By Jordan Ali Khan
COVID-19 has had a significant effect on us all. Over 200,000 deaths have been reported around the world, most sports leagues have been postponed or cancelled and Ontario is in a state of emergency. For the MLB community, there have been numerous players and employees which have tested positive for the virus and it continues to affect not only the MLB community, but the world as a whole. Millions of people have been laid off from their jobs, and billions all over the world have been forced to stay home. In this article, I will be outlining the impact of Coronavirus on the MLB, but more specifically what it means for players entering the MLB draft.
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred made the decision to shorten the draft from 40 rounds to 5 rounds, despite the push from the majority of general managers for a 10 round draft. The other change which occured for the draft was the signing of players. Manfred added a capped signing bonus for all of the undrafted players at 20,000 dollars maximum. To put this number into context, the signing bonus for the last player selected in the 6th round of MLB’s draft collected a signing bonus of 200,000 dollars. The difference in the 2 numbers comes at 180,000 dollars. Rob Manfred has also speculated on the concept of cancelling the international signing period for the MLB. The international signing period is for teams to sign players who are situated outside of Canada, USA and Puerto Rico and are the age of 16 when they sign. Although the period does not seem to be cancelled at the moment, on March 16, Rob Manfred issued a ban on scouting representatives from teams meeting and scouting these prospects in person in a showcase, or in a private workout. These changes to the draft, as well as to the international signing period have a major impact on teams and players.
How does this impact players?
This massive difference between signing bonus values (180,000 for a 6th round pick) will cause many highly-talented high-school players to rethink their decision to declare for the draft due to the massive decrease in bonus money available. Despite this, many colleges have already offered up scholarship money to other athletes not interested in the draft, so scholarships could not be available for most of the top baseball schools, or any division 1 university. This could force many high-schoolers to declare for the draft and take a massive hit to bonus money. Also, the NCAA division council issued a statement saying that they will grant an extra year of eligibility for university players who’s spring sport was cancelled due to COVID-19. This will cause college baseball to become very competitive for playing time, as well as more talent displayed on the field. For the MLB however, the decrease in bonus money could cause college and highschool players to decide to attend university rather than declaring for the draft or could cause seniors in college to exercise their extra year of eligibility in university. This will surely cause a drop-off in talent in the draft, as well as for the signing period for the undrafted players, which will mean less talent in minor-league systems. The MLB is also looking at lowering the amount of minor-league baseball teams for each organization due to the shortened draft, which will cause some players to lose their jobs, but will cause all minor league team staff to be laid off.
On a good note, the MLB has recently announced the possibility of starting an 82 game season on July 1st with a 14-team playoff bracket.