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MLB agrees to free agency change

Cable Guy

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NEW YORK -- Baseball players and owners settled allegations of possible collusion against free agents after the 2008 and 2009 seasons in one of the first acts for the union since Michael Weiner took over from Donald Fehr.

Under the deal announced Thursday, players no longer have to file for free agency but automatically are set free. The exclusive period for teams to negotiate with their free agent-eligible players was cut from the first 15 days after the World Series to five.

The deadline for clubs to offer salary arbitration to their former players who become free agents was moved to Nov. 23 from Dec. 1, and the deadline for them to accept was moved up from Dec. 7 to Nov. 30.

The so-called "tender" deadline for teams to offer contracts for the following season to players on their 40-man rosters was moved up nine days to Dec. 2.

In addition, teams, players and agents will be restricted in their ability to conduct free-agent negotiations in the media.

A person familiar with those details said they will be prohibited from publicly disclosing the value and length of offers before an agreement, and they may not publicly speculate on the terms of offers or a free-agent's value. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because those details were not released.

"The agreement was approved by the MLBPA's executive board, after consultation with a significant number of affected players and their agents," Weiner said in a statement. "Those affected players, who had the most to gain if the union had successfully litigated these claims, sacrificed for the benefit of players going forward, and deserve our praise and gratitude."

Baseball officials have denied that teams violated the provision in the labor contract saying they can't act in concert with free agents.

"Although the commissioner's office found no evidence that any club violated the collective bargaining agreement or otherwise acted improperly, the parties agreed to discuss the concerns of both players and clubs to determine whether the process could be improved for both sides," Major League Baseball said in a statement.

Management said the sides agreed to better procedures for the transferring the medical records of free agents and prohibiting "most favored nations" provisions in contracts. Those provisions, which have been used by the Boston Red Sox, among others, said a player could have the most extensive no-trade clause that any other on the team had.

In the mid-1980s, players and owners bought three bitter collusion grievances. Arbitrators found teams acted in concert against free agents following the 1985, 1986 and 1987 seasons, and the sides agreed to a $280 million settlement.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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