I noticed a bit of talk yesterday about a possible worldwide draft in baseball’s future. First, there was a mention in Dejan Kovacevic’s Q&A on the PBC Blog. Then, Ben Badler of Baseball America tweeted that a draft expansion would include more than just the Dominican, and that it would be a true worldwide draft.
There would need to be some kinks to work out. For example, at the time of the draft, Wagner Mateo was considered a top Dominican prospect. A few months later it was discovered that he had a vision problem and his contract was voided. There wasn’t any loss by the Cardinals when they voided his deal, although a team losing their pick in the top 10 over this issue would see a big loss.
Then there was the background check on Miguel Sano, which lasted months, even extending well in to the international signing period. This wasn’t the fault of Major League Baseball, as the investigations are up to the governments of the home country, and the United States. Major League Baseball would need to find some sort of way to get this information by the time of the draft, which isn’t easy.
If a worldwide draft was ever arranged, it would provide some interesting changes to the way teams look at the draft. For example, a contender in the 2010 draft could select Ryota Igarashi, signed him, and put him in the back of their bullpen. It would be like making a trade at the deadline. Just think how the 2007 playoffs would have shaped up had Daisuke Matsuzaka not signed with the Red Sox. Maybe Cleveland wins game seven of the ALCS if Dice-K isn’t there to limit them to two runs on five hits over five innings. And maybe Dice-K falls to the Cubs with the third pick in the 2007 draft, then leads them to a World Series, rather than a first round loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Well, maybe it’s a good thing a worldwide draft wasn’t in place back then.
And how about the 2009 draft? How would that have shaped up had a worldwide draft been in place? The 2009 international market saw two major signings: Miguel Sano and Aroldis Chapman. Chapman could have easily replaced Dustin Ackley as the number two pick in the draft, which would have given the Pirates the remainder of either Ackley or Sano, depending on who the Padres selected. The Pirates claim that they would have taken Ackley had he fallen to them, and we know they were interested in Sano, so it’s likely they would have ended up with one of those two players in a worldwide draft.
One downside is that you don’t really remove the advantage the international prospects have, at least in Japan. If you don’t pay Dice-K his demands, he’s going back to the Japanese leagues for another year. You could probably get a much better price on a guy like Chapman, because he’s not defecting from Cuba in order to wait around a few years trying to get an exact figure.
College players aren’t forced to sign either. A guy like Stephen Strasburg could sell his services to the Japanese leagues just the same as Dice-K. The difference is that Dice-K would be staying home, in a country he is familiar with, and near his family, while Strasburg would be leaving the country, and playing in an unfamiliar country. That’s not exactly the same situation.
So you’d likely see some of the international players, especially those from Japan, falling to the big market teams. The next approach would be to give a team the rights to the player they drafted for several years. That would remove the big advantage players have in the draft, where they can not only re-enter in future years, but where they also can block their previous team from drafting them again. First things first: getting a worldwide draft. It will need some adjustments, but overall it’s an excellent change for the game, and especially for small market teams like the Pirates.