Ryan Yarbrough, left handed pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 4th round of the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft out of Old Dominion University. Since turning pro, he has been represented by veteran MLBPA Certified agent Jim Munsey.
However, Munsey was recently informed that his relationship with Yarbrough was terminated, thus allowing the pitcher to pursue new representation.
SAB recently had the opportunity to interview Munsey on his relationship with Yarbrough, the nature of being an agent, and the current climate of agents in today’s sports landscape.
Munsey mentioned that Yarbrough stated that he was terminated because he wanted to go in a “different direction,” however, there was never a direct cause given as to the reason why the relationship came to an end.
In Section 6(M) of the MLBPA Regulations Governing Player Agents (“Regulations”), it is written that a Player Representation Agreement (“PRA”) governing the relationship between the Player and the Agent, may not provide for liquidated damages nor specify any other remedy for termination or breach of the PRA. Herein lies the issue, according to Munsey. Yarbrough fired Munsey for no stated reason and thereby avoids paying any fee to Munsey for services rendered.
Moreover, Section 6(G) of the Regulations states that “[e]ach [PRA] shall have a clearly specified duration, not to exceed one year from the date of its execution by the Player, and shall not contain an automatic renewal provision or any other provision which purports to extend any term of the [PRA] beyond one year.”
Herein lies another issue according to Munsey, Player Agents have agreements with their clients lasting only one-year, and the agreement must be renewed after each championship season.
This allows the Player to terminate an agent for no cause, at any point following a season, thus depriving the agent of potential earnings, like the situation mentioned in this article.
When asked about possible remedies to the 1-year contract terms, Munsey mentioned the possibility of option contracts or just agreements that better protect agents in general.
Below are some options that Munsey believes can better protect agents.
Players and Agents can continue to operate under one year terms, however, there can potentially be an option (held by the Player or Agent) to renew the terms following a championship season. The date to renew said option would have to be a time period immediately after a season in order to protect agents from putting in work in arbitration analysis and other post-season matters (i.e. travel, vacation planning for client, training facility costs, etc.). Moreover, within this updated representation agreement, Munsey believes that agents should be terminated only for cause.
For-cause termination, established through precedent, and a provision in the Regulations, is a possible method for protecting agents and further promoting the Agent-Client relationship throughout the lifespan of a career.
Although option agreements are just one possible solution, Munsey mentions that the biggest concern for agents today is transparency – both with the Client and with the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (“MLBPA” or “Union”).
Fees for Services Rendered
Munsey believes that agents should be compensated if they have rendered services for a client. Even if a client were to fire an agent, the agent would still be entitled to monies based upon time spent working for the client.
This sort of protection can be built into the Regulations or the PRA.
As it stands, according to Munsey, agents often have difficulity obtaining precedent from the Union as it relates to agent discipline, salary arbitration hearings, arbitration hearings as a result of a grievance, and grievances filed by agents and players alike.
Munsey believes that with more precedent, case law, and data available to agent, who are acting for the benefit of the players, agents will have more opportunities to level the playing field and have more of a voice among the Union and players.
Although Munsey unfortunately suffered the firing by a client, he is left with little remedies. Munsey can file a grievance against his client and have the case heard before a neutral arbitrator appointed by the Union, but as mentioned, there is little precedent publicly available to build a case. Moreover, although the Union cannot take a side in a grievance hearing, it can submit briefs and memos which express its opinion to the arbitrator.
On the other hand, the Union is in the business of protecting its constituents and many would suspect that it will tend favor to the players in any hearing.
However, Munsey’s only true remedy lies in this avenue, but, if better protections for agents were in place, both in the Regulations and the PRA, this situation may not repeat itself for those generations of agents that are yet to come.