The 2020 MLB Draft was this past week, and along with the much discussed change to the length of the draft — it was truncated to 5 rounds, instead of the usual 40 — there were also changes to the rules regarding signing undrafted players.
Undrafted free agents are normally not subject to any sort of bonus restriction, other than being subject to the overall team bonus pools. This year, however, teams can sign as many undrafted free agents as they like, but cannot sign them for more than $20,000 as a bonus (though they can agree to pay college expenses for players, which doesn’t count towards that limit).
Since even a player drafted in the later rounds of a normal draft generally gets more than a $20,000 bonus, this is a big blow to the lower-tier players, the ones who are going to command huge bonuses but who, in a normal year, could get a nice chunk of change upon signing. Many players rely upon that bonus money to help fund them in their early years in the minors, when their actual wages from the club are not enough to live on.
Players who might normally sign in the later rounds for, say, $125,000, now have to decide whether to take the $20,000 and start their pro careers, or go to school. A college junior returning to school does so knowing they are going to have less leverage in 2021 and will be part of what will likely be a crowded draft class, while a high schooler has to decide whether to go the junior college route, making them draft eligible in 2021, or go to a four year school, which means not being draft eligible again until 2023.
As a sidenote, this limit on undrafted free agents only applies to those players who are draft-eligible. International free agents who are subject to the J-2 bonus restrictions have, as far as I know, no changes to their signing eligibility.
A pair of players have been identified as signing with the Texas Rangers today. Connor Sechler, a 21 year old righthanded pitcher, wasn’t going to pitch in 2020 even before the season was canceled, as he was suspended by Missouri State and then announced he was transferring. He is a 6’3”, 180 lb. righthanded relief pitcher.
Also reportedly signing with the Rangers today is 18 year old catcher Fernando Jose Amaro, out of Puerto Rico. About all I can find about him is that he is 5’10”, 180 lbs., and hits righty.
You can track all teams’ UDFA signings here.