Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The International Draft

Just some of my thoughts on the international draft, such as they are.

Craig, over at Circling the Bases is doing a series on the draft, as reported by MLB.com. Go ahead and check it out.

As for me, I'm for the international draft. Mostly because the game has become international. The WBC has shown that, and in my opinion, the fact that the game is out of the Olympics shows that. Baseball has gotten too big globally, and team sports such as soccer and basketball, as well as the traditional staples such as track and field, and swimming, are more than happy that baseball won't be around to steal any of the spotlight. Because baseball is an international sport, and players from all over the world are coming to the states to play, it's only right that there be an international draft.

That being said, the draft needs to be somewhat limited as too which countries are involved. The United States, Canada and Puerto Rico (hey, I don't get it either) are already part of the draft process.

Other countries that should be part of an international draft: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Dominican Republic, Mexico,

Others that could be: Panama, Columbia, Nicaragua, Venezuela

These are all countries that routinely put players into the majors, and have viable leagues themselves. Additionally, they have high school and college programs that give the players needed experience and exposure for the draft.

Other countries that don't have leagues or school programs should not be subjected to an international draft, as of now. They are still in the club/semi-pro stage, and need more time to develop. It could be considered a coming of age, that when your country becomes part of the draft, then you've arrived as a baseball nation.

Alongside an international draft for MLB, however, is the idea that American players should be allowed to be drafted by other (foreign) leagues. This would seem only fair. It's a little bit of hubris to assume that MLB is the only game in town. Granted, it is for most Americans. Witness the WBC. But that's not true, by a long shot. If we can draft foreign players, why can't they draft ours?

One of the big problems with any type of international draft is the same problem that affects true free agency. The Japanese, South Korean, Taiwanese and Mexican leagues don't want to be taken over by North American and Caribbean players. They want to maintain the hegemony of their own leagues, which is understandable. They don't want to be relegated to minor leagues and training teams for MLB clubs. That's the main reason they limit the amount of foreigners allowed to play each year, and there are gentleman's agreements about the posting system and signing free agents.

There aren't necessarily problems with that. Major League teams aren't going to start raiding the foreign leagues of their players. What it will do, is give the Major League teams a chance to draft some of the better players from those countries to come to the states to play. If they want to. Some of the players might decide to stay home for the first few years, then become free agents. That might provide a better opportunity for them than playing Rookie and A ball, and getting cut.

An international draft, a true one, might give some of the better North American and Caribbean players a chance to go play right away, instead of the taking the same route through the minors. And does anyone really think their will be a mass exodus of players from the US to Japan, Mexico and South Korea. It won't happen. But if we can draft their players, why shouldn't they be allowed to draft ours. Whether or not anyone ever goes.

One of the biggest complaints against the draft is the restraint of free trade. I personally don't get that, because no one has the right to play baseball. They have the right to work, sure, but play baseball. I don't know. But I'm probably not the guy to have long discussions with about that.

But an international draft, a true one, would create an open market and give all the players more of a chance. I'll use Aaron Crow, of the Royals as an example. He was drafted by Washington, but didn't want to sign, or couldn't agree to a contract. So he ended up sitting out a year, and pitching in the independent leagues, which are A ball at the best. Then, after a year, he went back into the draft and was picked by the Royals. There doesn't seem to be as much of an open market there, even though there is. He had a choice.

But why he couldn't he have also been drafted by the Japanese league, or the Mexican league. Both of which are above AAA level, if not major league level. What if he signed a 2-year contract with one of them, and got 2 years of experience pitching against better competition then he was. He would then be treated like any other draft choice. Any where. His contract could be traded, to any team in any league, or he could pitch the duration of it, and become a free agent. That would seem to work, at least to me.

It's not like all of our top-tier prospects are going to run off to other countries, and we're not going to draft enough players from other countries to hurt their leagues. But it moves the game into the international arena, where it belongs, as well as giving players a truly open market.

The only two drawbacks I see are the Players Association being afraid to take a chance, and the other leagues rejecting the idea out of hand. Without them, all that will happen is the kids from Europe, Africa, South America, Oceania and other countries without viable leagues will be subjected to the draft, while players who develop within a more structured system will be left out. And that's not a good idea. Those countries are much better having working relations with individual teams, as happened in the Caribbean for years.

So, to me, the international draft is a good idea. Within reason. And using a little common sense.

Sorry, this was a little quick as I wanted to get it in, and it seems rushed. Because it was. I'm hoping to get back to this every day, and will try to spend a little more time polishing posts in the future.


Independent Baseball Leagues said...

Interesting post, but as you said the union may be hesitant to do this + the possibility of cultural rejection of this maneuver. Also, not all of the independent leagues have "A ball" caliber. Many are surprisingly more talented, especially if the player refusing to sign with the team plays in an independent league featuring a good amount of ex-MLB players. The hitters are better than most may believe, so a U.S. independent pro league may offer a better test of the player's skills than some consider.

Ron Rollins said...

Fair comment on the independent leagues. I don't get to watch them, so I can't accurately judge them myself. I was going on what I'd heard from people who do attend, and conventional press reports.

If the independent leagues are playing above A-ball level, great for them. And all of baseball.

I don't really think my idea will pan out, but it's better (to me) than any I've heard.