I've been doing some reading on the events that eventually precipitated the destruction of the reserve system in baseball. In reading some articles and the 1976-1979 collective bargaining agreement - the first that contained free agency - I was amazed at how the first system was set up.
Most folks that were in adulthood by the late 70's probably already know this, but for me it was interesting.
When the first batch of players to sign contracts after August 10, 1976 became free agents, there was a free agent 'draft' held each season. The clubs would make draft selections in rotating order, worst to first, picking the players they'd like to have negotiating rights with.
The draft continued until each club passed. A player could be picked by up to 12 clubs, not including his former team. Once a player was picked by 12 clubs, he was no longer eligible to be picked, and those teams has rights to negotiate with the player. If two or fewer teams picked a player, he was free to negotiate with any club. Players could still negotiate with any team, provided they reached mid-February without a contract, but the negotiation rights gave picking teams first dibs essentially.
It's somewhat remarkable to me that the system of service time, arbitration, options and assignments have largely remained unchanged in 35 years. There is only a small difference in arbitration eligibility (it was initially 2 years service and playing in at least three separate seasons), but the structure and procedures were mostly the same.
Well, in any event, I found this interesting. For some it might just be a refresher, for others it might be a history lesson.