As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt sports leagues around the world, Major League Baseball is considering skipping its amateur draft this summer and moving the international signing period, per Ronald Blum of the Associated Press.
The MLB draft was set to take place ahead of the now-canceled College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, in mid-June, while the international signing period was scheduled to run from July 2-15.
Signing bonuses for draft prospects "total about $400 million annually," according to Blum, which could be a difficult expense for MLB teams to swallow given the ongoing economic turmoil.
According to Blum, moving the two hallmarks of the MLB calendar would allow the league to save money while it remains on hiatus. Revenue from ticket sales, broadcast deals and sponsorships is expected to be limited until games are able to resume.
MLB would need the approval of the players union before enacting any such changes, though as Blum notes, it may be hard for the MLBPA to seek recourse:
"While bonus rules for the draft and international players are part of the collective bargaining agreement, management could attempt to cite the national emergency as reason to make unilateral changes. With a Republican administration in Washington, the union would have a difficult path with a legal challenge before the National Labor Relations Board.
"The sides also are discussing whether MLB would advance money to players, who get paid only during the regular season. The Uniform Player's Contract has a provision allowing the baseball commissioner to suspend the deal during any national emergency when Major League Baseball is not played."
From a draft perspective, things have already taken a dizzying turn. The NCAA canceled all spring sports and championships, including a baseball season that was already well underway. However, the NCAA is granting eligibility relief for those athletes so they won't be deprived of a year of their college careers.
That means college juniors and seniors who are currently eligible for the draft could return to school next summer without any penalty from the NCAA.
Blum also reported the league is considering a transaction freeze while the season remains suspended, while the MLBPA is aiming to ensure major and minor league players receive allowance money even if they have returned home from spring training.