The Complicated World of Free Agency

Nothing really comes free – not even in free agency baseball terms.

Time was when baseball contracts were pretty simple. During the reserve cause era, teams were free to sign any free agent they wanted at any time of the year. Once they did, even if the actual contract was the usual one-year deal, the club’s control of that player was total until they gave the nod to release said player from all future obligations. Until that happened, the player could either play baseball on the terms dictated by the club – or not play at all. In the meanwhile, the club could choose to trade, sell, or release the player and the player could then either decide to accept the decision made for him by the club. or else, retire.

If that sounds a little like slavery to you, welcome to the same choir that eventually became the Player’s Union.

Once the iniquity of the reserve clause unravelled in 1975, the Players Union and MLB came to terms on a set of rules for handling both the control needs of the clubs and the freedom needs of the players to have some say in where they choose to work. These rules for the government of free agency contracts in baseball are explained about as clearly as I’ve ever read them at Baseball.About.Com. Check out their primer page on how it all works at the following link:

At best, a club has about a six-year window for developing and keeping a highly rated young signee like the Number One Choice of the Astros, Carlos Correa. If Correa is as great as we Houston fans all hope he will be, the Astros will still have to come in with the most attractive long-term offer to keep him. That doesn’t mean for certain that the club will have to make him the best financial offer, but it probably will – and it most definitely will if he should shift agents to a guy like Scott Boras at some point in the “getting there” time period that stretches from here to about age 23.

If you are unfamiliar with the rules in place, you probably will find the information at this link helpful. Things start off easy to grasp. Then they get a little conditional and shifty. The thing has had way too much time for too many attorneys to get involved in the refinement of the rules.


One Response to “The Complicated World of Free Agency”

  1. Bob Hulsey Says:

    There is no true salary cap in baseball and somehow the Yankees became a dynasty both during the reserve clause and during the free agency era simply by having the most revenue and buying the best players. The small revenue teams will always be at the mercy of large revenue teams with their only hope being that the large revenue teams become bloated and run incompetently (see Chicago Cubs)..

    As long as teams with $200 million payrolls take the field against teams with $40 million payrolls, major league baseball is not truly a fair fight.

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