MLB Rumors: 2020 & 2021 Drafts Will Be Shortened; Payment Of Bonuses Delayed
2019 MLB Draft, general view
Alex Trautwig/MLB

Although Opening Day was supposed to take place this past week, the 2020 Major League Baseball season is currently on hold due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has swept across the world.

In addition to the uncertainty surrounding if the season will be shortened, or maybe even cancelled altogether, there are also questions surrounding the 2020 MLB Draft.

Not only will teams not have the ability to evaluate players this year as college and high school seasons have been cancelled, but it appears various other factors of the draft will be affected as well due to coronavirus.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan and Kiley McDaniel, an agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association allows for commissioner Rob Manfred to reduce the number of rounds in the 2020 and 2021 Drafts, possibly push them back into July and allow for teams to delay bonus payments:

MLB has the right to move the 2020 MLB draft back from June 10 to as late as July 20, with a signing date as late as Aug. 1. A concrete date hasn’t been set yet. The rounds have been reduced from 40 to as few as five, though Manfred has the option to increase that number at his discretion — and might do so if games are being played and revenue is coming in. MLB also can shorten the 2021 draft to as few as 20 rounds and move it to the same dates.

In both years, the payment of draft bonuses will be delayed significantly. While signing-bonus slot values will remain the same as the 2019 draft — typically, they increase 3% to 4% annually depending on revenues — the maximum up-front payment in 2020 and 2021 will be $100,000 within 30 days of an approved contract. Fifty percent of the remaining value will be paid on July 1 the next year, then the balance on July 1 two years later.

Undrafted players cannot get more than $20,000, even if a team is under its allotted draft pool, in both the 2020 and 2021 drafts.

While this is obviously not ideal for anyone involved, it seems like perhaps the only solution at the moment with no baseball being played and teams not bringing in revenue.

The MLB Draft is a big reason why the Los Angeles Dodgers have been able to maintain one of the best farm systems in baseball in recent years despite winning seven consecutive National League West titles.

One benefit that an organization like the Dodgers will have is the ability to sign undrafted players. With all teams only able to offer $20,000, it’s fair to believe the Dodgers’ history of developing players, as well as their winning tradition and playing in Los Angeles, will help them land some of the best available players.

These changes will likely lead to more talented high school players going to college though, setting the stage for even more talented drafts in the years to come.

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