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Volume 21 No. 2
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MLB, union not surprised by number of qualifying offers

Liz Mullen
While some baseball agents expected that more players would receive qualifying offers this year under MLB’s new free agent compensation system, MLB Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner and Rob Manfred, MLB executive vice president of economics and league affairs, said they were not surprised only nine players did.

Those nine players were Michael Bourn (Atlanta), Josh Hamilton (Texas), Hiroki Kuroda (New York Yankees), Adam LaRoche (Washington), Kyle Lohse (St. Louis), David Ortiz (Boston), Rafael Soriano (Yankees), Nick Swisher (Yankees) and B.J. Upton (Tampa Bay).

Kyle Lohse of St. Louis was one of nine players receiving qualifying offers this year.
Under the new system, which was agreed to under the collective-bargaining agreement ratified last year, clubs must offer players who are about to become free agents a one-year deal for the average of the top 125 MLB player salaries, an amount that this year was $13.3 million. The clubs made the offers Nov. 2, and players had until Nov. 9 to accept them. If a player does not accept the offer, the clubs receive draft-pick compensation from the team that ultimately signs the player. Clubs that didn’t make an offer receive no compensation.

Under the old system, clubs received draft picks for players who were offered arbitration but signed elsewhere. Last year, clubs offered arbitration to 37 free agents.

“From the union’s perspective, we always want as few players subject to direct compensation as possible,” Weiner said last week. “We see this new provision as an improvement to the previous system. It’s a positive development. There are fewer players subject to compensation than there have been in previous years.”

Manfred, in an email response to questions from SportsBusiness Journal, said: “The goal of the new system was to more accurately identify players of sufficient value to warrant the former club receiving compensation if the player left via free agency and to avoid burdening less valuable players.”

Prior to the offers being made, some MLB agents said they expected clubs to make offers even if they didn’t actually want the player, simply to secure draft-pick compensation. One agent said his agency expected two of its clients to receive offers and was glad when they did not, because it gave those players a better chance of being signed elsewhere. Clubs may shy away from a player if they would lose a draft pick by signing him, this agent said.

Agents requested anonymity because they didn’t want their comments to affect their relationships with clubs.

Said Manfred, “It is not surprising that agents would see less players being subject to compensation as a positive, but the clubs control their own destiny in terms of who is subject to compensation. More important, the change in compensation was part of a package of reforms, including draft reform, that has proved to be good for the clubs.”

> KINZER OPENS SHOP: MLB player agent Paul Kinzer has opened his own Atlanta-based agency, Kinzer Management Group, and will be representing a number of high-profile MLB players, including Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro. The firm also represents Chicago White Sox shortstop Alex Rios, Milwaukee third baseman Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Correa, the No. 1 overall pick (by Houston) in this year’s MLB draft, according to a statement Kinzer issued to SportsBusiness Journal.

Wasserman Media Group issued a statement last month saying that former employee Kinzer had been terminated for cause. The statement was issued at the same time news broke that Wasserman had paid a settlement to free agent closer Francisco Rodriguez, a former Wasserman and Kinzer client.

Kinzer, in his statement, expressed disappointment in Wasserman’s public comments, noting that the related matters “will be addressed in the proper forum.” He added, “I’m now ready for a new era in my career.”

Disputes between MLB player agents are often mediated by the MLBPA. Union chief Weiner declined to comment when asked if the union was overseeing a dispute between Kinzer and Wasserman.

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