Allowing Bautista, Encarnacion to Acquire Veto Rights Shows Blue Jays Have No Desire to Trade Them
Jose Bautista has accumulated 10-and-5 rights, and Edwin Encarnacion is close. That means the two stars can veto trades to any team. But it's clear the Blue Jays are moving the duo anywhere.
Photo by Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
This story originally appeared on VICE Sports Canada.
As of the first week of this season, Jose Bautista has the right to veto any trade that the Toronto Blue Jays attempt to move him in.
In less than a month, Edwin Encarnacion will have earned that right, as well.
That may not sound like particularly good news for the Jays, as it greatly complicates their ability to move the pair, but they've long understood that this was coming. The greatest impact the sluggers' new statuses may have is on the conversation that surrounds the club, as it probably comes as a great surprise to the talk radio callers and internet commenters who, before the Jays' current run of strong play, worked themselves into a lather insisting the way out of the club's early-season malaise was to trade one of the stars in order to help the less-than-impressive pitching staff.
It will be especially surprising to this set of fans because the Blue Jays have not gone out of their way to hide the fact that, as a policy, they don't give their players no-trade clauses—perhaps in part out of sheer distaste for how often they've been burned by them from the other side, with players like Cole Hamels, Ian Kinsler and Koji Uehara reportedly refusing to come north of the border in recent years.
So how in the world did this happen? The answer is in MLB's collective bargaining agreement, specifically, rule XIX (a) Consent To Assignment. "The contract of a Player with ten or more years of Major League service, the last five of which have been with one Club," it reads, "shall not be assignable to another Major League Club without the Player's written consent."
This is more commonly known as 10-and-5 rights.
To complete a year of service, in MLB's terms, a player needs to be in the big leagues for 172 days. Bautista ended the 2014 season with nine years and 165 days in the majors, meaning that after the first week of this season he became a ten-year MLB veteran. Since he's been with the Jays for more than six years, he now has what amounts to full no-trade protection.
Encarnacion came into the season needing 87 days to reach the ten-year mark in the big leagues, which will happen in the first week of July. His status as a 10-and-5 player may be disputable—he was briefly claimed on waivers by the Oakland A's following the 2010 season, but was subsequently released, signed again with the Blue Jays, and therefore technically won't reach five consecutive years with his rights belonging to the Jays until the coming offseason. The experts I consulted, however, interpreted the "last five of which have been with one Club" portion of the rule to be based on consecutive service days, his string of which remained intact when he re-signed with Toronto.
In a few short weeks, then, the conversation can finally, mercifully move on. Fans will have no choice but to accept that the Blue Jays, by allowing their stars to reach this status, are not as interested—and were maybe never as interested—as they are in running the team's best players out of town or trading them for a bounty of prospects out of fear that they won't be able to sign them to contract extensions.
They might still be able to work out a trade that one of the pair will consent to, of course, but with the leverage the players hold over them, and with the team certain to stay in "win-now" mode in 2016, we can all consider the talk of trading Bautista or Encarnacion all but moot. The Blue Jays didn't sign a 32-year-old star catcher long-term just so they could punt on the second year of his deal, plus the club will still have Bautista, Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, Devon Travis, Jose Reyes, a lot of budget room, and a wealth of young pitching led by Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Drew Hutchison, Daniel Norris, Roberto Osuna, Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro, and others.
Ask the Seattle Mariners how difficult it is to go the other way with it.
In a fascinating article from the Seattle Times back in October 1999, Bob Finnegan and Larry Stone wrote about the club's mess with then-superstar Ken Griffey Jr., who already had earned 10-and-5 rights at age 29, was heading quickly towards free agency, and unwilling to re-sign.
He was also unwilling to be traded to just any team, as he wanted to play closer to his family, and was willing to invoke his collectively-bargained rights in order to not just write his own ticket, but to ensure the nature of the trade was to his benefit.
"Let's say the Mariners work out a trade with another team," Griffey said at the time. "I'd demand to see what players they were giving up. If I thought my new team was giving up too much, I'd say I wouldn't go." Griffey then added, "if they give up too much, it might hurt their chances of being a contender."
The Jays have their own history in this regard, too. Carlos Delgado refused to waive his no-trade clause to go elsewhere in the final two months of his last year in Toronto, and Roy Halladay was awfully particular about which club he'd sign an extension with while the Jays worked out a trade for him. In neither of those cases, however, was the club so poised to be good in the time it still had the players under contract for, nor did it have the public support for a deal that it would have if moving Bautista or Encarnacion, especially the former, in the months before their 10-and-5 rights were enshrined. Had the team actually wanted to.
The club's lack of interest in moving its two current stars, then, would seem rather clear.
So when the subject comes up in the weeks ahead as the trade deadline approaches—which it inevitably will—and even into next winter, my advice is to tune it out. You can bet that, with the right to veto any deal, Bautista and Encarnacion will.