A free agent is a player who is eligible to sign a contract to play with any professional team as they are not currently bound to a contract with any one team. The Bull Baseball League has had free agency as part of the collective agreement since the 1995 season, the beginning of the league's "modern" era. Prior to this, there was no formal contract system.
Players are eligible for free agency after they have completed six seasons of play at the major-level (Bull League). This includes time spent in the minor leagues on the 40-man roster, but not on the active (25-man) roster. If they have only ever played in the minor leagues, they become eligible for free agency after a similar length of total professional playing time.
If a player becomes eligible for free agency and is demanding a salary over a certain amount, they may become a "compensation eligible" free agent. These players must be offered an arbitration amount, called a qualifying offer, in order for their current team to be eligible to receive a compensation draft pick should the player refuse the offer and sign with another team.
To be a compensation eligible free agent, that player must also have spent the entire prior season on the eligible team, and not have been traded to that team during the previous year.
The team that signs a compensation eligible free agent will lose a first round, or next-highest available draft pick (unless they select in the top ⅓ of the draft selections, in which case they forfeit their second-highest draft pick) in the next draft. That player's former team then receives a compensation pick in the supplemental round of the next draft.
Type A and B
Formerly, there were two classes of compensation type free agents, "Type A" and "Type B", in addition to free agents with no compensation type. If a free agent was classed as either type, a team would be entitled to certain draft picks in the following year should those players sign with another team. The draft pick round depended on whether the player was a Type A or Type B free agent.
A team that offered a Type A or Type B free agent a salary arbitration amount would be entitled to receive a draft pick if the player does not accept the offer, and thus becomes a free agent, and is subsequently signed by another team. The Bull League ceased to use Type A/B free agents in 2018.
Other free agent types
Aside from players who become free agents, there are some types of players who begin their careers are free agents. These are:
- International free agents
- International amateur free agents
- Undrafted free agents
International free agents generally appear on the free agent list throughout the year, and are experienced players from unaffiliated international baseball leagues who decide to make themselves available to play in the Bull League. Typically, these players are from outside of the US, Puerto Rico and Canada, as players from these countries normally enter the league through the draft. These players may be signed to short or long-term contracts. The usual arbitration and free agency rules apply, and so an international player who is signed to a one-year contract will be under team control for six years. During that time, they may be automatically renewed at their original salary (and not the league minimum), or after they become arbitration eligible, either a new negotiated salary or arbitration award.
An international amateur free agent is a youth player who is normally playing or eligible to play for an international high school team outside of the affiliated high school league, the Nor-Am High School League. A list of these players is released every July, and the players can be offered a signing bonus to join a team in their international complex. As with any international prospect, they will automatically be assigned to the Florida Rookie League roster when they turn 20, but can be promoted (or released) earlier.
An undrafted free agent is a player who was eligible for a draft and was not drafted, and they are no longer playing for a college or high school team, usually due to age/graduating. These players become free agents and are eligible to be signed as with any other free agent, without the need to draft them, as they have already passed through a draft and were not selected.
- "Free agency." OOTP Online Manual. http://manuals.ootpdevelopments.com/index.php?man=ootp19&page=free_agency. Accessed: 16 July 2019.