Bud Selig recently called an international draft "inevitable". This has big ramifications for all of baseball and will certainly affect how the Cubs plan to build. The Cubs have invested a lot internationally. Led by Steve Wilson's tremendous efforts, they already have a strong presence in Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. Closer to home, Oneri Fleita and Jose Serra have begun to establish themselves as big players in Latin America.
A draft could lessen the impact of this investment. There will certainly be some negative consequences -- some of which you may not expect and probably weren't considered by Selig when this idea was proposed.
The obvious negative is that the Cubs or any other team won't always be able to pursue all the players they have outworked other teams to scout. There will be a draft order and they'll have to take whomever is available in that slot. Last year, for example, the Cubs zeroed in on both Marck Malave and Enrique Acosta. When a draft is installed, they won't be able to get two players of that caliber. The same goes for the prior year when the Cubs signed Carlos Penalver and Jeimer Candelario. In fact, the Cubs signed Penalver for a bit more money, so it's possible that if they had to choose one, they would have taken him even though Candelario has turned out to be the better player so far. There's a lot less margin for error now.
On the bright side, the international draft isn't here yet and the Cubs have been very good at digging up players at modest bonuses in Latin America, the biggest example being Starlin Castro for a mere $45,000. Carlos Marmol, as well as many of the Cubs current prospects from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, were signed for similar amounts.
That ability to find diamonds in the rough should help the Cubs in the next 2 years because, according to Jim Callis of BA,
For the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 signing periods only, a Club’s six highest signing bonuses that are equal to or less than $50,000 will not count toward its Signing Bonus Pool. In addition, bonuses provided to players of $7,500 or less will not count toward a Club’s Signing Bonus Pool.
For signing periods after the 2013-2014 signing period, bonuses provided to players of $10,000 or less will not count toward a Club’s Signing Bonus Pool.
Under the current agreement, it's possible that the Cubs, whose scouting efforts should continue to improve with the addition of the new front office, could sign up to 12 lesser known amateur players over the next two years without having it count toward their overall pool. The hope is that you can find another Castro or Marmol in that group. That's why scouting is so important and it's the reason you should see the Cubs intensify their efforts to find similar sleeper prospects.
A draft would make this tougher. The Cubs could still out-scout the other teams and find players that other teams missed on, but now they'd have to hope that all or most slip into the later rounds. They'll lose out on some of their targets, but with their strong scouting presence and track record, they should be able to land at least a few of their under-the-radar guys.
Unfortunately, the same won't hold true in the Asian countries. There is a different cultural dynamic. The NPB and the KBO are interested in the success of their own leagues. They don't consider themselves a pipeline for the MLB. Though amateur players can and often do sign with MLB teams, they can be blacklisted for doing so. In the past, it was worth the risk if they would receive a large signing bonus. Even sleepers like OF prospect Jae-Hoon Ha are relatively costly. Although Ha may not currently be at the same level, he was an under-the-radar find for the Cubs much like Castro was at the time. The difference is Ha's bonus was 5 times higher. It's extremely unlikely he would have taken the same risk for 50K or less.
That's bad enough, but an international draft would make it even more difficult in the Pacific Rim because players would have to declare their intention publicly. That's not exactly something that would be looked upon favorably in their home countries and puts players at risk. What if they don't get drafted? Or what if they do get drafted, but it's not until the 3rd, 4th round where the signing bonuses will be much lower? Then what happens if that player is unable to stay in the organization? Where does he go at that point? It's a risk many players may not want to take.
It's these kind of implications that Selig didn't consider. It's not just certain teams that will feel the impact, but it's the players who will also lose opportunities. Some of the players are very poor and it's going to mean a lot less money. They won't be getting what they would be worth in the open market. For others, the smaller bonuses may not compensate them enough for the risk they'd have to take. Ultimately, it's money that will go back into the pockets of owners. These aren't necessarily just owners in smaller markets. More accurately, they're the teams that have chosen not to make the financial commitment toward amateur scouting that other teams are willing to make. The rationale has been that it gives smaller markets a chance to compete, but the contradiction here is that many of those teams that have recently invested heavily in amateur scouting -- the Pirates, Royals, Rays, and Padres, for example-- are in small markets.
Both players and teams will feel the impact of the new CBA and the international draft that seems certain to follow. In most cases, that impact will not be a positive one. There will be less players available and less margin for error. But efforts to improve scouting and establish a presence should still help the Cubs keep an advantage over the teams still looking to skimp on scouting and development. Unfortunately, that advantage won't be as big as it would have been under the old CBA.