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Free Agency
In the realm of player contracts, it's important for a GM to understand the concept of free agency. In OOTP, a free agent is any player who has no contract, meaning that he is free to sign a contract with any team. In OOTP, the following players are considered free agents:

  1. Any player who has reached the minimum number of major league service years required for free agency in the league, and whose contract has expired.
  2. Any player who has been released from his contract by his team.
  3. Any players who are not currently under contract, such as players from an amateur draft who were not drafted.
Enabling or Disabling Free Agency
Every league has some free agents, such as those in items 2 and 3 above. However, when people talk about free agency, they are usually referring to item 1 above. In OOTP, you can choose to enable free agency. During the game creation process, this is done on the Rules tab of the Create Game page. If your game has already started, you can change your free agency settings during the offseason in the Game Setup area.

Minor League Free Agency
If you have minor leagues in your game, it is possible to enable rules for minor league free agency as well. Minor league free agency is handled in a similar fashion to major league free agency, with the exception that professional service time and time on secondary roster are used instead of major league service time. See Time as a Professional (Professional Service Time) for more information.

Players who are on a team's secondary roster or who have accepted a minor league contract extension are not eligible for minor league free agency.

Minor League Free Agency can be turned on and off in the financial rules described in the Financial Rules area.

Draft Pick Compensation for Lost Free Agents
As a way of helping weaker financial teams remain competitive, you can also enable compensation for lost free agents. If this option is enabled, teams that lose free agents will receive draft picks in return. Losing a free agent happens when a team is unable to sign a player to a contract extension; the player becomes a free agent and subsequently signs a contract with a different team.

In OOTP, when a team loses a player to free agency and that player is signed by another team, the original team potentially receive two types of additional draft picks in the upcoming first-year player draft as compensation for that signed the free agent. These picks are 'compensatory' picks - from the team that signed the free agent - and 'sandwich' picks - added onto the end of the draft round, as they usually are in real life. For a Type A free agent the team losing the free agent gets the other team's first round pick as well as a sandwich pick after the first round. (With the exception that if the first round pick is in the top half of the draft, they get a second round pick instead). For a type B free agent the team losing the free agent gets a sandwich pick after the second round only. There is a formula similar to the Elias one (but not exactly the same) that computes who the top free agents at each position are in order to rank the Type A or B classifications. A team will receive no compensation for a player classified as "No Compensation".

In real MLB, if two Type As are signed by the same team, what should happen is the higher ranked Type A free agent based on the scoring system should be rewarded with the first round pick, while the other gets a second round pick. In OOTP it is based off of which free agent signs first.

If draft pick trading is enabled then if a pick is traded away beforehand it is not available for free agent compensation. This obviously makes it problematic to have both free agency compensation and draft pick trading turned on at the same time.

In order to qualify for draft pick compensation for a lost free agent, general managers must offer salary arbitration to pending free agents before they file for free agency. This can be done via the Salary Arbitration page, which is visible from the League Menu starting on the first day of the offseason.

Note: If you fail to offer salary arbitration to pending free agents, then you will not receive any draft pick compensation, even if you lose free agents to other teams!

Draft pick compensation can be turned on and off in the financial rules described in the Financial Rules area. You can see a player's free agent type on his Contract & Status sub-screen.

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Next page: Salary Arbitration