Details Surface on Changes to Agent Certification

Before Christmas, we learned that there were changes coming to the process by which the Major League Baseball Players Association certifies agents. Today, more details surfaced on that issue, which help clarify some of the confusion regarding motivation. Not necessarily in a way that the MLBPA would like.

For one, my sources in the original story disagreed on the subject of fee changes. Turns out, the fees are much larger this year than they were in the past. A $250 fee, due every two years, has now turned into a $1,500 fee due every year. The $500 application fee is now a $2,000 application fee.

The rest lines up with the reporting we had on the issue. There will be more background checks, and now the MLBPA is allowed to hire outside help to perform those background checks. In order to get certified, you not only need a player on a 40-man roster, but now you need to fill out an in-person test.

The fact that fees went up so much is interesting. While you could make a case that the background checks and testing process will make for better agents, the fees are now a roadblock to entry for any independent agent of any quality. These changes, seen in tandem, seem to suggest that the MLBPA is interested in making the way tougher for an independent agent.

It was already tough for them. The main rule — that you have to have a player on the 40-man roster — is easy enough for a corporate agent to hurdle. They can be placed on the agent list for a player that has signed with his agency. The independent agent must cultivate minor league players and hope they get on the 40-man in order for the agent to follow him to the big time.

And now these fee raises. By themselves, they aren’t too honerous, but they do make it harder for a startup agent to join the business. Which was already hard enough, considering the perks that the big corporate agencies can offer their clients.

What isn’t obvious is *why* the MLBPA would prefer to police corporate agencies, unless those agencies do much of the help policing their own ranks.

Perhaps the fee raises do point to another answer, as one source claimed. In their statements, the Tony Clark, head of the MBLPA, said that “This is the first phase in what will be an ongoing effort to improve and modernize our regulatory program and we are confident these changes will serve Players and agents well.” And according to the story, the union also said that “the increase in fees reflects the costs of the background checks and the administration of agents.”

Put those two statements together, and it may be possible that we see a new position at the MLBPA — Agent Czar. All of my sources agreed that enforcement of even the current list of rules was spotty at best, and so maybe a czar is needed. Apparently, it’ll be one that the agents pay for.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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9 years ago

Does the MLBPA actually cover players in the minor leagues? Doesn’t seem like they do for drug regulations, salaries and such, so what does the “player on 40 man roster” rule really do?

9 years ago
Reply to  Eno Sarris

Feels like a reverse catch-22 though. If you are in a situation where you have to represent an MLBPA member, then you already qualify as far as that rule is concerned.

Now obviously it leaves a situation where a player could be promoted to the 40-man and now he is officially without an agent until said agent earns certification. In practice this particular situation seems like it’s more an inconvenience than a problem.