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The Major League Baseball first-year players draft happens every summer, and it is one of the most exciting moments in the career of a prospective baseball player. But once a player is drafted, what happens next?
After an amateur player is drafted by a Major League Baseball team, he is given a period of a few weeks to negotiate a signing bonus and agree to a contract. The player is only allowed to negotiate with the team that drafted him, and if the two sides cannot come to an agreement before the signing deadline, the player must re-enter the draft the following year if he wants to negotiate with any other team.
Most draft picks agree to sign a contract before the signing deadline, because their only other choices are to wait an entire year to be drafted again or to go to college (if they have not already) and wait several years before once again returning to the draft.
If a team is unable to sign a player they drafted in one of the first three rounds, the team will be awarded a compensatory pick in the following year’s draft.
How Do Contract Negotiations Work for Draft Picks?
As soon as a player is drafted by a team, that team has exclusive negotiating rights with that player until the signing deadline. This means the player cannot discuss a contract with any other Major League Baseball team.
However, this is not to say the player does not have any leverage in the negotiation. If a player chooses not to sign with the team that drafted him, not only does the team lose out on that player, but they lose the bonus pool money associated with that player’s draft slot value. In other words, if the team fails to sign any one player, the total amount of money the team has to spend is significantly reduced.
Therefore, both the player and the team are incentivized to come to an agreement before the deadline.
What Are The Players Negotiating For?
Draft picks are paid with signing bonuses, and so when they negotiate a contract with the team that drafted them, they are negotiating for the highest possible signing bonus.
Each team is assigned a “bonus pool” of money that they are allowed to spend on signing bonuses. Teams incur penalties if they spend more than their bonus pool.
While individual players are trying to sign for the highest bonus possible, teams are trying to ensure that they do not spend more than the allotted amount of money in their bonus pool. This is the primary conflict driving negotiations.
Are Players Paid After They Get Drafted?
Players are not paid as soon as they are drafted, but if they agree to a contract with an MLB team, they will earn a signing bonus. The signing bonus is guaranteed, and the player receives the bonus upon signing a contract.
While this signing bonus is usually quite a large sum, it will have to last the player for quite some time, because minor league baseball players are not paid a very high salary. Not including the signing bonus, a player can expect to earn somewhere between $400 and $700 a week until he is added to a major league roster.
When Do Draft Picks Start Playing?
Draft picks are eligible to start playing as soon as they have signed a contract with the team that drafted them. However, they usually do not play very much during the season in which they are drafted.
The MLB draft takes place in mid-summer, and the minor league season usually ends in late August or early September. By the time players are drafted and warmed up, the minor league season is close to being finished.
So, while most draft picks get their first taste of professional baseball in the same year that they are drafted, they do not get very much experience until the following year.
Does a Player Ever Make The Majors Right After Getting Drafted?
While it is very rare, several players have made it up to the major leagues right after being drafted. In the history of the MLB draft, 23 players have gone straight from being drafted to playing in the majors without suiting up for a single game in the minor leagues.
Notable players who skipped over the minors after being drafted include Mike Leake, Xavier Nady, and John Olerud.
What Happens to a Player Who Is Not Drafted?
If a player is not drafted, he is free to negotiate with all thirty Major League Baseball clubs.
For a long time, it was very unlikely that an MLB team would be interested in signing a player who went undrafted. Instead, it was more likely that an undrafted player would go play baseball somewhere else, such as college or an independent league. If an MLB team was impressed with his play, they might have then offered him a contract.
However, in 2020, when the number of rounds in the MLB draft was significantly reduced, it became much more common for teams to sign undrafted players. With fewer rounds in the draft, there was a higher number of talented players available once the draft was complete.
While it is rare for undrafted players to make the major leagues, it is not impossible. Hall of Famer Larry Walker and World Series Champion Kevin Millar are two recent examples of successful major leaguers who were not drafted.
Who Is Eligible for the MLB Draft?
In order to be eligible for the MLB first-year player draft, a player must be a resident of the United States or Canada and must have never previously signed a contract with an MLB franchise.
Players can be drafted right after graduating from high school, but if they have already begun to attend university they must wait until after their third year or twenty-first birthday in order to take part in the draft.