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Why members within Tecolotes Dos Laredos organization are against an international draft

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Major League Baseball made a counterproposal to the Players Association back on July 15 in negotiations over an international draft, The Athletic reported, as the July 25 deadline quickly approaches. With the counteroffer, both sides have made one proposal apiece since March.

The amount of money the two sides are proposing is largely contrasting. According to The Athletic, MLB did not increase the amount of money in the signing bonus pool it proposed last Friday from $181 million. The players, in their proposal earlier this month, proposed $260 million.

MLB has long tried to implement an international draft as it believes it would mitigate the problems plaguing the international market – particularly in the Dominican Republic – ranging from illicit early agreements between teams and 13-year-old boys to performance-enhancing drug use to unbridled corruption.

Back in June, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred acknowledged that forms of corruption exist within the international signing market, specifically referencing the Dominican Republic, in a news conference at the end of the league’s owners’ meetings.

“Our efforts to rein in corruption in the Dominican have been ongoing and legion,” Manfred said. “It’s easy to say it’s the people that cut the checks that are engaged in corruption. But you know somebody’s taking the check, right?”

Although MLB believes an international draft would be beneficial for baseball and would root out corruption, members within the Tecolotes Dos Laredos organization have expressed caution.

“An international draft would not be good,” Tecolotes first baseman Kennys Vargas, who signed with the Minnesota Twins’ organization as an 18-year-old prospect from Puerto Rico back in 2009, said. “It would limit how many guys they would sign.”

MLB has proposed an annual 20-round international draft beginning in 2024. The 600 picks would be hard-slotted, meaning there would be no room for negotiations for signing bonuses and would be tradeable. The top pick would receive about $5.25 million and so on, according to reports. Undrafted players could sign for a maximum of $20,000 in MLB’s proposal. However, the MLBPA has proposed $40,000. And the age minimum of 16 would remain the same as the MLBPA has proposed jointly hiring a compliance officer to enforce matters like avoiding what’s known as early deals – where players agree to a deal at least verbally before they’re 16.

“That’s a big point, if you don’t get drafted the money will be low,” Vargas said.

Tecolotes general manager Cuitlahuac Rodriguez has long been against an international draft. Mostly because he believes it’s not fair for the international players as he feels they would get shortchanged and treated differently. And he isn’t the only one who believes this.

According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, the MLBPA has contended MLB’s proposal is “discriminatory” compared to the domestic amateur draft, citing that the slot money for the top pick is $3 million less and PED testing would be more stringent for prospects. In the domestic draft, the top 300 players are subjected to random PED testing upon registering for the draft. In MLB’s international draft proposal, every prospect would be subjected to testing and trainers would face penalties.

“I have been against it since MLB first brought it up in the early 2000s,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t think it’s a fair playing field.”

In March, New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, a member of the union’s eight-player executive subcommittee during CBA negotiations, tweeted that the “international draft is about dividing players.”

Tecolotes catcher Francisco Arcia is a former international prospect out of Venezuela who signed with the New York Yankees when he was 16. The opportunity to sign when he immediately turned 16 was too hard to pass up as while he plays for the love of the game, he also plays to help his family back home. So, the money they were offering was life changing for him and his family. And with the international draft, some players will likely miss out on such opportunities.

Arcia acknowledged the international signing process is different now compared to when he was a prospect. However, he feels the proposed international draft won’t fix the corruption plaguing the market.

“It’s going to be hard,” Arcia said. “The international draft is going to hurt a lot of people.”

MLB has spent the past two decades pushing for an international draft and it believes the urgency for one has increased in recent years as the number of early signings has escalated.

An international draft might not fix all the corruption in the international market. However, MLB believes it will solve the two major issues within the current structure: players under 16 years old making deals with teams and the PED use among the young prospects.

Rodriguez does believe the international draft could solve the issues of early signings. However, he wants the international draft to be fair for the Latin American athletes. He wants an international draft to be treated like the domestic draft, which will see teams spend nearly $300 million on amateur players from the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

It is clear money is the central issue between MLB’s and MLBPA’s proposals. The MLBPA wants a larger pool than what MLB has offered.

For an international draft to finally come to fruition, players must believe it will be fair for future prospects. Right now, it does not seem like that is likely. And that’s why a lot of people within baseball and those who support the growth of baseball within Latin America countries are against such a system.

“I just don’t like it,” Rodriguez said. “(MLB) just hasn’t shown anything that’s fair for everyone. Right now, it’s only fair for MLB.”

garrett.kroeger@lmtonline.com


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