Major League Baseball is doing away with uniform employee contracts, according to a report from Evan Drellich of The Athletic. Previously, the league required all employment agreements with managers, coaches, salaried scouts and trainers to utilize the same standardized language across all 30 teams. Clubs are now free to draft their own individual employment contracts for employees, opening the door to differences in contract language between teams, and employees will be subject to team-specific contract terms upon the expiration of their current deals. The impetus for the change, according to Drellich, appears to be shielding the league from liability regarding employment matters. Drellich also suggests that the change could help the league retain its antitrust exemption, which has come under fire on occasion in recent years, should MLB face employment issues in the future.
Perhaps the most well-known aspect of the uniform employee contracts to this point is a tampering clause that stops club employees from speaking to other teams while they’re under contract without permission from their club. A notable example of the tampering clause played out this past month, ahead of the expiration of Brewers manager’s Craig Counsell contract today. Though Counsell wasn’t under contract for the 2024 campaign, his contract with the Brewers ran through October 31, meaning that clubs interested in Counsell’s services such as the Mets and Guardians could not interview Counsell until the Brewers granted them permission to do so.
That being said, the move away from uniform employee contracts doesn’t necessarily portend the end of the tampering clause, or any other particular clause in the contract itself. It’s entirely possible that clubs could continue to offer employees roughly similar contracts going forward; in fact, Drellich suggests that the league’s antitrust exemption could allow teams to keep “some elements of the contracts effectively identical.” That reality has left the change to be met with mixed responses. Drellich cited one current scout who has concerns that clubs will take the opportunity to alter contract language in a way that works against employees, though he noted that others hope the departure from uniform contracts will spur competition between the major league clubs and create more favorable terms for employees in the future.
More notes from around the league…
- Longtime big league lefty Cole Hamels retired from professional play back in August after 15 seasons in the majors and an additional three seasons of attempting to rehab from shoulder issues and make a comeback. Hamels, 40 in December, recently spoke to Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer about his hope to return to the game, in another capacity, sometime in the near future. The first order of business appears to be a return to Philadelphia, where the Phillies plan to honor Hamels sometime next season. Beyond that, Breen notes that Hamels hopes he can find an off-the-field role somewhere in the game akin to that of the one Chase Utley once held with the Dodgers, acting as a liaison between the front office and players in the clubhouse.
- The league has seen plenty of managerial churn both this offseason (with six teams either looking for a new manager or already employing a new manager, with a seventh on the table if Counsell departs Milwaukee) and in the past, but John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times relays that no team has contacted former Rays, Cubs, and Angels manager Joe Maddon regarding a potential managerial vacancy. Romano adds that lack of interest extends to last offseason, despite reports at the time of possible interest in Maddon from the White Sox regarding their managerial vacancy, which was ultimately filled by Pedro Grifol. Since departing the Angels, Maddon has been particularly critical of the implementation of analytics by many front offices in recent years, and Romano suggests that this lack of interest in the three-time Manager of the Year who reached the World Series with the Rays in 2008 before winning it with the Cubs in 2016 could stem from that criticism.