Comment of the Day: on Carlos Lee and no-trade clauses

30 Comments

Carlos Lee’s decision not to accept a trade to L.A. inspired reader sincitybonobo to ponder what it all means:

I will preface this by saying he simply exercised an option that was available to him and broke no rules.

However, at the tail end of a contract that he never came close to justifying, he has a chance to save the woebegone Astros some money, let them pick up a couple of prospects, and make a push for October with a storied franchise.

He’d be spending six extra weeks in the regular season away from his ranch. Half of his remaining games as an Astro will be played on the road.

Weak. If he weren’t ridiculously overpaid, I wouldn’t be so hard on him. Exercising this option is permissible. However, it does not prevent you from being perceived as gutless and selfish.

We hear this sentiment a lot when someone with a no-trade clause says no. I agree with the commenter that the primary blame in such situations should fall on the team for foolishly agreeing to a no-trade clause like the Astros did with Lee, but it is understandable for fans to also be upset at the player to some degree too, even if it’s not necessarily justified. The fans care a lot and they want the best thing for their team. In this case, losing Carlos Lee is absolutely the best thing for the Astros.

Ultimately, however, I think this serves as a lesson that, contrary to what a lot of fans want to believe, players often — maybe more often than we realize — think of baseball as their job and nothing more. And no matter how much money is involved, many of them view a trade the same way you’d view being transferred to another city for your job. It’s disruptive and, if it can be avoided, it’d be nice to.

Carlos Lee negotiated the right to tell his boss he didn’t want a transfer. It seems unsatisfying in the context of sports because we feel like the players owe their team and/or the fans something more than they do, but that’s all it is.

American draft prospect Carter Stewart signs in Japan

Getty Images
7 Comments

The Atlanta Braves selected high school pitcher Carter Stewart with the number eight overall pick in the 2018 draft. Then, after the draft, they gave Stewart a below-slot signing bonus offer, claiming that they found problems with his wrist in his post-draft physical. Stewart ended up rejecting the offer and the MLBPA filed a grievance against the Braves on Stewart’s behalf.

The grievance sought to make Stewart a free agent it was considered a long shot at the time of its filing and, in fact, the grievance was rejected. Stewart, unable to attain free agency, enrolled at Eastern Florida State College, a two-year school that would’ve made him eligible for the 2019 draft.

Now, Ken Rosenthal reports, Stewart has pulled a crazy Ivan and is heading to Japan, having signed with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League. The terms of the deal aren’t known, but Rosenthal says Stewart was looking for a $7 million guarantee.

It’s a fascinating turn of events for Stewart who, this time last year, was considered perhaps the best amateur pitcher in baseball. Being lowballed and having his health questioned by the Braves may have been a wakeup call to Stewart, however, about his chances of finding a quick path the bigs in the U.S. If the shine did come off of his prospect status in the past year here, there’s every reason to believe that $7 million and a path to the bigs in Japan is a much better deal than several million less and a path to the bigs in America.

He’ll be worth watching over the next few years, that’s for sure. Both for his own sake and to see if, in this era of Major League Baseball’s capping of amateur bonuses and teams’ habit of manipulating service time, going overseas becomes more attractive to American high schoolers and college players.