MLB, Players Agree to Negotiate on International Draft

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball and its locked-out players agreed Thursday to negotiate on an international amateur draft, paving the way for renewed economic talks.

Under an agreement reached on the 99th day of a lockout that has delayed the season, the sides agreed to a July 25 deadline to establish an international draft that would start in 2024.

Talks aimed at ending the lockout bogged down on the draft issue Wednesday, and baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred canceled 93 more games, raising the total to 184. He said opening day, originally scheduled for March 31, would be no earlier than April 14.

The sides narrowed many economic differences to a small margin, when the international draft obstacle caused MLB to refuse to counter the union’s latest overall proposal.

Under the deal reached Thursday, if a negotiated agreement on a draft is reached by July 25, direct amateur draft-pick compensation would be removed for free agents starting with the 2022-23 offseason.

If the sides do not reach an agreement by July 25, direct amateur-draft pick compensation would remain in place.

“The PA awaits a counter from the league to its global proposals made at 1 p.m. yesterday,” the union said in a statement.

The agreement does not impact the current offseason’s qualified agents who remain subject to compensation: Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, Michael Conforto, Nicholas Castellanos and Trevor Story.

While Manfred did not use the word “canceled” to describe the games wiped off the calendar, he left the appearance 162 games no longer could be played due to baseball’s ninth work stoppage, its first since 1995.

“We were talking these last few days about taking those first two series and finding a way to get them back in the schedule,” Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall said. “From what I’m hearing now, these four series are out.”

Players dropped their threshold for the luxury tax to $232 million this year, with increases to $235 million in 2023, $240 million in 2024, $245 million in 2025 and $250 million in 2026.

Players had been at $238 million to $263 million in their previous proposal of a week earlier. They were within 2.5% of management’s starting figure of $230 million in Tuesday’s proposal. Players were within 3.2% of MLB’s $242 million proposal for 2026.

Management’s desire for an additional fourth tax threshold at $60 million above the first threshold is among the contentious points remaining.

Players dropped to $65 million from $80 million for their proposed bonus pool for pre-arbitration-eligible players, a day after MLB raised its offer from $30 million to $40 million. The union is asking for $5 million annual increases, while management’s offer is the same for all five years.

The union dropped its proposed minimum salary to $710,000 from $725,000, a figure rising to $780,000 by 2026. Management is at $700,000 this year, rising to $770,000. The union’s proposals on the tax threshold and bonus pool were first reported by The Athletic.

In MLB’s proposal for an international draft, teams would rotate picking in different quadrants of the first round over a four-year period. A slotting system would be installed similar to what the union agreed to starting in 2012 for the amateur draft covering residents of the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada.

The international draft proposal includes hard slots that could not be negotiated by individuals. MLB estimates $17 million in additional spending for the drafted international players above the $166.3 million spent by the 30 teams in 2021, plus an additional $6 million on non-drafted players. The draft would start in 2024.

International players would lose the right to pick which team they sign with. The age for the draft would be in the year a player turns 16.

“The narrative being pushed also ignores a lot of history, including corruption from clubs,” Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor tweeted. “This issue is bigger than just Latin players or amateur players. It’s about all players and about the future of the game.”