On this page, I'll share my thoughts, and any articles or information I think are of interest. Feel free to use the comments section to join in the discussion!
“Teams are willing to try just about anything to help them make more informed decisions and protect their assets.”
NFL teams amassing scientific data, but what does it mean?
Tom Pelissero, USA TODAY Sports February 23, 2015
INDIANAPOLIS – NFL teams left the scouting combine Monday with more information than ever on each prospect as football's sports science revolution continues to accelerate.
Now comes the tricky part: figuring out what exactly all the numbers mean.
"That's the pain point right now in the industry," said Dr. Travis McDonough, founder and CEO of Kinduct Technologies, which works with the St. Louis Rams. "There's a tsunami of information, but it's turned out to be paralysis by analysis. People have no idea what to do with the data."
Teams are willing to try just about anything to help them make more informed decisions and protect their assets. They're strapping players with GPS tracking devices, heart monitors and sleep patches. They're assigning journals to monitor nutrition, soreness and anxiety level.
At the combine, they gathered not only 40-yard dash times and Wonderlic scores on incoming rookies, but medical histories, psychological profiles and functional movement patterns. Independent doctors, trainers and software developers stalk the hallways, each offering up new tests and apps they say will give a team the edge.
The more data that's gathered, though, the more overwhelming it can be to interpret and utilize. That's creating competition to find solutions for unearthing trends and correlations between hundreds of metrics and presenting them in ways coaches and general managers can embrace – perhaps creating the eyeball test of the future.
"There's definitely value there," Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said. "As we all creep into the analytics of all that stuff, it's a matter of how aggressive you're going to be there and how much courage you have to move forward."
'They want to know now'
In 2012, the Jacksonville Jaguars became the first known team to use GPS in practice. Last season, over half the league was using it. The NFL itself put tracking devices in every players' shoulder pads on game day. And that's just one way to measure how an athlete is functioning.
The Seattle Seahawks are one of at least nine teams that now list staff members with "sports science" or "performance" titles. The Atlanta Falcons partnered with Sparta Software, Corp., last year to develop their own athletic performance program.
"It's about progressivity and understanding what is important and where coaches are," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "(U)sing analytics, using biomechanical assessments, all the new elements and evolving elements of athletic performance and sports science supplement very well with a coach who's open-minded to use that."
This is a nascent field for the NFL, though. While some teams are much further along than others, everyone lacks the long-term data to draw strong comparisons and conclusions.
"We need 10 years of information to really start dialing this in," said Dr. Lee Burton, president of Functional Movement Systems and co-creator of the functional movement screen used at the combine. "Ten years is too long for a professional sports team to wait. They want to know now."
That's why teams have begun to hire sports scientists, handed over data to third parties or both. According to McDonough, at least two other teams are set to sign on with the Nova Scotia-based Kinduct, which allows teams to integrate any or all of the roughly 125 apps on its platform.
A competing company, London-based EDGE10, works with roughly 40 sports teams around the globe and met with NFL teams at the combine with intentions of expanding to football this season, according to executive chairman and CEO Justin Paige.
"What we're giving teams are the tools to follow their own instincts about what they think is important," Paige said. "To the degree they need it, we've got a team of sports scientists and data analysts that can help them. But this will always be driven by the teams."
Advance already helping teams
With hundreds of top prospects in one place, the combine was a natural place to experiment with tests such as Krossover's sIQ, which uses an iPad app to record players' reaction time. Krossover founder Vasu Kulkarni said the Miami Dolphins gave the 2- to 3-minute test to every player.
"It's too early to say, 'All right, you got a good score' – but now what?" Kulkarni said. "It's about collecting enough data over time that you can go back and see how guys actually performed in the league."
No one piece of data is likely to change the scouting world. But a better grasp of which metrics are most likely to predict performance could make a substantial impact over the next five years.
"I think there's going to be some type of algorithm," Burton said. "Something's going to come out – almost like a ranking system that's going to say, 'Here's objectively how this guy ranks, based off all this information.'"
Advances in sports science already are helping teams stay healthier. Gettleman credits GPS, as well as the team's athletic performance analyst, Brett Nenaber, with allowing the Panthers to adjust training and rebound from a run of hamstring issues this past season.
The functional movement screen gives teams a better idea of which players are prone to certain injuries. Burton said there's data to suggest a good score means a player will respond to treatment and return from injury more quickly as well, too – but it's too soon to say for sure.
Everyone is in the phase of collecting as much measurable data as possible to complement the immeasurables each team must judge on their own: character, work ethic, passion and so on.
"They're finally able to start to use the data, apply it, turn it into knowledge and then use the knowledge to make decisions on what positively impacts the scoreboard," McDonough said. "It's a real sort of evolving world right now, and everyone's looking for that leg up."
In Yoan Moncada, Red Sox essentially paid for a No. 1 pick
By Peter AbrahamGLOBE STAFF FEBRUARY 25, 2015
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox have never picked higher than seventh in the amateur draft, and barring a repeat of last season’s lifeboat drill, it will be a while before they do again.
That largely explains why they were willing to invest so much money on Cuban standout Yoan Moncada.
“We’ve never had a No. 1 pick,” principal owner John Henry said Tuesday after arriving at JetBlue Park. “Would we pay up to get one? Yes.”
On Monday, the Red Sox agreed to terms with Moncada on a $31.5 million bonus and will pay an additional $31.5 million to Major League Baseball as a penalty for exceeding spending limits on international amateurs. Moncada is in the process of completing his physical and could report to minor league camp early next week.
In essence, the Sox paid for a top pick. Scouts have said the 19-year-old Moncada would have been no worse than the second selection were he eligible. That Moncada was so young made the move an easier one to agree to for the owner.
“I think we’ve done our homework and we expect a lot,” Henry said. “Any time you spend $50 million or $60 million or $100 million on players, it’s a risk. It’s so difficult to predict performance. But if your goal is to win championships, you have to be bold.”
Because the player has not yet completed his physical, general manager Ben Cherington could not comment directly on Moncada. Without cracking a smile, he acknowledged only that the Sox “have interest” in him.
“Switch hitter with power,” said Cherington. “He’s a good athlete. He can run; he can throw; he played a lot of second base. But I think most teams, including the Red Sox, feel like he could probably play a number of positions down the road. He’s been a good performer wherever he’s been.”
Cherington said the Red Sox have dedicated time and allocated more resources into gathering information about Cuban baseball and the talent there. Vice president of player personnel Allard Baird and international scouting director Eddie Romero have guided the effort.
“I feel like [the Red Sox] are in a strong position to be involved when players come out,” Cherington said.
David Hastings, Moncada’s agent, was candid Monday. He said the Red Sox did their homework on the infielder and established a strong relationship with him. But the final determination was which team offered the most lucrative contract.
“It came down to which bid was the highest,” he said. “Yoan would have been comfortable with the Yankees or any of the other teams. But the Red Sox stepped forward.”
It’s part of a trend. In recent years, the Sox have signed righthander Dalier Hinojosa, outfielder Rusney Castillo, and now Moncada. Castillo and Moncada alone represent an investment of $135.5 million.
“Every team is looking to add talent, right? Every team has a budget and every team has resources that they can use to try and do that,” Cherington said. “Whether you’re doing that in major league free agency or in a trade or in the draft or with a 16-year-old in the Dominican — wherever the players are coming from — you have to go through an evaluation process. You have to figure out what the player is worth.
“The exercise is to identify the player, identify what you think he is worth, and then see if you can acquire him for that.”
Said Henry, “I think we’re more discerning than ever, despite what people might write this week. High-ceiling players, you have to take risks on, especially young players. I think we’re more discerning, especially with regard to free agents and 30-year-old free agents.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred reacted to the Moncada news by saying a “single entry” into baseball for amateur players is needed instead of one system domestically and another internationally. Manfred is a proponent of a world draft.
Henry, not surprisingly, said he was fine with the current international rules.
“If a draft comes about, I think there a lot of people in baseball who would really like a draft,” he said. “I don’t think we necessarily oppose it.”
Henry didn’t hazard a guess as to whether a world draft would be negotiated into the collective bargaining agreement before the current agreement expires in 2016. That possibility, he said, did not necessarily influence the agreement with Moncada.
“It’s really an exercise of trying to determine the skills of a player and let those skills determine the value is and is going to be,” Henry said.
Henry is pleased with the direction Cherington is taking in terms of gathering talent, saying the Sox are better fortified now than they were before the World Series run of 2013. Henry also confirmed that the GM was signed to a “long-term” contract extension last May or June.
Oddly, Henry said it was “a great thing” that the team didn’t announce a contract extension for an executive it was pleased with. Then he said it probably should have.
When asked how long the contract was for, Henry paused, then said it was team policy not to say.
“You’re not as good at negotiating as you think you are. Your refusal to get a professional advisor will cause you to get emotionally involved in the business side of things, which will backfire on you.”
Letter to My Younger Self
FEB 24 2015
PHOTOS BY GETTY IMAGES
I already know how you’re going to react to this. You’re probably going to try to argue with every point I make here. Well, just read what I have to say and take my word for it.
First things first: On November 18, 1985, maybe take the night off (but more on that later).
I write you this letter on the night that you’ve learned that you finished runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. Even though it might feel like it right now, I can assure you that this is not the end of the world. You’re going to reflect on your time at Notre Dame with a lot of pride and fond memories. You didn’t win a trophy this time, but there might be a few waiting for you down the road.
Before your senior year, Notre Dame’s PR director Roger Valdiserri convinced you to change the pronunciation of your last name so that it rhymes with Heisman. From this experience you’ll learn a couple of things. Firstly, voters aren’t interested in gimmicks. Secondly, sometimes nicknames have a way of sticking. Say goodbye to Joe ‘Theesmann.’
Whether you want to believe this or not, Joe, you don’t know everything. Your hubris will make you attempt to navigate the draft process without the help of an agent. You’re not as good at negotiating as you think you are. Your refusal to get a professional advisor will cause you to get emotionally involved in the business side of things, which will backfire on you.
I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but maybe think twice about signing a contract with the Toronto Argonauts after you’ve already agreed to a contract with the Miami Dolphins. Coach Don Shula will rightfully rip you a new one for doing so. You can at least take solace in the fact that you will never again in your life have a grown man yell at you that much.
Looking back, you won’t regret signing with Toronto—they simply made a better offer—but you’ll always have a part of you that knows that Don Shula was the kind of coach who could have gotten the most out of you. He was a demanding, tough disciplinarian, which I wish you had the wisdom to realize is exactly what you need at this phase of your life.
If it makes you feel any better, Coach Shula will eventually stop hating you … in a few decades.
Playing for the Toronto Argonauts is going to be quite a jolt for you. You’re going to learn that being a Heisman Trophy finalist doesn’t mean squat north of the border. At first you’ll wander the streets and think, “Wow, nobody here knows who I am—this is great!” But eventually this will turn into, “Wow … nobody here knows who I am—this is terrible.” You might think that playing in Toronto is a humbling experience, but let me tell you now: you don’t know anything about the word “humbled” yet, bud.
When you do come back stateside to play in the NFL, you’ll have to start from the bottom of the barrel, grinding it out on special teams as a punt returner for a couple years. During this time, you’ll also have the pleasure of sharing the quarterback meeting room with Billy Kilmer and Sonny Jurgensen, a couple of guys who hate your guts. Wait it out, you’ll get your shot and when you do, you’re going to make it count.
Let me tell you now: you don’t know anything about the word “humbled” yet, bud.
You’ve always loved speed and that will lead you to spend way too much money on a limited edition Corvette designed by John Greenwood. Pretty sweet ride, no? My advice is to save yourself some time and money by attaching a gigantic sign to your old car that says, “Hey, Officer, Please Give Me a Ticket!” You need to figure out what you need and eliminate what you don’t. If you got money, keep money.
In 1981, a man named Joe Gibbs will come in to coach the team. Everyone, including you, will think your time is up in Washington. New coach, old quarterback—it’ll seem like the writing is on the wall, particularly after the team starts the season with five losses. Here’s some free advice: When you’re not chosen by someone else, you better be really good at what you do because they’ll look for any possible excuse to get rid of you. Don’t give Coach Gibbs a reason to let you go because you still have your best football ahead of you.
By 1985, all the accolades that you think makes a man great will have been attained. NFL Man of the Year, MVP and a Super Bowl trophy will all be yours. But what you’re going to learn is that an entire life can change in one snap.
One night, you’re going to get hurt. You’re going to get hurt bad. And at that point, you’re going to learn what’s truly important in this life. People will call what happens to you a tragedy, but it really isn’t. It’s a blessing.
At the time, you’ll have become so self-absorbed and wrapped up in your own celebrity that you won’t think that you need anybody. But a rude awakening will come when you get out of that hospital with your leg in a cast and go to the Redskins training facility. When you got there, your locker of 12 years will be occupied by another player. All your personal items will be stashed away in a box in the equipment room. This world you had let consume you doesn’t exist anymore.
You’re going to learn that the only true currency is respect. If you learn to give it, you’ll eventually get it.
Your emotional recovery will be much faster if you can come to terms with the fact that no amount of fame will give you joy if you can’t respect yourself. Others may lead you to believe you hold some higher importance because of your exploits on the field, but that kind of fame is fleeting. Find value for yourself, Joe. Find value in what you do. Appreciate your work and appreciate the people you work with, and don’t expect any favors because it’s just not going to happen.
You’re going to learn that the only true currency is respect. If you learn to give it, you’ll eventually get it.
I’ll leave you with this: A few years after your career ends, you’ll finally have a conversation about your injury with the man who caused it. You’ll say to him “We’ll always be connected because of this play. You know how it affected my life, but how did it affect yours?”
And how he responds will always stick with you: “Joe, I learned a great lesson that night. No matter how great you are at what you do, it can be over in an instant. I ask people to snap their fingers to show them how quickly a life can change. I decided that night that I was going to make every snap – every single play in practice and during games – count. You might think you’ll live forever, but you truly don’t know when it’s all going to be over, so don’t leave anything on the table.”
That’s some pretty decent advice right there.
I’m proud of you,
Theismann is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Washington Redskins Ring of Fame. Today he works as a football analyst for various networks and delivers motivational speeches across the country. He is also a spokesperson and sits on the advisory board for Unequal Technologies, a company which has developed supplemental head padding that aims to reduce the risk of concussions amongst youth athletes.
5 Qualities Your Sports Agent Must Have
FEB 20 2015 TYLER HORN CONTRIBUTOR
As an athlete, what do you look for in a sports agent? Spring is right around the corner, which means prospective NFL players are scrambling to find agents. Agents are wooing athletes. With the NFL Draft just a couple months away, the game inside the game has already begun.
I’m fascinated by the subject. I’ve had several former college teammates ask me for advice about selecting an agent. It’s a daunting process. But before I begin, I want to start with a “disclaimer.” I can’t speak for every NFL player’s experience. I was a journeyman offensive lineman (read my first Tribune piece about it here). There is a distinct and massive difference between the right agent for a player like me and the right agent for a guy like Russell Wilson. After all, agents are lining up to talk to some players, but they don’t line up for everyone.
With the NFL Draft just a couple months away, the game inside the game has already begun.
Still, I do believe there are several qualities that athletes should look for in an agent that hold true no matter your skill level, position, or sport. I had two agents during my career — one was not so great and one was great — and I was able to recognize the characteristics that mattered in an agent.
Without further ado, here’s what I think are the five best qualities to look for in selecting an agent.
Above all, your agent has to be someone you trust. He or she must have your best interest in mind at all times. When I was a free agent, desperately looking for a team to land on, I needed to know that my agent was out there working for me. I didn’t want to have to call him every day to remind him I existed. That’s not fair on his end and it would’ve been exhausting on my end. A good agent doesn’t wait for you to pester him to start getting work done on your behalf.
Of course, trust becomes a slippery thing when money is involved. A lot of athletes make the mistake of relying on money to build trust. They get caught signing contracts that lock them into arrangements they weren’t prepared for. What 22-year-old doesn’t perk up at the sound of the words monetary advance?
Trust becomes a slippery thing when money is involved.
But we’ve all heard the horror stories of players suing their agents, and sometimes vice versa. Some of these disputes stem from contracts known as “marketing agreements.” Agents will give potential clients a large amount of money, but in return, the client has to sign a long-term contract with the agent. If the player fires the agent, the player owes that money back. It’s a great deal for a big name player who is guaranteed to make a team. But far too often, undraftable players sign these agreements and are stuck with an agent who is not the best fit for them. They choose immediate money over the right person. That is one of the first things I tell my former teammates when they’re trying to select an agent. Don’t worry about who can give you money now. Sign with the guy who is going to be the best career choice for you. If you’re stuck with an agent because you are indebted to him, that is a horrible situation that was created by being short-sighted.
But let’s not get carried away. There are limits to the trust rule. While trust is important, it doesn’t mean you should hire your mom just because you trust her the most. (Love you, mom.)
You need an agent who will be honest with you. Sounds simple, right?
It’s a little more complicated than it seems. A great example is the NFL Draft. Leading up to the Draft, in 2011, I was hoping to be drafted. Yet I had a very strong inkling that I would not be. I was rated the eighth to tenth center in the Draft, depending on whom you asked, and only five to seven centers get drafted each year. Being a relatively level-headed guy, I knew not to get my hopes up, but I was determined to stay optimistic. I had agents promising me I’d be drafted. Agents exude confidence. It’s what they do. Whether it’s the first round or seventh round, players get promised the world and every year those promises are broken. It’s hard not to believe someone who tells you you’re great. But your agent shouldn’t be your #1 fan. There is a reason a slew of agents get fired right after the Draft.
The Draft is important, but you also need an agent who will tell you when you suck. It can’t be all sunshine and rainbows. Your agent should be respectful but there are times for raw honesty and directness. Every once in a while, there has to be that wake-up call. One of the best things one of my agents ever did was give me real talk. He never told me I sucked, but he did let me know what my realistic options were. I needed that. Before training camp this year, he told me it might be my last shot. And when I didn’t make it happen, he told me that was probably my last shot. And when I called him about maybe hanging up the cleats, he was honest with me then. He told me that I was on a few teams’ lists, but the most probable outcome would be signing with a team after the end of the season. I knew I didn’t want to repeat the past three years, so I was able to make my decision. Yet, it was that honesty that allowed me to make the best decision for me and my family.
It’s important to have an agent with a good reputation around the league. I remember my rookie year in Tennessee, talking to the veterans in the cafeteria. Steve Hutchinson, a future Hall of Famer, asked me who my agent was. I told him who it was, but I was more curious why he wanted to know. He told me he wanted to make sure I hadn’t signed with a certain agent. Apparently that agency’s players had a poor reputation.
I never realized that that my agent could reflect, positively or negatively, on me. Apparently I was wrong. But of course it makes sense. If your agent is known more for his antics and less for his negotiating abilities, you probably have the wrong guy representing you. Your agent doesn’t have to be the most likable guy, but if GMs hate doing business with him, then you probably don’t want that guy making calls on your behalf.
While I trusted that my agent was working for me, I needed to know I could reach him. You don’t want an agent who acts like a spy, going dark for undisclosed periods of time at a moment’s notice. With my second agent, I was able to call him anytime. He always answered his phone, and if he didn’t, he would call me back before the day was over. There’s a difference between needing to get a hold of your agent and sounding needy, but there are times where it is important to be able to get your agent on the phone.
You don’t want an agent who acts like a spy, going dark for undisclosed periods of time at a moment’s notice.
This became apparent to me with my first agent. Leading up to the Draft, I was left in the dark about what was going to happen. I had no clue how the day was supposed to go. I didn’t know which teams were interested. And all this time, I couldn’t get my agent on the phone.
The same issue happened that fall when I was with Tennessee. Several offensive lineman had gotten hurt. I was on the practice squad — suddenly this was a great opportunity to get activated and get a huge salary increase. Yet, I found it hard to get a hold of my agent, and when I did, it seemed as though we weren’t on the same page regarding my aspirations. Accessibility and clear communication are definite assets in a good agent.
5) Do You Matter?
This may not be the case for big name players. But for the journeymen, how much you matter to your agent should play a big role. Personally, I liked knowing that my success mattered to my agent. If you matter to your agent, then he is more inclined to work his ass off for you. I’m not saying to hire some random guy whose whole career depends on your success. But it does help not being just a number.
There are agencies that are glorified puppy mills. They sign as many players as they can leading up to the Draft, and hope some of them pan out. If they do? Great! Rake in that commission. If they don’t? Oh well, you have 50 other players who could make a team. It’s a great strategy for the agencies, but as player sitting at home waiting for a phone call, being another number is not ideal. You don’t feel like you matter very much.
There are agencies that are glorified puppy mills.
In the beginning of my career I was with a bigger agency. My agent had bigger named clients from various realms of the sports and entertainment industries. He had starters in the NFL, starters in the Major Leagues, Real Housewives of New Jersey, the NBA, and so on. And all that is great for him. I get it. He is trying to build his business. But where does a guy like me fit into that plan? In the end, I decided I wasn’t very important to my agent, and I had to make a decision to find someone who did find me valuable.
I hope this sheds some light on the agent selection process. Like I said, I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve seen first hand what a good agent can do for you. This advice is primarily for the guys who might get drafted in the later rounds, if at all. But I suspect that it holds true whether you were Heisman finalist or a third-string wide receiver on a solid college team. You want the right person in your corner.
THE FULL MEANING OF SIGNING A MINOR-LEAGUE DEAL
0Signing a minor-league deal -- not as simple as you might think.
It's that time of year. Spring training is less than a week away and the final free agent signings of the offseason are agreeing to deals. James Shields was the last of the big fish to fall and a handful more of small major-league contracts will likely be agreed to soon.
But the bulk of what has been coming across my timeline lately has been the news of players agreeing to minor-league contracts, most of those coming with an invitation to major-league spring training. The majority of the players who sign these deals have major-league experience, some more than others.
I have been in this position several times in my career. In fact, from 2002-2006, for five straight seasons, I signed minor-league contracts with an invitation to major-league spring training. There's a lot that goes into the process. Seeing the news of these players signing brought back some emotion as well as the memories of both some good and bad decisions I have made over the years.
First, there is the humility of who you are at this moment in your career. At least for this offseason there is no team that sees you as "guaranteed contract"-worthy. There is not one that sees you valuable enough to let you take up a spot on its 40-man roster. They see you as guy worth taking a low risk chance on. They like you, they just don't like you, like you. It's hard to swallow, but you have no choice.
Once a player comes to the realization that there is no major contract out there for him, his next step is to work with his agent to identify teams that are a good match. These aren't fun negotiations for agents. A lot of phone calls are made, and if your player doesn't make a team, there is no financial reward. Players don't pay commission on minor-league salary, only big-league salary, and agents don't charge on anything earned below the major-league minimum.
Knowing there was a chance my agent could be lacking motivation, I always stayed proactive in these times. I studied teams, their rosters, their needs and targeted the ones I thought I had the best chance of making. At worst I wanted to make sure that if I was likely headed to Triple-A, I would at least be in a good situation for a potential call-up to the big leagues.
Sometimes teams call you (your agent) or sometimes you or your agent have to call them. I would take it so far as to make highlight VHS tapes from the year before (I'm dating myself, I know) and send them to four or five executives in an organization where I thought I was a good non-roster invitee fit. You may laugh, but it's worked before. As Frank Viola once told me when we were teammates in 1995, "Whatever it takes."
Lots of teams are willing to bring in free agents on minor-league deals, but it's prudent of a player to try and line himself up with the best team for him. As an example for a reliever, you have to look at who the team currently has under contract and locked into a spot in the pen. Is there a spot for you? You also have to look at what prospects could make that team and what guys are coming off injuries and are question marks. You also have to look at what other minor-league free agents are coming to camp. Teams will sometimes hold back the news of signings as long as possible for that reason. You want to put yourself in the best possible position to compete for a spot on the major-league roster and these things factor in.
The other thing that matters is whether or not the team is going to be competitive. Sure, it's February. Just about every team thinks it has a chance to win, and in this age of parity a lot do. But you have to put on your analyst hat and be able to identify which teams are going to be competitive in 2015. The reason being, if you are an older player, there is a less likely chance that a team is going to take you north with them to start the season if they are in a rebuilding mode. The same goes for a potential mid-season call-up. If a team is out of it by June, the odds of you getting called up decrease significantly if you have some age on you. It makes more sense for a non-contender to give a look to a prospect over you, the veteran, in such a situation. If you don't make an Opening Day roster, you don't want to be stuck in Triple-A all year if you're having a good season.
Another big piece of the puzzle is the reputation of the front office. I had a veteran player tell me one time that there were certain teams he would never sign a minor-league deal with a certain organization because of the general manager's reputation of not being trustworthy. Players talk and share information. It's important to know which teams you can trust and which you can't. I remember specifically telling another pitcher two years in a row to stay from two different GMs as a non-roster invitee. Both years he ignored my advice. Both years I got calls from him in June complaining to me how he'd been lied to and was trapped in a system wasting away. I tried to warn him.
That trust is important in these situations because promises are made to non-roster invitees. "We have a spot for you" ... "You'll make our team but we can't put you on the 40-man roster until spring training ends" ... "If you don't make our team, we'll let you go to another." All of that sounds great, but if none of that is in writing the words are only as good as the GM's reputation.
Finally the language in the contract of a non-roster invitee is critical. Out clauses are huge and they are negotiable. The more service time you have, the more leverage you have. An out clause allows a player in spring training or the minor leagues to opt out of his contract and become a free agent.
Out clauses are important because they prevent you from potentially being trapped in a team's minor-league system. This is where the written word outweighs the verbal promise of a GM. Always get it in writing. The advantage of the minor-league out clause not only helps prevent a player from getting stuck in a minor-league system, it can also be used as leverage to get to the big leagues. For example, if you are playing or pitching well in Triple-A and you have an out, the team knows you are likely to leave when your out clause date comes up. They then have to decide to either bring you to the major leagues with them or let you leave for another team. This is valuable protection for a player.
Players with six years of major-league service time that sign minor-league deals now have what is called Article XX-B protection. Teams either have to put these players on the major-league roster or release them five days prior to the start of the MLB season. If they do neither, they must pay that player a $100,000 retention bonus. This is essentially a built-in out clause for veteran players. If you are an Article XX-B free agent, you also receive an automatic June 1 out clause if you're paid the $100,000. Most teams get around this retention bonus by releasing a player and then resigning him sometime before the five days prior to Opening Day.
Sounds like a lot. It is. The decision on which team a minor-league free agent signs with is important. The language in that contract is equally as important. As you are trying to bounce back and return to the big leagues you want to land in the right place on the right deal. For these guys getting deals done, they can only hope their agents did a good job and that they made the best decision.