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Imagine Mike Trout declaring himself a free agent . . . tomorrow

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From the “fun thought experiment on a slow news day” file comes an article from Nathaniel Grow over at FanGraphs. Though it’s not purely a thought experiment because it’s based on a fair reading that Grow, a lawyer, makes of California labor law. The upshot, though I encourage you to read the entire article because there are a lot of twists and turns to it, is that a statute exists in California which, theoretically, could allow Mike Trout to declare himself a free agent right now, despite the fact that he’s under contract with the Angels through 2020.

The idea is that in California you can only be forced to stay in an employment contract for seven years, even if the terms are longer. You can keep your contract if you want, but you can opt-out once you get to seven years. Trout hasn’t been under his current deal for seven years, but as Grow notes, at least one California court has held that the time includes being under the employer’s control prior to the current contract or renewal. When you include Trout’ time in the minors and as a big-leaguer with no right of free agency, we’re past seven years already.

Trout isn’t the only one who could be affected by this — there are a handful of players on California teams who have been under team control for at least seven years — but he’s the most notable. Others would include Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey.

Where this becomes a true thought experiment, as opposed to something that would happen, is when you think about it practically. As Grow notes, any effort by a player to invoke this California law would likely be met by legal action from his team and Major League Baseball. It would quickly become a big, big deal and a big, big distraction. A guy like Mike Trout — who is already making over a hundred million dollars and stands to make hundreds of millions more — simply doesn’t have the incentive to do such a thing. Yes, a couple of hundred million is at stake, but so too is Trout’s legacy, which I assume he’d prefer to be about baseball rather than a labor precedent that (a) wouldn’t really impact too many people; (b) would likely be ended via legislation at some point anyway; and (c) would complicate his life for a good long while.

Even more practically, any player who tried to invoke the law would probably be traded out of California immediately, due to the team’s fear that they could wind up with nothing. Whether the trade would be held to be valid is an open question — a court could say the player immediately became a free agent upon opting out — but it just adds more layers of muck to the legal process. And could risk the player having to sit out for a good long while. Just a total mess.

So, no, I doubt this California law ever comes into play in baseball. But I do still think it’s interesting, if for no other reason than as a reminder that ballplayers don’t exist in a vacuum. They are part of the labor force just like anyone else and they work in different states and are subject to different laws just like any other employees from different states are. At some point we’ll see some implications of this beyond the day-to-day stuff like tax rates and what have you.

Report: Mets showing interest in Bartolo Colon

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Last month, free agent right-hander Bartolo Colon told reporters that he’d be open to taking a minor league deal in 2018, but only if he was guaranteed a return to the Mets’ system. The 44-year-old starter is nearing the end of a 20-year career, and it makes sense that he’d want to have one last hurrah in the city where he had some of his most productive years.

Now, Twins starter Ervin Santana tells Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, it looks like the Mets might also be open to a reunion. It’s doubtful that Colon has all that much left in the tank, especially following a combined 7-14 record and 6.48 ERA for the Braves and Twins last year, but he’s not necessarily looking to reproduce the 15+ win, sub-4.00 ERA totals of years past.

Instead, Santana says, Colon is seeking the opportunity to win just six more games. He’ll enter the 2018 season five wins shy of the all-time record for a Latin American-born player, and is hoping to claim that title for himself before he enters retirement in 2019. Former Orioles and Expos hurler Dennis Martinez currently holds the record after clinching his 245th win back in 1998. While it took Colon a full season of starts to come up with even seven wins in 2017, he’s only one year removed from a 15-win campaign in 2016. Provided that the Mets are willing to gamble on him again, the milestone may not be that far out of reach.