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Free agent reentry draft

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The Free Agent Reentry Draft was a short-lived system through which teams selected free agents with which they wished to enter into negotiations. The Draft was created with the advent of widespread free agency following the 1976 season and arbitrator Peter Seitz's decision in the case of Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally.

The purpose of the draft was nominally to prevent one team from signing a great number of free agents, and to put a limit on a player's bargaining leverage. Teams had to select which of the free agents of that year's class they wished to bid on. They could only select a limited number of players, and there was also a limit to the number of teams that could select a single player. The players were then limited to signing a contract with one of the teams that had selected them. However, there was an out clause: if a player was selected by three teams or fewer, he was deemed to be available to all teams.

In its first year, the reentry draft was a big media event. Held in the ballroom of a fancy New York hotel, it held the promise that any team could potentially sign the star players on which it had bid. The glamour wore off after a few years however, as even the most sought-after free agents usually failed to be selected by the maximum number of teams, and teams with little hope of signing free agents made only a few token selections. Any team that was seriously interested in a player could thus select him, and there was no obvious restraining effect on salaries or on bidding wars.

The reentry draft system was scrapped after the 1981 strike, to be replaced by the Free agent compensation draft, which was meant to address another perceived problem of free agency, the lack of adequate compensation paid to teams losing a front-line player through free agency.

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