When the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed and announced most people were concerned with the new budgets for spending in the amateur draft and international free agency, and rightfully so. These new regulations will make it harder for teams to get a lot of young, quality talent, but, advocates hope, even things out a little bit.
However, one thing from the new agreement has been a bit overlooked: If a player with at least six years of service time is signed in the offseason to a minor league deal and doesn’t make the team out of spring training, he must be offered a $100,000 retention bonus to go down to the minors.
This being said, the nature of minor league contracts has now changed. Sure, the players signing these types of pacts usually have a chance to make the big league team they have signed with, but if they don’t, things could get interesting. That is why more teams are putting opt-out clauses in contracts for players near the end of spring training. If they are going to make the team, the team doesn’t have to pay them anything, but if they aren’t, the player can just opt out and the team won’t have to pay him the bonus.
So now, players are going to start using the month of March as a tryout, so to speak. If they have a good spring, maybe another team can find a useful spot for them on their big league roster and everyone wins. A perfect example of this is Bill Hall. He signed a minor league deal with the Yankees over the winter and doesn’t really stand a chance of making the team with Eduardo Nunez and Eric Chavez ahead of him on the depth chart. He is hoping a team will like what it saw in this stint and sign him.
The reason this is a big deal now is because retention bonuses are due tomorrow. Teams will have to decide whether to invite non-roster invitees north to start the season or pay them to go to the minors. Starting this year, cheap depth will a little bit harder to come by.