THE implementation of the unrestricted free agency rule by the PBA for the first time is seen as a big gamble for Asia’s first play-for-pay league.
But four-time PBA MVP Ramon Fernandez believes the free agency rule for players with expired contracts seven years after joining the league in 2014 could also be a blessing for the players, the teams and the league as a whole.
“I think it’s OK. I wished this free agency rule happened during my time (in the PBA),” said Fernandez during the “Sports on Air Weekly” podcast last Jan. 28.
Fernandez, nicknamed “El Presidente” during his playing days, admitted there are always risks involved in trying the free agency but it also gives the players the opportunity to test their real value in the market.
“Dati nga, may mga restrictions pa sa PBA na may mga players na hindi pwede magsama sa iisang team,” added Fernandez, referring to the rule that prohibited him and fellow big men Abet Guidaben and Manny Victorino to play for one team.
The 68-year-old PBA champion, who won a record 19 titles with Toyota, Tanduay and San Miguel Beer, claims the free agency rule could make the league even more competitive.
“In my opinion, this free agency will also give the lower-rated teams a chance to get the star players they need. Syempre,they just have to spend a lot of money. Pala-limin nila ang bulsa nila because the highest bidder always wins. That’s part of the game.”
Earlier, PBA commissioner Willie Marcial said the free agecy rule is aimed at giving veterans the opportunity to pick their teams after seven years of restricted status.
He assured the PBA community that the free agency rule initiated by the late PBA Board of Governor Ely Capacio is still subject for review.
“Kung makakabuti sa liga, sa mga players, sa mga teams, the rule will stay,”said Marcial.
The starting cut-off would be 2014.
Marcial, however, claimed choosing unrestricted free agency is a gamble.
“Paano kung pinili mo maging unrestricted free agent kahit may offer naman sa existing team taposwalang kumuha sa iyo,” said Marcial.
“Yun mga teams naman, dapat pa-pirmahin na nila ang players kung malapit na mag-expire ang contract after serving seven years.”
Based on the UFA rule, the first batch of players who will benefit from it is the rookie class 2014.
But with No. 1 pick Stanley Pringle and No. 2 pick Kevin Alas already signed to new contracts by Barangay Ginebra and NLEX, the biggest names in the free agenct class are now Chris Banchero and Rodney Brondial.
Brondial was the first player to test the free agency market, signing with San Miguel Beer after failing to reach a new agreement with AlaskaMilk.
The 31-year-old power forward out of Adamson University will be reunited with his college coach, Leo Austria.
Banchero is also set to join Meralco as a free agent after playing for Phoenix Super LPG.
The 33-year-old Fil-Italian averaged 18 points, 4.4 assists and 3.6 rebounds in five games for the Fuel Masters in the coronavirus-interrupted PBA Governor’s Cup before deciding to pack his bags to join the Bolts.
Another player, Nard Pinto, also jumped ship from Meralco to Barangay Ginebra in the early hours of the free agency period.