All the Ins and Outs of an MLB No-Trade Clause

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All the Ins and Outs of an MLB No-Trade Clause
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Soriano isn't tipping his hand on whether he'd waive his no-trade clause.

Coming to terms on a trade that all sides are satisfied with is difficult enough. When a player has the right to veto the deal because of a no-trade clause in their contract, it complicates things even further. 

Whether a full no-trade clause is earned by logging at least 10 years of service time, including five with their current team—also known as 10/5 rights—or by having either a partial or full no-trade clause negotiated into a contract, that player can utilize the clause as leverage so they can maintain control over where they will be playing over the course of the contract.

Reaching free agency as one of the top players in the sport is an accomplishment, rewarded with a lucrative salary and, if negotiated into the contract, the ability to block trades to all 30 teams or sometime just a partial number of teams. 

Harry How/Getty Images

Two offseasons ago, the Marlins were in the bidding for prized free agent Albert Pujols (pictured) and, according to some reports, offered more than the Angels, who eventually signed him to a 10-year, $240 million contract. A huge factor in Pujols' decision was the Marlins' reluctance to include a no-trade clause, which they do not offer as a long-standing policy. The Angels gave him a full no-trade clause.

What happened the very next offseason with the players who did sign free-agent deals with Miami proves just how valuable a no-trade clause can be. Jose Reyes (six-year contract), Mark Buehrle (four-year contract) and Heath Bell (three-year contract) were each traded away. The destination was out of their control. The Angels couldn't trade Pujols now even if they wanted to trade him. He has complete control of where he plays baseball for the next several seasons. 

Not only can a player with a no-trade clause veto a trade, their agent can also make demands if approached with a potential trade, such as asking the acquiring team to pick up a future club option or to negotiate a contract extension before they will accept the trade.

Even if a player really wanted to switch teams in order to gain several games in the standings and play meaningful games down the stretch, it's worth at least trying to get something out of it. 

Sometimes, it's not enough for a player to move from a non-contender to a contender. It certainly helps, but making it that simple would take away from why the clause was negotiated into a contract in the first place.

These are human beings, sometimes with a wife and kids who might have to be uprooted and start a new life in a different city. In many cases, a free-agent player will go on several "recruiting" trips around the country during the offseason and, although money is almost always the top factor, the player is also choosing the city that he feels will be a good fit for his family.

In the latest example of a no-trade clause possibly being a factor in a trade, the Yankees are talking with the Cubs about acquiring outfielder Alfonso Soriano, who has a full no-trade clause that he reportedly utilized to stop a potential trade with the Giants last summer. 

While the 37-year-old says he hasn't been approached by the Cubs yet, he seems open to returning to his former club. In a series of tweets from Cubs beat writers Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago and Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, we learned that the Yankees have been watching Soriano since last Friday, the Cubs have notified Soriano's agent of the Yankees' interest and that Soriano is fine with serving as the designated hitter on occasion but does not want to be a part-time player. 

Knowing that Soriano, who has another year left on a contract that will have paid him $136 million over eight years when it expires, might not be willing to accept the deal, the Cubs are forced to find a trade that they think will fit his agenda.

Harry How/Getty Images

Even though general manager Kevin Towers knew that he could trade Justin Upton (pictured) to any team but the Red Sox, Cubs, Mariners and Blue Jays this past offseason, via Upton's partial no-trade clause, he went ahead and negotiated a deal with Seattle that would've brought four players to Arizona, including infielder Nick Franklin, relievers Charlie Furbush and Stephen Pryor and one of the team's top pitching prospects—likely Taijuan Walker. Upton vetoed the deal

So why did Towers go through the trouble? Because that would've been quite a return for the D'backs had the deal gone through. He took a chance that Upton would accept. It was Towers' job to find the best possible deal. He did. Franklin is having a solid rookie season as the Mariners' starting second baseman. Furbush is pitching very well out of the 'pen, and Pryor, although he's missed most of the season with an injury, has closer potential. And then there's Walker, who might be one of the top three pitching prospects in the game.

Upton exercised his right to block the deal, via a partial-no trade clause in the contract given to him by Towers and the Diamondbacks. Towers instead traded Upton to Atlanta for a return that appears nowhere near what he would've gotten from Seattle. 

Some players will make it easy on their teams, making it very clear that they will accept a trade to a contending team. This was the case when Carlos Beltran was sent to the Giants in July 2011

In the case of Brian Giles, however, he vetoed a deal that would've sent him from the last-place Padres to the second-place Red Sox in August 2008. Instead of gaining 22 games in the standings and a shot at the playoffs—Boston did make the playoffs as the Wild Card—he stayed with his hometown team for the remainder of the season. 

While the move was questioned at the time, Giles later revealed his reasoning behind the decision, which had to do with a possible decrease in his playing time and a strong belief that he would be traded again in the offseason after he lost his 10/5 rights by going to Boston. 

Early the following season, the Padres tried to trade Jake Peavy to the White Sox less than two years after signing him to a long-term contract extension that included a full no-trade clause. He vetoed the deal with the White Sox, saying that San Diego was the best place for he and his family.

A little more than two months later, the same deal was presented to Peavy and this time he was ready to move on from a team that was obviously trying to trade him. Peavy accepted the deal, saying he wanted to play for a team where he knew he was wanted. 

Jason Miller/Getty Images

Prior to the 2010 season, Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay (pictured) used his no-trade clause as leverage by only accepting a deal to the Phillies after being given a three-year, $60 million contract extension. Johan Santana did the same, agreeing to a six-year, $137.5 million extension before accepting a trade that sent him from the Twins to the Mets prior to the 2008 season. 

Several players who could potentially be dealt before the July 31st deadline, in addition to Soriano, have at least partial no-trade clauses. White Sox outfielder Alex Rios can block trades to the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Astros, Royals, A's and Yankees. Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum can block trades to eight teams. Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo can block trades to 10 teams. Several Phillies players, including Cliff Lee and Chase Utley, can block trades to 21 different teams.

                                                           

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