MLB and the players association on Thursday agreed to a series of proposals to address business complications created by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Players have already ratified the pact and teams are expected to do so Friday.
The deal reportedly guarantees players at least some service time for 2020, delivers $170 million in salary advances to players, freezes transactions and moves forward on schedule changes to make up postponed games.
There also was agreement on potentially large adjustments to one other part of the industry: the amateur draft and international signings.
The key changes, according to The Associated Press:
— Management can reduce this year’s draft from 40 rounds to five rounds and next year’s draft to 20 rounds.
— The 2020 draft could take place as late as July 20. It was originally scheduled for June 10 to coincide with the start of the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The NCAA canceled the tournament in early March.
— Two-year deferrals of signing bonuses agreed to in 2020 and 2021. This would serve as a hedge against large revenue losses caused by games not being played.
— The maximum signing bonus for undrafted players will be $20,000. MLB’s initial proposal was $10,000. A five-round draft would necessarily create hundreds more undrafted free agents.
— MLB can push back the start of the next international signing period to Jan. 15, 2021, from July 2.
Amateur players aren’t able to gain game experience and showcase their skills to scouts before the draft because high school and college seasons have been canceled nationwide. College players may gain an additional year of NCAA eligibility because of the cancellations; the association will vote on the matter March 30.