NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — After handing down a stiff punishment to the Atlanta Braves last week for circumventing international signing rules, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred believes an international draft is the answer.
“I think that the way we think about the international market is that until we get to a system with real transparency — and by that I mean an international draft — we are going to have these problems,” Manfred told WFAN’s Mike Francesa on Monday. “It’s a huge market in a foreign country. You’re never going to catch everybody.”
Major League Baseball stripped the Braves last week of 13 prospects and banned former general manager John Coppolella for life.
Manfred said MLB’s investigation determined the Braves funneled extra signing bonus money to five players in 2015-16 by giving the funds first to another player considered a foreign professional under baseball’s rules and having the money redistributed to the other five. If the money had been counted for the other five, the Braves would have exceeded their pool by more than 5 percent and been restricted to signing bonuses of $300,000 or under for international amateurs through June 15, 2019.
Because of that, MLB voided the contracts of nine players the Braves would have been ineligible to sign: Venezuelan infielder Kevin Maitan ($4.25 million signing bonus), Venezuelan catcher Abrahan Gutierrez ($3.53 million), Dominican shortstop Yunior Severino ($1.9 million), Dominican right-hander Juan Contreras ($1.2 million), Dominican shortstop Yenci Pena ($1.05 million), Dominican right-hander Yefri del Rosario ($1 million), Cuban outfielder Juan Carlos Negret ($1 million), Venezuelan shortstop Livan Soto ($1 million) and Colombian right-hander Guillermo Zuniga ($350,000).
“Kids in the United States enter the game through a draft,” Manfred said. “There’s no reason why people who are born in other countries should enter the game a different way. And then on top of that, you have this ongoing issue with respect to following the rules, particularly in the Dominican Republican. And I think the growing consensus is the only way to eliminate those problems is with a transparent international draft.”
There were a record number of home runs hit during the regular season and in the World Series this past season, leading to speculation that the balls were juiced to drive up offense.
Manfred insisted Monday that was not the case.
“We have received absolute assurances from Rawlings that there was no alteration in the manufacturing process this year,” the commissioner said. “The Rawlings testing shows that the ball was consistently within our specifications. Our own independent testing — and we used two outside laboratories — show the same results.”
Manfred added that he found it “interesting” that some people, including players, alleged that the baseballs used in the Fall Classic were different. He said the baseballs were randomly selected from the same groups of balls that were used during the regular season.
“People get convinced that there’s a difference, and we just have not been able to identify one,” he said.
THE NEED FOR SPEED
Manfred conceded that his efforts to improve the pace of play failed this year, with the average length of a game increasing by more than six minutes.
He said he is hopeful the players association will agree to a proposal to implement 20-second pitch clocks and regulate the number of pitcher-catcher conferences.
To listen to the interview with Manfred, click on the audio player above.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)