Personal Services Contracts and Their Affect on Free Agency


While there has been a lot of discussion about contracts as the free agent market heats up there is an often overlooked component that is increasing in popularity. If you are a casual fan you may have never heard about the Personal Services Contract. As a lifelong baseball fan (and sports in general) I was confused and unaware of these little addendums and what they mean. After some research I became enlightened about these contracts and what they mean for an organization and a player.
Being birthed into Cardinal Nation I just assumed that all former great players were always around their respective organizations. As St. Louis Cardinal fans we are often a spoiled lot. For example look at opening day every year, or more recently the World Series Championship celebration. We just expect to see Musial, Gibson, Brock, Ozzie, and many others when there is a special occasion. In today’s game this is now a condition of a contract clause. Organizations now use this clause to leverage athletes into the organization and community long after their playing days are through. They are held on retainer essentially to show up, be an ambassador for the organization and to be seen. It’s about marketing and building a brand. To compare it to the business world the players act as a consultant of sorts. These often come with strict language that prevents players from having ties to previous organizations.

This is the sort of thing that a player who left the St. Louis Cardinals for a certain West Coast team was apparently seeking and received at a greater amount of certainty than he felt he could get here. His contract includes a 10 year Personal Services Agreement all but guaranteeing we will never see him in a St. Louis Cardinal uniform for any reason unless the Hall of Fame intervenes. Unfortunately this is our current reality. No longer are astronomical salaries, endorsement deals, and local support enough. The organization must pay to have the players of yesteryear show up to be showered with affection and love. I’m not completely sure how I feel about that.

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