As millions of Americans tune into the World Series this week, we wanted to take a moment to introduce WLJ attorney Jason Browning. Not only is Jason an active medical malpractice litigator, he is also Arkansas’ only certified expert agent advisor with the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), providing counsel to Major League Baseball players and player agents on all aspects of baseball. In this role, he advises clients on player salaries and negotiations with the Clubs, and represents players through the salary arbitration process as well as fee grievances between agents. His work is the subject of the book Pinstripe Defection: A Small Town Attorney’s Battle with the New York Yankees, which chronicles the grievance he brought against a Major League Club that revealed the inner workings of signing international players.
In the following article, Jason explains in depth his unique work as an expert agent advisor.
The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) is the sole and exclusive bargaining agent for all of Major League Baseball Players (750 total players on Major League 25-man rosters, 1,200 total players on the 40-man rosters). The MLBPA gets its status as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent pursuant to Section 9(a) of the National Labor Relations Act and the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) in effect by and between the MLBPA and the 30 Major League Baseball Clubs. The CBA provides that while the Clubs recognize the MLBPA as the sole and exclusive collective bargaining agent, individual Players may designate an agent to conduct on his behalf the negotiation of individual salary provided such agent has been certified to the Clubs by the MLBPA as authorized to act as a player agent.
The MLBPA, under authority of labor laws, is authorized to promulgate and enforce rules and regulations to govern such agents, including the certification of such. Protecting the rights of players is paramount, and the vetting process for those individual agents serves to maintain those protections. As such, the MLBPA certifies and recognizes three types of certified agents: General Certification, Limited Certification (for recruitment of players or providing client maintenance services) and Expert Agent Advisors. The Certification for Expert Agent Advisors is the focus herein.
In essence, the role of the Expert Agent Advisor is to represent, assist or advise General Certified Agents (a player’s designated agent) on various approved concerns. More specifically, Expert Agent Advisors–while not certified to engage in recruiting players directly–assist and advise on issues pertaining to negotiating terms to be included in a Major League Uniform Player’s Contract and/or representing a player in dealings with a Major League Baseball Club. Included in the Expert Agent Advisor’s authority is assisting a general agent in the evaluation and preparation of a player’s salary arbitration contract, which could include negotiating the terms and presenting the salary arbitration case in an arbitration hearing.
Salary arbitration is the process for any player with a total of three or more years of Major League Service time, but less than 6 years of service time, to submit the issue of his salary to a final and binding arbitration. In essence, the process is the first time a player is allowed to negotiate, albeit only with his current club, the terms of his next season’s salary. The role of the Expert Agent Advisor in this specific process is to advise the player’s agent on the parameters of a salary based on comparable baseball salaries for players with similar statistics and service time. In this advisory capacity, the advisor works closely with the player agent and the MLBPA to position the player’s salary appropriately. While an Expert Agent Advisor’s role includes broader aspects of negotiating terms to be included in a Major League Uniform Player’s Contract, the seemingly primary focus of such an advisor is providing support in the salary arbitration process. As salary arbitration is the first time a player under team control can effectively negotiate terms of his salary, that process is unquestionably important to the MLBPA. For those agents with a General Certification that lack experience in analyzing, preparing, and presenting salary arbitration cases, the expert agent advisors are available to provide necessary support. In doing so, the expert agent advisor works closely with the MLBPA to coordinate a respective player’s position in the salary arbitration process, and in turn advises the general agent on comparable values and player salaries against the backdrop of the market.