Would an international draft benefit the Detroit Tigers?

Tigers infield prospect Cristian Santana fields grounders during spring training Minor League minicamp Monday, Feb. 21, 2022 at Tiger Town in Lakeland, Florida.Tigers5
Tigers infield prospect Cristian Santana fields grounders during spring training Minor League minicamp Monday, Feb. 21, 2022 at Tiger Town in Lakeland, Florida.Tigers5 /

A clear sticking point during the talks between the owners and the MLBPA yesterday was the international draft. Would that idea benefit the Detroit Tigers in the future?

According to a story in ESPN published yesterday, MLB stated that they have included the idea of an international draft in every proposal since July 2021, while the union has stated they have rejected the idea each time. But for Detroit Tigers fans, and baseball fans in general, the news of this proposal seemed to come from out of nowhere.

The way it is portrayed, it seems like the international draft is one of the biggest reasons a deal did not come together yesterday. But according to the Athletic ($), it goes back to the 2017 CBA.

The current international system revolves around players being discovered at the ages of 13 to 14 in various baseball academies across Latin America, and then making unofficial verbal agreements with teams. This system is widely viewed as corrupt, and trainers or mentors often get large portions of a player’s bonus after they officially sign.

For many players who come from the Dominican Republic, baseball is their only way to live a better life. Nearly 40% of the Dominican Republic’s people live in poverty and 10.4% live in extreme poverty, according to an article posted in Borgen Magazine back in 2020. A number that also stood out in the article was that almost 65% of all homicides that occurred between January and September 2019 were during a robbery or attempted robbery. Jobs are scarce and there are issues with people who live in the country that live off low-quality water.

Venezuela and Cuba face similar issues. For Cuban players, the lengths to get out of the country to freedom are well documented, and Venezuela has been cited according to a report by the U.N. Human Rights Council Report on Venezuela for systematic use of torture to the point of crimes against humanity.

Bottom line: The benefits are as clear as mud

In the United States, there are so many structured tiers. You have Little League that goes from tee ball (ages 4 to 7) to senior league (ages 13 to 16) and other travel teams that play year round now. You have high school fields that are just as good as some minor league ballparks. Academies in the Dominican Republic are helping signed players learn English, get proper nutrition, and assimilate into the life of a pro ballplayer.

Teams used to be able to spend as much as they wanted on international players, but MLB put a hard cap on international spending in the previous CBA. The idea behind the international draft, according to Major League Baseball, would be that more money would go to drawing similar bonus pools as their American counterparts.

But there are still inequities to fix, such as the expectations for these players. They are not even in the same “ballpark” as expectations go. The international draft would not allow any wiggle room. You are slotted at one amount, and if you think you are worth more, the fallback options are limited. Guardians prospect George Valera summed it up best.

There are more layers to this that need more than one day to fix. The Detroit Tigers have several international prospects on the horizon, like Cristian Santana and Roberto Campos. Both have tremendous upside and were recruited and received big signing bonuses, with Campos getting $2.85 million, and Santana receiving the highest bonus at $2.95 million.

Detroit’s 2021 All-Star Gregory Soto was an international signing from back in December 2012. He originally was a starter in the minor leagues but became an effective closer last season for the Tigers. He will earn $579,600 this coming season.

Until there is more clarity in how this international draft would even work, for now, Detroit Tigers fans will still not see a clear conclusion for a long time as both sides have put this topic for further discussion as of this morning, until July.