After seven weeks of bitter disagreement over the issue of how to compensate a team that loses a top player to another team, representatives of the owners and players settled on a compromise package that centers around a player pool system.
Under terms of the agreement, which is tentative pending ratification, all clubs must participate in the pool unless they elect to forfeit rights to sign free agents. Teams that lose a quality player will be entitled to select a player from the pool would receive $150,000 from a fund to which all clubs would be required to contribute.
As written, no club would lose more than one player from the pool in any given year.
Initially, the owners had proposed that a team losing a free agent by compensated directly in the form of a professional player by the team that signed the free agent. The players' union opposed this, arguing that it would discourage clubs from signing free agents and thus restrict a player's ability to move from one club to another in search of the best possible contract.
After six years of experience, a player is eligible to become a free agent at the expiration of his contract.
All players in a club's organization will be eligible for the pool, but each club will be permitted to protect 24 to 26 players, who would not be vulnerable to selection by another club. Teams that do not sign quality free agents would be allowed to protect 26 players in their organizations; teams that sign them would be allowed to protect 24.
The agreement requires clubs to place all players with no-trade contracts and all players whose consent is required before a trade on the protected list.
The agreement also permits up to five clubs to opt out of the compensation pool for a three-year period by forfeiting rights to sign free agents.
The maximum number of free agents for whom compensation in the form of a pick from the pool would be required would vary between seven and nine each year, depending on the number of clubs participating in the pool.Selections from the compensation pool would be made during the first week in January. Clubs that had lost quality free agents would pick from the pool in reverse order of their standings.
Quality free agents, those in the top 20 percent statistically at their positions over a two-year period, will be termed "ranking" free agents.
Also, clubs losing ranking players will be entitled to an amateur draft choice from the club signing them.
Players in the 20 to 30 percent category statistically at their positions will command two amateur draft picks as compensation, instead of a player from the pool. One of the amateur picks will come from the club that signs a free agent and one from a special amateur draft.
The agreement places no limit on the number of clubs that may select rights to players, and ranking players selected by fewer than four clubs are free to negotiate with any team.
The Basic Agreement extends through 1984 and minimum salaries will increase from $35,000 to $40,000 in the final year of the agreement. Meal allowances also will increase in the final year of the contract, and the owners agreed to make additional payments to the players' benefit plan.
Additionally, the players agreed to withdraw their complaint with the National Labor Relations Board that the owners had not bargained in good faith.
The owners agreed to credit the players with service time for the days they were on strike. Among other things, service time is counted in calculating the time that must elapse before a player is eligible to become a free agent.
This means that such star players as Ron Guidry of the New York Yankees, Ken Griffey and Dave Collins of the Cincinnati Reds and Bill Madlock, Phil Harner and John Candelaria of the Pittsburgh Pirates still can assume free-agent status at the end of the 1981 season.