New 2020 MLB Draft plan is bad for all involved

The deal in place between Major League Baseball and the Players Association is barely better than canceling the draft entirely in 2020. 

First reported by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel, and then later confirmed Thursday night by his colleague Jeff Passan and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, both the owners and players agreed to shrink the 2020 MLB Draft drastically. Instead of the typical 40 rounds we have seen in recent seasons, it will only be five rounds when the draft is conducted, which will be no later than July. The draft could be longer than five rounds, but it’s up to MLB’s discretion. 

College players were already in a unique position having their seasons canceled on them. There have been conversations about granting an additional year of eligibility. While in some situations that make sense, it is still uncertain that college baseball programs will receive more scholarships and expanded rosters for 2021. If college coaches don’t acquire either more scholarships or expanded rosters, they will face a roster crunch. 

Making matters worse, undrafted players can only sign for $20,000. Last year, the signing bonus slots after the sixth round were worth between $142,200 to $301,600. That is a massive pay cut for those missing out on not having the additional bonus rounds available. 

Taking it further, top draft picks are not going to see raises. According to Rosenthal, draft bonus slot values will not change next two years. In 2020, draft bonuses will only get paid out to $100,000 and players will receive the rest of their bonus in equal parts in 2021 and 2022.

Andrew Vaughn signed for $7.22 million after the White Sox selected him third overall last year. The third overall pick belongs to Miami this year. A player like Texas A&M LHP Asa Lacy could be chosen by the Marlins, but he’d only receive $100,000 immediately. Lacy would have to wait for the remaining $7.12 million paid over the next two seasons. 

This payment structure will be an issue for area scouts and their scouting directors when pursuing prep players. The White Sox last year were able to persuade Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist to skip college to begin their professional careers. Both signed for more than $2 million to forgo college. 

Well, in 2020, prep players like Thompson and Dalquist would only receive $100,000, and the additional $1.9 to $2 million split between 2021 and 2022. What happens if the White Sox suddenly doesn’t like either Thompson or Dalquist? Or, one of them suffers a significant injury that requires them to miss more than a year? Can the White Sox cut them and not be liable to pay the remaining bonus?  

Those questions will be on parents’ and advisors’ minds while scouts are trying to convince their son/client to sign. Is this bonus payment structure good enough to convince prep players to skip college? Another way of putting it, the White Sox have $4,574,500 assigned to pick 11. Hypothetically, if they selected prep shortstop Ed Howard out of Mount Carmel, is $100K enough of a bonus in 2020 to make him skip out of his commitment to the University of Oklahoma? 

One such advisor, super-agent Scott Boras, is not satisfied with the changes. From Rosenthal’s column:

“It’s unconscionable the owners in this climate would reduce the collectively bargained money given to drafted players in the top rounds,” Boras said. “I don’t mind them reducing the rounds. That’s not the issue. It’s reducing the payments to those players. To cut their bonuses in this climate and use a pandemic situation in our country as a means to do that, I really find it unconscionable.

“The best players do not deserve to have their bonuses cut. That’s who you should invest in.”

For the first round, scouts may find a way to sign prep players, but I’m doubtful they will find success later in the draft like the White Sox did last year with Thompson and Dalquist. This bonus payment structure could result in an influx of prep players changing direction and enroll at a junior college. They play one season and then be eligible for the 2021 MLB Draft to avoid this payment structure next year, hopefully. 

Former White Sox ninth round pick, Micah Johnson, shared his personal thoughts on the matter.

COVID-19 has a tremendous global impact on all businesses, and MLB is no exception. The league that made more than $10 billion in 2019 decided that the draft is an area where they needed to cut costs. In doing so, they are putting their baseball operations in a bind and causing more problems for college baseball.

Not many considered the threat of canceling the 2020 draft real. After this compromise from MLBPA, perhaps MLB’s original plan was that severe. If this deal was the only way to save the draft in 2020, fine, but this is a terrible situation for all scouts and players involved.

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Josh Nelson
Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson is the host and producer of the Sox Machine Podcast. For show suggestions, guest appearances, and sponsorship opportunities, you can reach him via email at

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lil jimmy

I believe this whole thing will continue to evolve. It could get better. It can’t get worse.


Agree with this. I feel as though this agreement was to set a baseline for the worst case scenario. I take this as a floor as opposed to what will hopefully be the result.


One day I’ll take the time to figure out how to properly post gifs here.
Anyways, eat the rich.


Josh, you hit the nail on the head here. This is just such a stupid decision all around. Scott Boras should be encouraging as many of his potential draft picks as possible to explore going the route of Carter Stewart and signing in Japan/Korea/whatever foreign league is willing to pay the players.


the owners, obviously, are horrible here. but let’s not let the players union off the hook either. they once again sold out their future membership for their current interests. this is how you get in a compromised position long-term. it’s supposed to get better with a union.

per usual, skin in the game is what matters. if nobody wants to negotiate on behalf of amateurs, than they will continue to get screwed. survival bias. perhaps if those that didn’t make the big leagues worked harder or didn’t get injured or had better instruction or a clearer path to playing time or whatever bullshit.


I don’t get what the players are getting out of this. Why are they agreeing to it?


The players don’t care about draftees. Never have, never will. They’re probably getting a guarantee of a partial season’s salary out of this.


Even if the players don’t care about the draftees, this is still something that the league needs from the union. You wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) give up a point of leverage for nothing. But I haven’t heard what the union got.

Jim Margalus

Service time for players on active rosters regardless of season length.


5 rounds too few, maybe 12-15ish? 40+ obviously ridiculous even absent present situation.