These are the rules for free agency for players whose contracts have expired.

1976- There were two rules for eligibility. Those players who signed contracts before 8/9/76 may have their contracts renewed for one year when they expire and then become free agents. Those signing on or after 8/9/76 become free agents when they have 6 years experience and their contract expires. There was a  "reentry" draft wherein up to 12 teams (plus his most recent team) might select negotiating rights to a player, choosing in reverse order of the standings. If fewer than 2 teams selected him, the player was free to negotiate with all teams. There was (at the player's option) a secondary draft of players unsigned by February 15 in which up to 4 teams (not including his most recent team) could select negotiating rights. There was a limit to how many free agents a team could sign, which was based on the number available, although a team could sign as many players as it lost to free agency.

There was no compensation for players who last signed a contract before 8/9/76; for later signers the compensation was a (lower-half) first or (upper-half) second round draft pick. Once signed, free agents couldn't be traded without their consent before June 16. Free agents were ranked, for purposes of amateur draft pick compensation, by the number of clubs which selected the free agent in the re-entry draft. Players selected by more clubs are ranked higher. If selected by the same number, the player selected first by that number is ranked higher.

Once a player became a free agent under these rules, he could not exercise his right to become a free agent again for five years.

1977- Players who were in Majors in 1976 but outrighted to minors in 1977 are eligible for free agent draft.   The number of clubs allowed to choose a player in the re-entry draft increased to 13 (plus player's most recent team.)

1981- Free agents were ranked by their statistics the past two seasons. Type A free agents are the top 20%; Type B free agents are in the 20-30% group. Compensation for Type A players was a draft pick as in the 1976 rules and a player from a pool made up of players from all teams. Pool consisted of all players from an organization except 26 it chose to protect. 
Clubs signing a Type A free agent can protect 24 players on their roster.  All teams were included in the pool unless they had had a player selected in the last two years and they hadn't signed a Type A free agent, or if they agreed  not to sign any Type A free agents for a three year period.  The maximum number of players that could be chosen from the pool in one offseason was approximately 1/3 of the number of teams in the pool.  Compensation for Type B players was an amateur draft pick from the signing team and a second special pick following the first round of the draft.  Unranked free agents lost are compensated by an amateur draft choice, provided the free agent was selected by four or more clubs in the re-entry draft.

Also, players selected by fewer than 4 teams could negotiate with all, and there was no longer a limit on how many teams may select a player's negotiation rights.  Teams losing players who had free agents before or had at least 12 years in the majors did not receive compensation.

1985- Major League players no longer used as compensation picks. The re-entry draft was eliminated. By Dec. 7, a player's most recent club must offer to go to arbitration or else it loses the right to negotiate with and sign the free agent until May 1. By Dec. 19 the player must accept the offer or after Jan. 8 the club loses the right to negotiate and sign the player until May 1.
Compensation for Type A free agent is 2 draft picks (including one after the first round), for Type B either first or second round pick as in 1976, for Type C is extra pick after second round. Type A free agents are those in the top 30%; Type B are
those in the 30-50% group; Type C are those in the 50-60% group.

1990-There is a limit on the number of Type A and B free agents a club may sign, similar to the 1976 rule. (This may have existed previously.)

Lost Type A, B, or C free agents are only eligible for compensation if the former club offered arbitration by Dec. 7 and the player subsequently signed with another club, or if the player signed with another club before Dec. 7. Type C also not subject to compensation if not signed by March 1, or had previously elected free agency, or has 12 or more years of major league service. (This may have existed previously.)


Type A free agents are those in the top 20%; Type B are those in the 20-40% group. Type C free agent category is eliminated.

The Dec. 7, Dec. 19, Jan. 8, and May 1 deadlines are eliminated. Clubs must now offer arbitration by Dec. 1 and players must accept or reject the offer by Dec. 7.

Compensation for lost Type B free agents changed to a special draft pick between the first and second rounds of the amateur draft.

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