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Union, league to no longer allow milestone bonuses in player contracts

Apr 20, 2012, 2:00 PM EDT

Los Angeles Angels Photo Day Getty Images

Jayson Stark reports that a fairly significant change is afoot in big-time contracts:

Major League Baseball and the players’ association have informed teams and agents that they no longer will approve personal-service deals and special “milestone” bonus clauses similar to those contained in Albert Pujols‘ contract with the Los Angeles Angels, officials of both agencies told ESPN.com.

Existing deals like Pujols’ and Alex Rodriguez‘s are OK, but no new ones can be signed.

The milestone bonuses, the league and union believe, go against language in the CBA that prohibit incentives for statistical achievements.  As it is now you can be paid more based on plate appearances and games, for example, but not hits and wins.  As for the personal services contracts, the league and union worry that such deals could be used to circumvent luxury tax calculations.

Given the league and union’s agreement on these sorts of general principles, it makes sense to not allow such clauses. Because really, once you open the door to loopholes, you’re going to undermine your goals in this regard.

  1. cltjump - Apr 20, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    Meh. I kind of liked these deals. I feel like at the least, it could be incentive to perform.

    • The Baseball Idiot - Apr 20, 2012 at 3:04 PM

      Like their paycheck?

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Apr 20, 2012 at 3:51 PM

        Exactly. I hated these clauses. Do your job.

  2. rooney24 - Apr 20, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    Makes sense, as most players that would be hitting meaningful milestones are likely already getting plenty of money. And, it prevents teams from creating various milestones to get around the tax. Most of those in contracts were likely legit so far (600 HRs, 300 wins, etc.), but it could have gotten really goofy if teams were creative.

    Bonus for your 25th game with 3 doubles.
    Bonus for your 200th game finished.
    Bonus for 329th HR (to enter top 100 lifetime).
    Bonus for your 50th win at home.

    • ezthinking - Apr 20, 2012 at 3:58 PM

      Or Schillings’ ridiculous deal he sought where he got paid $1,000,000 or some such shit if he got 1 CY Young vote in 2008. The practice got exposed and nullified and Schill bitched of course.

  3. madhatternalice - Apr 20, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    Serious question. Is there a difference between things like “a bonus when you get to 3000 hits” and “a bonus if you reach 200 innings?” I feel like some of those performance clauses are built in to protect the team from dishing out TOO much money for a player coming back from injury, or a player with a notorious history of injury. If that player stays healthy and contributes, boom, more money! If they don’t, then they don’t get it. If there is a difference, then why preclude one but not the other?

    • ezthinking - Apr 20, 2012 at 5:16 PM

      Well, its the difference between helping the team or yourself. Those ideas are NOT mutually exclusive, but can be divergent. Moralizing for sure, but at least its a goal. Watch Mr. 3000, bad movie, good example of the difference.

      Back in the day, Reggie got shot down for having a clause that paid him based upon the number of butts in the seats. While that addresses the ‘dog-and-pony show’ aspect, it does strike to the heart of baseball; running an entertainment business.

      I say spread the wealth in whatever form makes sense. The players bring the fans, pay the boys.

      • madhatternalice - Apr 20, 2012 at 5:23 PM

        EZ, thanks for responding.

        Right, I get that. But is there a distinction under the “new rules” laid out by MLB and MLBPA? If so, how is that distinction recognized? In both cases above (3000 hits or 200 innings), the idea for the clause could come from the team, so how would one make the distinction? I feel like incentive-based contracts for hurt players (Rich Harden, Nick Johnson) actually help small payroll clubs far more than large payroll clubs. Will those no longer be allowed?

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