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NPB, players to revise free-agency system

Kyodo News

Nippon Professional Baseball and the players’ association agreed Wednesday to shorten the period required for players to become eligible for free agency from the current system of nine seasons.

Players will still be required to play nine seasons in Japan before departing to ply their trade overseas, but those drafted from corporate and collegiate leagues in the 2007 autumn draft will be permitted to act as free agents after just seven seasons in deals involving domestic clubs.

It is the first major revision of the free-agent system since the period was shortened from 10 to nine years in 1997.

Under the new system which takes effect during the 2008 offseason, all other players will require eight seasons to obtain free agency. Compensation to the former club in a free-agent move will also be drastically reduced.

“We are satisfied that seven years was the number that they came up with,” said players’ association president Shinya Miyamoto. “We would like to have further discussions after two years to see if we can improve more. They actually budged on a lot of issues, like the number of years and part about compensation.”

NPB also said it has decided to hold a collective baseball draft this autumn, instead of the current two separate drafts, one for high school players and the other for players mostly in the collegiate and corporate leagues.

A lottery would be held in the event that multiple teams seek to obtain the right to negotiate a contract with a player in the first round.

The players’ association said it will not accept a proposal from NPB to relax a restriction on salary cuts.