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?