 17.

According to Peter Gammons, NCAA coaches and MLB officials have come to a ‘general agreement’ to push back the draft to July 1 and shorten the signing deadline to July 15.

This agreement can not yet be made official until the MLBPA approves the agreement and it is added to the collective bargaining agreement. Mike Axisa of CBS Sports points out that the union’s responsibility is to players on the 40-man roster and are unlikely to show resistance to this change.

The main purpose for pushing the draft back is for the completion of the College World Series to occur prior to the start of the draft. The CWS typically runs during the middle of June and the two events can cause distractions for participating players.

On the surface this move appears logical. Many top projected draft eligibles take part in the CWS and teams love seeing how a potential prospect handles the pressure of playing on a big stage. The completion of the college season before the draft only makes sense. In fact, that much has been discussed for several years now. With more time to analyze players, too, team executives arguably would be able to make better drafting decisions. But this isn’t the only aspect up for consideration.

Pushing the draft back to July 1 will interfere with short season minor league teams. For the Seattle Mariners, the Everett Aqua Sox of the Northwest League and rookie ball teams the Arizona League Mariners and Pulaski Mariners would be affected.

These teams are typically made up of draftees from the current year and have seasons starting in late June. A July 1 draft would mean that clubs would have to fill rosters with temporary players until the drafted players are signed and eligible to play. Rosters could be filled with independent league players or with other young prospects who may not be ready to compete at that level.

Having to find and sign enough players to fill roster for only a couple weeks of games almost seems like a waste of time. Getting players to commit may be difficult as they know they will be replaced by draftees in a matter of time. And let’s face it; though likely better than independent ball life, minor league ball life is seldom desired.

This scenario could, however, provide opportunities for players who may not receive one otherwise. Even in a short period of time teams can often determine if a player has tools that are worth developing. But at the same time, teams would probably prefer to avoid the personnel logistics that would come into play.

Of course an easy fix for that problem would be starting those seasons later, but as Axisa points out, many clubs rely on unused college dormitories for housing players. Therefore if the season runs into September, players would have to be housed elsewhere. Shortening the season is improbable given the potential lack of revenue. Can not imagine affiliates would allow that to happen.

There’s been talk about an international draft being formed to cut down the costs on international imports — see one Tomas, Yasmani — and the owners would love that. But it remains to be seen if such a thing is actually feasible. There’s nothing to suggest the formation of an international draft is imminent, but the potential of one could be a factor in moving the amateur draft.

Last year we saw two free agents who received and turned down qualifying offers wait until after the draft to sign new contracts. After the completion of the draft, the signing team would no longer have to forfeit a draft pick. For both Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew — who have both already been signed for the 2015 season — waiting turned out to do more harm than good in the context of the 2014 season.

Both players struggled mightily and may have cost themselves millions of free agent dollars. Morales may argue as he received a pro-rated portion of the $14.1 million qualifying offer he turned down in 2014 and signed a two-year, $17 million deal with the Kansas City Royals this winter — nearly the same value as the three-year and approximately $30 million contract the M’s are believed to have offered him last winter.

However we are very unlikely to see another qualified player wait out the draft before signing a free agent contract. James Shields is the lone free agent remaining who will require a draft pick to sign, and there is no doubt that he’ll have a lucrative deal signed before pitchers and catchers report in one month’s time.

All this and we’ve barely mentioned how the draft eligible players themselves will be affected by the change.

Many high school players under consideration for the draft also receive scholarship offers from universities and colleges across the country. The decision to go pro or head to post secondary and forego a signing bonus is more than likely the biggest decision these kids will have to make. Two weeks is still plenty of time, but as is often the case, the shorter decision period can increase stress on what is already a difficult decision.

Per NCAA stipulations, undrafted players are not allowed to have representation from an agent. They may speak to an advisor, but typically enter the draft with less than adequate information, particularly on the financial side, for making the decision. Brendan Gawlowski detailed this in a piece for Prospect Insider last summer.

Perhaps that matter can be solved and shrinking the negotiating period becomes less of an issue. Better programs for providing education about the process to draftees is likely needed anyways, and could be of particular benefit in a situation like this.

There are some legitimate reasons for moving the draft. The other major sports hold their respective drafts after the completion of the amateur season, and professional season for that matter. But the effect on short season minor league teams is problematic and will have to be solved so the advantages of moving the draft can be seen.

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Tyler Carmont

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5 Comments

  1. I am pretty much on board with most of what Jerry has posted. Here are my slight changes that I’d do:

    1. I would have the drafts combined but age limits be set at 16yr old for players currently eligible as international signees and same ages/rules for the current amatuer draft eligible players. My reasoning is that the Latin kids particularly are from a different culture and aren’t gaining anything by waiting two more years to be eligible…meaning education primarily.
    2. I am okay with the current system and the flexibility it has to get a kid signed you may not have the ability to sign with a hard bonus system. I do like the idea of shortening the signing period a lot!
    3. I agree that a team shouldn’t lose a draft pick, at least a 1st rounder, for signing a player with a QO. I like the idea of a standardized system for compensatory picks for losing players.
    4. Agreed 100%
    5. Agreed 100%

  2. The competitive balance picks are tradable, but I agree that they aren’t really serving their purpose.

    I’m very much in favor of teams being able to trade draft picks, but I also think that the current free agent compensation system where teams lose a pick for signing a qualified player should stay in. It’d be fun to look at the exact impact over the years, but we keep hearing stories like St. Louis letting Pujols go, drafting Wacha, and in my opinion this really does keep things balanced. In all honesty my opinion is very surfaced and could use better research. But I absolutely agree things could be restructured in a better way.

  3. I’d like to see the draft simplified and regulated. The point of the draft – and the idiotic rules for international signings – is to give bad teams more access to talent. All the BS and loopholes just get it the way. So simplify. Here’s what I’d do:

    1. Combine the domestic and amateur drafts. Any player over 18 and younger than 23 is draftable. MLB helps subsidize amateur leagues in the DR and Venezuela.
    2. Draft slots have preset bonuses. No exceptions.
    3. Change the free agent compensation system. Teams are awarded bonus picks for lost players offered a QO. These picks would be supplemental (between rounds), based on the sum total of QO players lost – gained. Teams only can gain picks, not lose them.
    4. Eliminate competative balance picks.
    5. Picks are tradable.

    Simple. Effective. No loopholes. Talent is distributed based on teams W/L record. The only advantage some teams might have are success in scouting and player development: the way it should be.

  4. I don’t see any issue with this on any level. I understand that there is a condensed signing period but let’s be honest, most of the top signings wait towards the end of the period as leverage. I am sure the logistics of the short season leagues can be worked out and the HS players decision would actually be made 2 days sooner than before so not sure why that’s a concern. I would anticipate this happening sooner than later and I think it’s all good.

    One thought on the International Draft, I personally think this should happen if they want to keep a more level playing field. My personal feeling is that major league free agency shouldn’t have anything to do with this draft if it is a separate entity. If they are going to combine it with the regular draft then it should be of course. In any case, my personal preference would be for it to be part of the regular draft and just set the age guidelines according to what they are now on the international market…meaning a player has to be a specific age by a specific date to be eligible.

  5. As the primary point of changing the signing date is to harmonize amateur and professional baseball and high school and college coaches want to see this change made to aid in that effort it should be accommodated by MLB and MiLB.

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