This week, the sides took action with each other over numbers on some issues, including luxury tax thresholds and minimum wages. Gaps still remained on key issues, but Wednesday’s most significant heist was not directly tied to the numbers. These were two MLB issues: the international draft, which the owners want to reinstitute, not the players; and the qualifying offer, which the players want to eliminate and the owners don’t.
MLB presented players with three choices: 1. Eliminate the qualifying offer and add the international draft; 2. Keep both the qualifying offer and the international amateur systems as they were in the last transaction, without drafts; or 3. Toss the box until Nov. 15, 2022. If the players don’t agree to an international draft (from 2024) by then, the owners could reopen the full collective bargaining agreement after the 2024 season. The last option, in effect, would allow the ABC to be on a three-year deal, instead of a five-year deal.
The players rejected those choices and sent in a counter-proposal: if November 15 came around and players still didn’t want an international draft, then the old systems, the qualifying offer and the current international system, would come back after the 2022. -23 out of season. The two sides continued to talk about the international system and the qualifying bid Wednesday night, even after MLB announced the change to the opening day.
A key question the players were expected to discuss on Wednesday was whether the deal looked good enough to them if the qualifying offer was not eliminated – whether they received enough in other areas. Teams, for example, still have gaps in the pre-arbitration bonus pool, where the league offered $40 million and players $65 million.
Both the qualifying offer and the international draft have a dollar value to the parties, but it’s unclear how both sides value them and whether they value them identically. Industry sources have suggested the qualifying offering is worth between $50 million and $100 million per year. But the international project could ultimately be worth more.
The international project is also a major political and philosophical issue. Many Latin actors would have opposed it, which would make it a difficult element for the union to accept. It would also mean moving from a restricted market system that is currently in place for international amateurs to one where there is no market system at all. Drafts provide full cost certainty for clubs, among other benefits.
The league also tried to position the international draft as an effort that would help clean up what commissioner Rob Manfred called “abuse” in international markets. Manfred has not publicly specified these.
How much an international draft would help with this effort, and whether the league could do more to combat these abuses without system changes, are serious and debated topics in the industry.
In short, an international project is no small feat, and neither is the qualification offer.
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