I am firmly in the camp of saying no to no-trade clauses. I think they are never a smart idea for the team giving them (see: Lohse, Kyle) and generally are only a way for players to either a) be able to guarantee they can finish their career in one place (certainly understandable), b) add another feather in the cap of their contract/agent, or c) be able to grab at more money later by demanding to be bought out of said clause or hold up the new team for a contract extension (inevitably with another no-trade clause).
All of that being said, one of my favorite folks I follow on Twitter, 2xAught7, offered (passed along?) a reasonable explanation (in separate tweets) yesterday for why the no-trade may be a bit of a token for Matt Holliday (and by extension, Scott Boras).
“it’s unlikely we’d be looking to deal him in the first couple seasons anyway, and once he’s about 4 1/2 years into this contract…
…he’d become a 5/10 player and would have “no-trade” protection due to that status anyway. So really there’s only about a 2-year…
…window where the no-trade really could have much of an effect.” — Makes it +palatable, but still don’t like (HT to ‘Stan Papi’ 4 expln)
Let’s break that down some.
First, Holliday certainly wasn’t/isn’t going anywhere while Albert Pujols is around, that was kind of the point, right? So that clears the first two seasons at a minimum, and I’m certain we all hope much longer.
Second, the $17mm annual value of this contract is likely to be at or close to market value until 2014, in my opinion.
CHONE has Holliday projected at 4.8 WAR in 2010, according to Fangraphs. Personally, I think that’s a bit low. Even with some down numbers in Oakland, Holliday mustered 5.7 WAR in 2009. That is to say nothing of the 2.7 in only 63 games in St. Louis. Adjusted over 150 games, that comes out to approximately 6.4 WAR for a full 2009 with the Cardinals. Obviously, Matt was a little out of his mind with the bat in St. Louis and I certainly wouldn’t expect him to stay that hot for an entire 2010 season, but it stands to reason that another 5.7 WAR season from Holliday in 2010 is not unreasonable.
So then let’s assume for this exercise that Holliday puts up 5.7 WAR in 2010 and has a standard 0.5 WAR regression per season following that. 5.2 in 2011, 4.7 in 2012, 4.2 in 2013, 3.7 in 2014.
If we use the $4.4mm per marginal win number that has been thrown around as market value, 2014 would be the first season that this deal starts to go sour by win value ($16.28mm) being below actual value of the contract.
Certainly, one could easily argue that a player wouldn’t be traded, so long as the team is getting market value or better out of a player, right? Especially if, and I hesitate to write this, Pujols goes elsewhere after 2011. Holliday would be your show then, right?
Which brings us to third: On July 24, 2014, Holliday will hold ten-and-five rights by MLB rule. From ESPN’s Transactions Primer:
Any player with at least 10 years of Major League service, the last five of which have been with one Major League Club, may not be traded to another Major League Club without his written consent. This is commonly known as “the five-and-ten rule.”
So once Holliday reaches the point where his contract could theoretically be “upside-down” for the Cardinals (I understand it could come much sooner than that, I’m holding my optimist’s card firmly in hand), Holliday already would’ve had protection from trade by rule and whether it’s in his contract or not is moot.
So while I still don’t agree with handing out no-trade clauses wildly or as a way to “seal the deal”, it seems safe that Holliday would eventually reach that point with the Cardinals anyway, so why not feed Boras’ ego at this point to get Holliday on board?
Maybe in this case the no-trade clause won’t bite the Cards, it’s just those pesky sixth and seventh guaranteed years (2015 and 2016) that really could be stinkers…