Major League Baseball (MLB) contracts are a complex and intriguing aspect of the sport. This blog post aims to shed light on how these contracts work, focusing on rookie contracts and the unique rules that govern them.
The Basics of MLB Contracts
When a player ascends to the big leagues, the team that first signed or drafted him has complete control over him for three years. During this period, known as the "pre-arbitration years," the team can decide to pay the player any amount, provided it is above the league minimum. The player has no say in his salary during this time, making these contracts a way of rewarding skilled rookies.
The Intricacies of Rookie Contracts
Rookie contracts in MLB are unique. Unlike other sports where young players can be signed for extraordinary sums of money, baseball operates differently. The more experience a player has, the higher their salary often becomes. For instance, Mike Trout, who led the MLB in runs and walks in 2013, was signed to a $1 million pre-arbitration deal by the Los Angeles Angels in 2014, setting a record.
The Arbitration Process
After the pre-arbitration years, a player becomes arbitration-eligible. This means that his team will attempt to reach a deal that both parties are comfortable with. The arbitration process is sometimes settled privately between the team and the player. If a player exceeds his arbitration and rookie limits, the team can sign him to a proper contract. At the end of this contract, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any team.
The Guarantee in MLB Contracts
Most baseball contracts are fully guaranteed, meaning teams must honor the entire contract, even if the player's performance declines or they sustain an injury. However, there can be exceptions and clauses in specific contracts. Players who obtain Major League contracts are guaranteed the full amount of money promised by those contracts. Conversely, players signed to Minor League contracts must earn a spot on the roster in Spring Training or via an in-season promotion to have their contracts guaranteed.