Major League Baseball International Draft: Playing by the Same Rules?

Major League Baseball recently decided against implementing a draft for potential player from international markets.  Much like the current Rule 4 Draft, in which high school, junior college, and 4-year players are entered into a pool to be selected by MLB teams, the international draft would cover the remaining prospects in all other countries besides the Canada, Puerto Rico and all U.S. territories.  While this notion may seem to make sense considering it will ensure the best international players do not just go to the highest bidder, allowing the richest teams to dominate with the weight of their wallet, many questions remain.

The Major Leagues is allowed to implement and subject amateur players to a draft because it was bargained for in the MLB collective bargaining agreement.  Amateur players are considered to be negotiated for in the deal and must abide by the rules and regulations laid upon them.  While this notion may seem unfair, it has already been litigated in the United States, see Wood v. National Basketball Association,  809 F.2d. 954 (2d. Cir. 1987).  But, why are players in every other country allowed to auction off their services to the highest bidder?  It seems as though the amateur athletes living in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico are all harmed by their birthplace.  Instead of becoming a free agent and choosing the team that he wants to play for, the top ranked amateur baseball player is likely headed to the worst place team of the prior season, subjected to a maximum amount of compensation.

While I would argue that implementing a draft would level the playing field, the Major League equivalents in other countries would strongly oppose the idea.  Leagues in Japan and Korea would strongly oppose its draft eligible baseball players being drafted by American baseball teams.  It would significantly hinder the autonomy of the leagues and would end up destroying any competitive advantage the leagues have.

What is the best way to protect the interests of all amateur athletes while keeping the playing field level?  Is there a solution that will allow the various professional leagues to enjoy the fruits of amateur baseball equally?





  1. Several current MLB players joined in opposing the international draft. David Ortiz and Mariano Rivera, who successfully avoided an amateur draft, making their way to stardom after signing contracts trailed by dollar signs, openly expressed their opposition. It is easy to agree with Ortiz, who said “baseball, in our country, I dare say more than 60 percent of the Dominicans live off of baseball and there being a draft in our country, you know that would have eliminated what’s called the signing of free agents.” He also pointed out how baseball was essentially extinguished in Puerto Rico after the implementation of the draft. He fears what would happen in the Dominican Republic where
    Dominicans comprise 9.4% of the current 1,020 players in MLB.
    Rivera urgers all Latino players to support the current system.

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  2. While I agree that implementing an international draft would level the playing field so that smaller market teams would have just as good of a chance of signing an international prospect as the larger market teams, I think that Major League Baseball’s decision against holding an international draft was the correct one. Starting this summer, Major League Baseball will have somewhat of a cap in place, which attempts to even out the playing field, although there are many exceptions that can be argued make this cap moot (i.e Guidelines do not apply to players who are at least 23 years of age and previously played as a professional for at least five years for a league recognized by the Commissioner’s Office)( This July’s international signing period will have a capped amount that teams will be allowed to spend based on their records, ranging from $4.25 million for the Astros, who had the worst record in baseball last season, to $1.15 million for the Nationals, the team with the best record in baseball. ( Thus, the limit and way the teams can spend money on international prospects combined with the fact that most international prospects are under 23 years of age, serves as a functional equivalent to a draft.

  3. Great post! Your analysis of the pros and cons of implementing an international draft in Major League Baseball is well-balanced and thought-provoking. You provide insightful legal and practical considerations that make the reader think about the issue from multiple angles. Your writing is clear and engaging, making it easy to follow your argument. Well done!
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