SBJ/March 25-31, 2013/Labor and Agents

MLBPA aims to clear long list of agent disputes in 12 months

Liz Mullen
The MLB Players Association has set a goal of resolving all of its disputes between baseball agents in the next 12 months, and some of the cases involve some of the highest-profile agents and agencies in the business.

Under MLBPA rules, certified playing contract agents cannot sue each other in state or federal courts but must resolve any disputes in confidential arbitration overseen by the union.

Union officials would not say exactly how many cases are unresolved nor would they name the parties involved in the cases, but multiple sources said that three disputes involve grievances in which agents left firms and took MLB players with them. According to those sources, the cases include disputes between MLB agent Dan Lozano and the agency where he was formerly a partner, Beverly Hills Sports Council; agents J.D. Smart, Jim Murray and Matt Laird and their former employer, Hendricks Sports Management; and agent Paul Kinzer and his former employer, Wasserman Media Group.

Lozano left Beverly Hills Sports Council to form his own firm in 2010, taking with him a number of players, including Albert Pujols, who signed a $240 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels in December 2011. Smart, Murray and Laird last year left the firm owned by brothers Randy and Alan Hendricks for Excel Sports Management, taking with them players that included Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw. Also in 2012, Kinzer left Wasserman Media Group to form his own firm, Kinzer Sports Management, and took with him Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, among others.
Exactly what the claims may be against each other in the three disputes is not clear. Representatives of those agents and agencies either declined to comment, citing the union’s rules regarding confidentiality, or did not return requests for comment.

MLBPA senior adviser Rick Shapiro would not comment on any specific cases nor say how many additional cases the union is arbitrating but did say, “We have a lot of them on the books.”

The union has four arbitrators to hear the disputes but may hire more. “We would like to expedite getting these claims resolved,” Shapiro said. “One of the advantages of arbitrations, as opposed to the court systems, is it is supposed to be more timely than a court resolution. It hasn’t been that, and we would like to change that.”

Getting all the cases resolved within a 12-month window is an internal MLBPA goal. MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner said, “I am hopeful it will take less than a year, but if it takes a year, that will be the case.”

> FREEMAN JOINS SELECT SPORTS: NFL agent Ron Freeman has joined Select Sports Group, and the agency landed a new client in his son, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman.

Josh Freeman was formerly co-represented by his father, who was certified by the NFL Players Association in 2008, and Ken Kremer, who left CAA Sports and retired from the NFL agent business last year.

> PROSOURCE SIGNS MONTGOMERY: ProSource Sports Management, which represents projected first-round draft pick Barkevious Mingo (a defensive end/outside linebacker from LSU), has signed Mingo’s former Tigers teammate Sam Montgomery, a defensive end.

Jeff Guerriero, founder of ProSource, will represent Montgomery, who formerly was represented by Five Star Athlete Management.

Guerriero said the fact that he represents a number of players from LSU (he also reps offensive tackle Chris Faulk) was a reason Montgomery signed with his firm. Guerriero has been certified by the NFLPA since 1997 and has negotiated more than 100 NFL player contracts, but he said he has not actively recruited projected first- and second-round draft picks before this year because of the challenges of securing those top-flight players. He expects that to change and momentum to build now that he is representing one such player in Mingo, who attended high school in West Monroe, La., which is near Monroe, La., where ProSource is based.

“Honestly, I am going to be a force to be reckoned with as we move forward in this business,” said a bullish Guerriero.

> A3 SIGNS NFL DRAFT PICKS: Allegiant Athletic Agency has signed Marshall wide receiver Aaron Dobson for representation in this year’s NFL draft. A3 also signed Clemson defensive end Malliciah Goodman and Georgia cornerback Branden Smith. Agents Chad Speck, Isaac Conner and Tommy Sims will represent the players.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

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