Cuban defectors and LHPs Aroldis Chapman and Noel Arguelles are close to officially signing with the Cincinnati Reds and Kansas City Royals, respectively. Both players will get reported 5-year Major League deals, but dollar amounts different greatly, with close to $30 million going to Chapman and somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 million going to Arguelles.
The bidding wars brought on by these high profile international free agents is embarrassing for the sport of baseball and should put to an end with an international draft. Read more to see our reasoning.
Over 40 percent of the players in professional baseball were born outside of the United States. The globalization of the game has been great for the sport and for MLB, but with no international draft, teams are forced to attempt to project players out to the Major League level at an extremely early age and sign them at just 16 years old in a signing period free-for-all that beings on July 2nd.
Last year, Michael Ynoa, a 6’7″ pitching prodigy, got $4.25 million from the Oakland Athletics. A big roll of the dice for a small market team, the move will likely cripple what the A’s are able to do in the international market for years to come. This year, likely 5-tool outfielder Wagner Mateo was handed $3.1 million by the Cardinals before pulling the carpet out from under the Dominican teenager with concerns on his eye-sight.
Either way, we are talking about handing millions of dollars to 16-year old players, hoping that in the next 5-6 years they will turn into the next big MLB star. This process is unfair for organizations, and unfair for the kids. Puerto Rican players, who must enter the MLB June amateur draft out of high school, have the benefit of an educationally based Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School, whereas other Latin American players in the Dominican and Venezuela, for example, focus solely on baseball from a young age while attending academies funded directly by Major League teams. Asian players, namely from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, typically attend college and play professional in their own country into their early to mid 20s before coming over to play in the Majors. Australian players, like many Latin American players, lack a legitimate summer professional baseball system and must sign at an early age and try their hand at the minor leagues in America.
Puerto Rico has set the best example for the international community to follow – not only to develop a baseball oriented academy for players to learn and subsequently enter the MLB draft, but a place where the students will be educated and receive their GED or equivalent in the process. This allows the player to develop more naturally in a school setting and take the financial burden off the small market MLB teams force to take risks on teenagers or miss out on international players all together. For this reason, players from other countries that are ahead of the game in education and development of their players, namely Asian countries, or other untypical free agents, such as Cuban defectors, should also be forced to go through the MLB drafting process.