MLB Rumors: The 10 Weirdest Contract Clauses in Baseball History

Matt TruebloodSenior Analyst IJanuary 21, 2011

MLB Rumors: The 10 Weirdest Contract Clauses in Baseball History

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    Jayson Werth really loves No. 28. He feels such attachment to it, in fact, that when he sat down at the negotiating table with the Washington Nationals, he and his agent demanded that a clause in the contract guarantee him that jersey number. The Nats obliged, much to the dismay of first baseman/outfielder Mike Morse, who wore the number in 2010.

    Baseball history is littered with strange clauses like these: When a team wants to get a deal done quickly or is truly desperate to win over a free agent, they frequently throw in strange incentives to make their offer more appealing. Werth loved his uniform number, which might seem odd, but wait until you see what sealed the deal for these other 10 players.

10. Kerry Wood, Chicago Cubs

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    This one was unofficial, because by law, no such provision could have been made. Still, when the Cubs signed Kerry Wood to a one-year deal back in December, an agreement was reached whereby, once his career is over, Wood will have a guaranteed gig within the Cubs organization.

    Some outlets reported that Wood was promised a future broadcasting job, while others merely had it as an under-the-table, one hand washes the other sort of deal with no specifics involved. Because the team and player have every reason for secrecy, both parties deny the deal exists, but the Chicago media and those who follow the team closely are convinced that Wood will be a Cub for life in some capacity.

9. Greg Maddux, San Diego Padres

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    Greg Maddux retired after the 2008 season, and although he pitched 194 innings that year, there is reason to believe he had retired a little bit in his mind even before that. When he signed on for that season with the Padres, he and Scott Boras convinced the Padres to throw in a membership to the best of the nearby country clubs. Nothing says senioritis like writing the right to play golf into your last contract.

8. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston Red Sox

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    Matsuzaka blazed Werth's trail for him when he signed with Boston, writing in a clause ensuring him of the No. 18. He also became one of the first to demand a personal masseuse in a big-league contract.

7. Charlie Kerfeld, Houston Astros

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    Little more than a punch line about fat baseball players these days, Charlie Kerfeld was once a rookie superstar. He won 11 games out of the bullpen for the 1986 Houston Astros, a team that came painfully close to winning the pennant.

    Thereafter, the Astros wanted to avoid a holdout or any such unpleasantness between Kerfeld and the team, so they gave the portly pitcher an incentive of 37 boxes of orange Jell-O. Kerfeld, who wore No. 37, loved the gesture and signed on. He then proceeded to go from from fat to fatter, even getting caught eating ribs in the dugout in 1987 before the team demoted him to the Minors. He got to keep the Jell-O.

6. Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies

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    This one is really interesting. Utley, who loves the game and absolutely hates to lose, has a clause in his current deal with the Phillies that allows him to block trades to a given list of clubs. The catch? He can rewrite the list every year.

    Presumably, Utley simply wants to avoid going to a moribund franchise or a contender who will flop after just one season. Still, it is interesting that he has the right to change his list every season and ensure himself of having to go only to a team he would like to go to.

5. George Brett, Kansas City Royals

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    George Brett had a ton of leverage in his 1984 negotiations with Kansas City. He was able to procure from the team the bat he had used during the infamous "pine tar incident," which the franchise had kept and loaned briefly to the Hall of Fame.

    Still, the two sides were far apart, so the team's owner (who was a real estate mogul in Memphis) offered Brett part ownership of one of his larger rental properties. Brett accepted, and made a ton of money off the deal in the long term.

    Kansas City gave lesser versions of the same incentive to Dan Quisenberry and Willie Wilson thereafter, but later stopped the practice when it became clear the players were doubling their salaries in the long run with those deals.

4. Will Ohman, Chicago White Sox

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    There is a standard awards package in MLB. Most teams dangle it as extra incentive for players to sign, granting them (for instance) $50,000 for a World Series MVP award, $25,000 for the LCS version, et cetera.

    The white Sox signed Ohman (and fellow new bullpen recruit Jesse Crain) this winter by tossing in a standard package. The Milwaukee Brewers snagged Takashi Saito the same way. The strange thing, though, is that a provision in each man's contract gives them extra dough if they are selected to start the All-Star game. If they pitch that well, they deserve the money, but since they have zero combined big-league starts in over 1,000 appearances, it sure doesn't seem likely.

3. Manny Ramirez, Boston Red Sox

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    When Manny signed with the Sox in 2000, the team did not hand out no-trade clauses. They felt it was bad baseball business, and though Ramirez pressed them, they would not give in on that point.

    Except that they sort of did. A provision in Ramirez's contract stated that if and when another Sox player was granted no-trade protection, Ramirez would get one, too. New management had the team going a new direction by 2003, and Ramirez eventually did get a no-trade clause. He has Jason Varitek to thank for it.

2. Roy Oswalt, Houston Astros

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    Oswalt won Game 6 of the 2005 NLCS, giving the Astros their first pennant in franchise history. A grateful Drayton McLane, the Astros' owner, wanted to buy Oswalt the bulldozer Oswalt had always wanted, as a reward for his clutch effort.

    Unfortunately, per MLB rules, a team cannot give a player a gift of that value without officially disclosing it. Therefore, the two sides sat down and hammered out a "bulldozer clause" addendum to Oswalt's deal.

1. Jason Grimsley, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    He had a 42-58 career record, a 4.77 ERA and was a known drug cheat, but Grimsley redeemed himself in a big way upon his release in 2006. He had fallen hard from grace, been suspended for 50 games and had initially tried to fight the Diamondbacks' choice not to pay the remainder of his salary for the 2006 season.

    In the end, though, he and his agent, Joe Bick, convinced the team to donate what remained on his contract—some $525,000 and change—to four different charities of Grimsley's choice. Grimsley was dragged through the mud for allegedly ratting out several steroid users, although evidence later showed he had done no such thing, and got a lot of bad personal publicity out of the whole ordeal. He deserves to have it noted that he also made a large and benevolent gesture on his way out of the game.

    Matt Trueblood is a B/R featured columnist on baseball and the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter, and check out his blog.