By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
As the status of the 2020 Major League Baseball season hangs in the balance, the organisation made a decision that could affect several Bahamian prospects.
MLB officially announced that the International Signing Period will be postponed from its traditional July 2 date and will now begin on January 15.
According to Baseball America, the move was another cost cutting measure by the MLB as negotiations on the 2020 season continue.
“The MLBPA agreed to allow teams to defer all but $100,000 of draft signing bonuses into 2021 and 2022, but international amateurs signing bonuses were not automatically deferred in that March agreement,” the report said. “With MLB teams across baseball trying to save on cash flow, pushing the signing period to next January will keep teams issuing from multi-million dollar cheques this summer, pushing those expenses into 2021 instead.”
International Elite Sports Academy products Adari Grant and Kristin Munroe were listed by MLB Pipeline as some of the top infield prospects in the current class and were considered highly sought after prospects. The Bahamian pair were the only players from the English-speaking Caribbean on a list dominated by prospects from the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Venezuela.
The players who are eligible to sign (anyone who turns 16 by August 31 this year) will remain the same in the delayed signing period which will conclude December 15, 2021. The current 2019-20 international signing period was set to expire earlier this week, but was extended through October 15, 2020. Despite the extension, teams are unable to sign players due to the MLB’s transaction freeze.
The international signing period is a time when many Bahamian prospects have signed minor league deals in recent years.
MLB is negotiating a proposal that could lead to a shortened season that begins in July. The MLB draft was also shortened to just five rounds.
The international signing period is when major league clubs sign amateurs from anywhere outside the United States. MLB can push the 2020-21 period back to January 2021, and the 2021-22 period back to January 2022. Teams will also not be allowed to trade international bonus slots in 2020 or 2021.
As a byproduct of the COVID-19 fallout there has also been a reported agreement in place with the MLB to reduce the number of minor league affiliate teams by 40.
MiLB currently fields 160 teams across its various leagues, but that number could be reduced to as much as 120 and the remaining teams could face realignment.
Prior to the suspension of all baseball activity, many of the 16 Bahamian players in the minor leagues had yet to receive their assignments for the upcoming season. Up to press time last night, the MLB and players’ association continued their negotations. MLB sent a proposal for a 60-game season at full prorated pay.