Union Balks at League’s Draft Proposal, Wants More Guaranteed Bonuses

According to Ken Rosenthal’s report in The Athletic, the MLB Players Association has rejected MLB’s proposal for the 2020 draft ($). While it’s still set for the originally scheduled date of June 10, on a virtual basis rather than live in Omaha, slot and undrafted player bonuses are among the topics up for debate.

While MLB’s new proposal featured 10 rounds, twice the minimum agreed to back in March, it placed significant limitations on slot bonuses and the number of undrafted free agents that could be signed at certain levels. Per the earlier agreement, the top five rounds would have the same slot values as in 2019, a range of $8.4 million for No. 1 to $2.3 million for No. 32 (there were two comp picks as well).

From there, “Picks in rounds 6-10 would have 50 percent of those values, and for those picks, there would be a hard cap on the signing bonus at slot value.” Though the wording may leave a little open to interpretation, Rosenthal is saying half of the slot assigned to those same draft positions last year. That’s a big enough departure all on it’s own, but taking away the ability to go overslot on a player removes some of the typical strategy front offices employ.

Then again, having 30 fewer rounds over which to go underslot kind of makes said strategy moot. That’s where we get to the undrafted free agents, who could total nearly 1,000 given the truncated draft. MLB’s proposal capped the bonus for those players at $20,000 and limited teams to only five players at that level. An unlimited number of players could be signed for $5,000 or less, a wild departure from the money a 16th-round pick could have earned in the past.

Despite their acquiescence to MLB’s inital proposal, the union does want the draft to include as many rounds and possible and for more players to have access to bigger bonuses. Though the MLBPA has not typically looked out for non-members, it may have finally realized that being complicit in screwing over entire generations of future members isn’t a very good strategy. Of course, most of those eventual card-carrying MLBPA’ers will come from the rounds that are least impacted.

Ah, but there’s a catch: MLB doesn’t have to get any additional approval at all in order to proceed with the draft under that earlier agreement. That means limiting it to five rounds with 2019 slot values and then offering an unlimited number of $20,000 signees. While that might seem a little better on some fronts, the players in rounds 6-10 would be absolutely lambasted.

The slot value for the last six picks of the 10th round in last year’s draft was $142,200, which would make it $71,100 under the rejected proposal outlined above. Going with a five-round draft would cost those players $50,000 in bonus money. The top handful of picks in the sixth round were all around $300,000 last year, so they stand to miss out on more than $125,000 if MLB goes with the minimum number of rounds rather than the 10-round proposal.

With a little over a month to go before the draft is set to take place, both sides have plenty of time to submit additional counter-proposals to see if an acceptable middle ground can be reached. Every team is obviously goign to be monitoring this situation closely, but the Cubs are really going to have to stay nimble as new VP of Scouting Dan Kantrovitz looks to make an impact in his first draft with his new organization.

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