Major League Baseball and its players agreed to make the best out of the COVID-19 pandemic, compromising to play the most games possible — even playing into November — providing the deadly virus subsides to enable a baseball season.
But while their deal on service time and salary should be officially ratified Friday, with the owners scheduled to vote on a noon ET conference call, prominent baseball agent Scott Boras worries that amateur players will be greatly damaged in the agreement.
Boras, who traditionally advises more first-round draft picks than any baseball player-agent — including this year’s projected No. 1 pick in Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson — believes the new agreement will adversely impact amateurs.
“It is amazing to me when our nation is in a position of peril,’’ Boras told USA TODAY Sports, “that one of the attack points always continues to be the poor drafted players. For owners to do this to these young men, who are so passionate about baseball, is something that they need to examine their conscious.’’
BORAS HAS A PLAN: Let’s play the World Series on Christmas
DREAM SEASON OVER: Potential No. 1 pick in limbo
The new agreement calls for the amateur draft to be reduced from 40 rounds to as few as five rounds this summer. The signing bonus pool, which was set to increase by 3-5%, will remain the same the next two years. Players will also be required to defer 90% of their signing bonuses the next two years.
The draftees will receive only 10% of their signing bonus this year, 45% in 2021 and 45% in 2022, with no interest.
Also, all amateurs who sign after the fifth round this year cannot receive a signing bonus exceeding $20,000.
“More kids will have to go to (college),’’ Boras says, instead of receiving signing bonuses in the draft. “And anyone not taken among the top 200 players will have to go back to school.
“I’m a big proponent of college, so I want these kids to get their education, but what really bothers me is that kids outside the fifth round deserve their bonuses. And now they’re freezing their (bonuses) for the next two years, and are paying them late.
“I know they want to give the owners some relief, but not to those levels.’’
Boras joins his fellow agents and players in praising the union for assuring that players will receive a full year of service time towards free agency and salary arbitration, even if it means All-Star outfielder Mookie Betts could reach free agency without playing a day after being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return, the players will receive pro-rated salaries depending on the amount of games played. If there are no games played, the players will receive $170 million in upfront money from owners that will be divided among players on the 40-man rosters.
Boras just wishes that even with the projected revenue losses — which could be lessened with MLB and the players agreeing to make up part of the missed schedule by playing regular-season games through October with a November postseason — amateur players didn’t have to suffer financially as well.
“I just think in this climate and this environment, you should keep the status quo,’’ Boras said. “You’re sending a message to drafted players you are major league baseball’s step-child. It’s unconscionable to me for that small amount of money.
“We’re talking about a whopping $6 million savings over the whole damn draft.
“It just sends the wrong message.’’
The new agreement stipulates that the draft will be at least 20 rounds beginning in 2021, but Boras believes there’ll be severe repercussions with the draft limits this year.
“In reality, you are going to be surrounding (established) players with less-caliber players now,’’ Boras said. “They need 10 rounds to fill their minor-leagues teams with talent. A sixth-round high school talent is a good player. An eighth-rounder out of college is a good player. They can be All-Star players.
“Now, they’ll be back in school.
“Really, we’re not giving them much of a choice.’’
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale