Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Serving Your Time

AP Photo/Newly

According to the MLB CBA, players with at least 10 years of major league service time who have been with their current club for at least 5 consecutive years cannot be traded without their consent. This clause is rarely relevant due to either its difficulty to obtain or the fact that the player has already negotiated a no-trade clause into his contract. Most players never accumulate 10 years of service time and reaching that point while staying with a team for at least five straight years usually requires a significant skill level. This is why these rights are so rarely mentioned. The caliber of player who would have them would usually be able to negotiate a no-trade clause into their deal regardless. Derek Jeter can't be traded because of his 10-and-5 rights, but if those didn't exist I hardly think he'd have a difficult time obtaining a no-trade clause.

Many players also are able to get a no-trade clause before they even have 10-and-5 rights. This is usually the result of being drafted by a team and signing an extension before hitting free agency. Adam Wainwright has only slightly over 8 years of service time, but when he signed his extension in 2013 he also got a full no-trade clause. This effectively only matters until the end of the 2015 when his 10-and-5 rights would kick in about a month into the season, however it does mean that if he chooses to waive his rights and be traded he would keep the no-trade clause on his new team.

There are less obvious cases though where a player, not necessarily a superstar, is able to stick around with a team for long enough to get his 10-and-5 rights. These are particularly important when there was no no-trade clause previously negotiated into his contract. The following are some of the more interesting cases where a player could gain 10-and-5 rights over the next year and what effects it may have. Players are listed with their service time entering the 2014 season in the form years.days. Note that a year of service time is equal to 172 days.

Jose Bautista (8.165 ST, with Blue Jays since middle of 2008 season)
Jose Bautista will gain his 10-and-5 rights a week into the 2015 season. He's signed through the 2015 season with a team option for 2016 which will be his age 35 season. At the moment that 2016 option seems like a no-brainer to pick up, but with the Jays aging and expensive core, that 2016 option may become difficult to exercise if Bautista cannot be traded without his consent. If the team and Bautista do not age well over the next season, only warm memories may keep him in Toronto in 2016.

John Lackey (11.095 ST, with Red Sox since 2010)
John Lackey has an extremely unusual contract. Due to injury concerns when he signed with the Red Sox, there was a clause inserted into his contract that if Lackey missed significant time due to injury, the Red Sox get a team option for 2015 at $500K. With Lackey having missed the 2012 season, but now back to pitching adequately, that option for next season looks like a steal. However since it comes after his initial 5 year deal with the club finishes, Lackey will also get his 10-and-5 rights if the Red Sox pick up the option. It's ironic that one of the most tradeable contracts in baseball becomes untradeable due to the length of Lackey's previous deal. I don't think that this would prevent the Red Sox from picking up the option, however if they try to negotiate an extension instead, a no-trade clause is not something that Lackey would need to negotiate.

Coco Crisp (10.158 ST, with Athletics since 2010)
Now in his fifth season with Oakland, Crisp has already signed three different contracts with the Athletics. This is one of the more unusual scenarios for 10-and-5 rights to pop up. A player bounces around with a number of teams (the A's are Crisp's fourth), however a number of short deals allows a player to stay in one city long enough to gain his no-trade rights. With Crisp signing an extension through 2016 (plus a 2017 vesting option), if he stays with the Athletics for the rest of the season, he can no longer be traded without his consent. This doesn't exactly fit in with the Athletics M.O. as he'd be the only player on the team with a no-trade clause and the Athletics are one of the more active teams on the trade market. It therefore wouldn't shock me if Crisp was dealt before the trade deadline this year just so the Athletics can avoid this situation. They may be a first place team right now that relies on Crisp's skills, but it's small moves like this that allow small market teams like Oakland to be competitive every year without being hamstrung by difficult contracts.

Brandon Phillips (9.022 ST, with Reds since 2006)
There have been trade rumours surrounding Phillips for a couple years now and to protect himself he had a limited no-trade clause (can't be dealt to 10 teams) negotiated into his most recent deal. However once we pass the August trade deadline this year, that limited no-trade clause will turn into a full no-trade clause under his 10-and-5 rights. That's a scary proposition for the Reds who have Phillips signed through 2017, his age 36 season. Middle infielders aren't exactly known for aging gracefully: his OBP and SLG are both down for the third straight year. This will be a tough decision for the Reds who are still trying to make the playoffs this season, but if they keep Phillips past the trade deadline, he's their second baseman for the next three years.

Rickie Weeks (8.131 ST, all with the Brewers)
Rickie Weeks has spent his entire career playing second base for the Brewers where he was once an all-star in 2011, however has since been a poor hitter and fielder, and only part time player. He has a vesting option for 2015 based on his PAs this season that he will almost assuredly not reach. This likely means that this season will be Weeks' last in Milwaukee. He's now a below average player who would get his 10-and-5 rights a little over a month into next season. The Brewers can find comparable talent elsewhere (Scooter Gennett is working well) without being held hostage by a no-trade clause.

Jorge De La Rosa (9.015 ST, with the Rockies since 2008)
De La Rosa will gain his 10-and-5 rights before the end of the season, but as a free agent going into 2015, the Rockies shouldn't feel any more pressure to deal De La Rosa than they would if he wasn't gaining those rights. De La Rosa will probably be looking to get a multi-year deal in free agency and will explore his options around the league. It doesn't make a lot of sense for the Rockies to sign De La Rosa given their current situation especially since he would get a no-trade clause, something De La Rosa would probably have difficulty obtaining from most other teams.

Matt Belisle (8.019 ST, with the Rockies since 2009)
Belisle is a free agent after this season so he would only get his 10-and-5 rights near the end of next season provided he re-signed with the Rockies, so this is likely irrelevant, but Belisle is a particularly interesting case since he is a reliever. Staying with a team for five seasons is generally the exception for relievers, even for the best of them. No current closer for example is even close to obtaining 10-and-5 rights. Belisle hasn't exactly been exceptional for the last few seasons and I doubt that the Rockies are interested in making him one of the few relievers in the league with trade veto rights. It's seems likely that Belisle is pitching in a different jersey next season.

It should be noted that for all these cases when I say a team is "stuck" with a player due to their 10-and-5 rights that isn't entirely true. Players can waive their 10-and-5 no-trade rights just as any player would with a no-trade clause negotiated into their contract. However these are all situations where the team likely never intended for a player to get a no-trade clause and may soon have to deal with the consequences of the players' increased leverage.