Article XIX of the MLB collective bargaining agreement is titled, “Assignment of Player Contracts.” Article XX is titled, “Reserve System.” I am looking at these two particular articles because of their policies in regards to minor league assignments. Unlike many other major sports leagues in America, every MLB team has direct affiliates under them with minor league contracts under their control. It is interesting to see how assignments to these leagues are brought up in the MLB collective bargaining agreement and how these policies compare to that of other leagues with minor league affiliates.
Section B of Article XIX is titled “Assignment to a Minor League Club.” In accordance with Article XX, we see that MLB teams have the right to retain 40 player contracts, until those contracts expire and the player is eligible for free agency. If a player is not retained on the “40 man roster” and assigned to a minor league team, the player will have the option to become a free agent. Articles XIX and XX have various sections dealing with issues related to this. For example, if a player is on the disabled list, they cannot be assigned to new minor league teams. If they are assigned to rehabilitation stints with minor league teams, there are another set of policies such as time of rehab and a proper handling of player notification from the club.
Comparing the MLB CBA to that of the NHL, we see a different set of highlights in regards to minor league assignment. The NHL CBA highlights very specific treatment of former NHL players during their assignment to minor league hockey. There are very specific guidelines for notification, which is similar to that of the MLB, but then the NHL CBA continues into great detail about topics such as living conditions and transportation provided for the player. For example, article 13.2 outlines the player’s per diem money, requirement of housing with things as specific as a kitchen, and accommodations for the player’s family.
In the MLB CBA, there is one simple line that covers topics such as this in Article XIX. “When a Player’s contract is assigned from a Major League Club to a Minor League club, the rights and benefits of such Player that do, and do not, follow him to the Minor Leagues shall be in accordance with pas practices.” This difference between the NHL and MLB show a difference in priorities. The thorough mention of specific accommodations following an NHL player to the minor leagues may suggest a fear of, or history of poor treatment. In regards to the language in the MLB CBA, the policy suggests that these issues were previously outlined and successfully honored by MLB clubs to a standard that does not require much concern from the MLBPA.