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2020 MLB Draft will only be 5 rounds

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The move is partially a practical matter, but also a cost-cutting measure

2019 Major League Baseball Draft Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty Images

After weeks of talks about what to do with this year’s baseball draft — after a spring where there was no college or high school baseball — it appears the league and the players’ union have a deal.

Jeff Passan, Ken Rosenthal and others are reporting within the last few minutes that the 2020 draft will only be 5 rounds long. Any player that isn’t drafted will only be able to sign for a $20,000 signing bonus, although teams won’t be limited in the number of undrafted players they can sign.

Passan notes that there was a proposal for a 10-round draft instead, but a deal on that format couldn’t be hammered out. Yesterday, J.J. Cooper at Baseball America said almost every front office and scouting department in the league wanted the 10-round format, but suspected the owners would get their way on the 5-round draft (and avoid having to pay 5 more rounds’ worth of bonuses).

That’s a sentiment that Passan seems to allude to in his tweets breaking the news.

In his piece for Baseball America, Cooper estimates the 5-round difference would save owners more than $29.5 million as a group. The experts at Baseball America also expect the 5-round draft to be made up of mostly college players, with more high schoolers going to college instead of taking the $20,000 bonus that may be hundreds of thousands less than they would have earned in any other year.

Cooper notes the difference between being Mr. Irrelevant in the 5-round draft and a non-drafted player isn’t so irrelevant — the slot bonus for the last player in the draft will be $324,100, more than $300,000 more than any undrafted player could earn.

That’s one of the reasons why this is a move that could have a ripple effect across all farm systems for years to come. If more high schoolers choose to go to college, it could lead to a lower overall talent pool for the next few years until those players become draft-eligible again, unless those players decide to go the Junior College route instead (which would, in turn, dramatically affect college baseball).