A player agent is a person paid to represent a player during contract negotiations. Until the early 1970s, most players signed contracts directly with their team, as there was almost no room for bargaining unless they were willing to hold out (which some did, with mixed results). This changed with the conclusion of the first Collective Bargaining Agreements and especially the advent of free agency. Negotiations became more complex, and players quickly realized that they were at a serious disadvantage if they did not receive advice from a specialist. The use of player agents is now generalized.
Agents come from different walks of life, including some former players. The majority have a background in law, labor relations or financial planning however. Besides representing players during contract negotiations and for salary arbitration hearings, they also provide services linked to post-career planning, financial and fiscal planning, medical assistance, promotional and publicity contracts, etc. For a long time agents were self-proclaimed with no need to have established credentials, but the MLBPA eventually set up a system to guarantee the probity and adherence to professional standards of certain agents. Players can still chose whoever they want to represent them, but using someone who is not certified by the Players' Association comes with a level of risk, as some rogue agents have been caught in the past for financial improprieties or acting in ways that are not in their clients' best interests.
Famous player agents include Scott Boras, Jeremy Kapstein, Adam Katz, Jeff Moorad and Arn Tellem. Most agents work through an agency, either one solely dedicated to baseball like the Boras Agency, or one that has a wider range of clients in the sports and entertainment field that includes baseball players. Such agencies include Creative Artists Agency or Independent Sports and Entertainment. The first documented agent was Christy Walsh, who handled Babe Ruth's financial interests and endorsements and helped to make him a very rich man in spite of his generous spending habits.
- Barry Krissoff: "Rating Baseball Agencies: Who Is delivering the Goods?", in Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 48 Number 2, Fall 2019, pp. 48-56.