Miami Marlins team president David Samson spoke with MLB Network Radio's Inside Pitch crew, Jim Bowden and Casey Stern, regarding the Marlins' pursuit in signing Giancarlo Stanton to a long-term extension among other topics. Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel has the transcript on one important factor in that interview: Samson's opinion on no-trade clauses.
"I would not re-look at that," Samson said. "I still report to an owner, but were it up to me I would not give a no-trade clause. It just hampers you too much and you don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t think we’re having any problem signing free agents because of what happened in 2012. If we offer more years or more money, people will come to play and frankly a tie will go to Miami for many of the players. It’s such a great ballpark and a great place to live.
"The problem with no-trade clauses, they never are to the benefit of the team, ever, and they don’t make much sense to me."
Samson's belief is that no-trade clauses never benefit the team. But for the Marlins, it is likely that a no-trade clause holds more value than from any other team in baseball.
Samson is wrong to believe that no-trade clauses are never to the team's benefit, because they do hold some monetary value. If Samson truly believes that teams can offer more money to a free agent to get players to sign, it simply means that an opposing team that offered a no-trade clause needled the salary discussion up a certain dollar amount. In other words, the no-trade clause was worth something, enough for another team to have to bid more to outdo it. Offering a player a no-trade clause is like offering a player bonuses; they have some value in the contract, and the value depends on the player and the team involved. Just like an MVP bonus to a player like Juan Pierre means a lot less than to a player like Robinson Cano, so too do no-trade clauses from different teams,
And from the Marlins, it probably means to the most to would-be free agents. Samson would be a fool to believe that the November 2012 fire sale trade that sent two of the team's three major free agent signings off to the Toronto Blue Jays would not affect future negotiations. Players considering coming to Miami for significant money and years would likely expect more dollars for their deals simply because of the high risk of a trade. Jeffrey Loria and company have proven that the team holds no gripes about sending players off despite recently-signed multi-year contracts, so franchise players like Cano would probably want more money for their lack of stability.
The team could offer a no-trade clause, and in many cases for top-end free agents, I would not be surprised if they had to. For a player who is looking to settle himself and his family for the long haul, Miami is not the premiere location. How can Samson say that the park is a "great place to live" when there is nary a guarantee that the player will be living there the following year?
Samson says an interesting quote later in the piece.
"We look at the Cardinals who didn’t re-sign Albert Pujols and they just won the pennant," Samson said. "You really have to think about your team, your payroll. You have to think about how it’s going to work going forward and what percentage of your payroll will one player have or who you want to sign because there are always more players.
This is a short-sighted view. Prior to Stanton, the Marlins had failed to develop a number of homegrown talents. The Cardinals had the luxury of letting Pujols go after one down season, but does Miami have that luxury? Given that the team has failed to retain stars in the past, it figures that the Marlins would be more proactive about trying to retain one of their homegrown superstars. This is especially true when it comes to pre-free agency extensions, as they run significantly cheaper than free agent contracts.
But in extensions, no-trade clauses may not entirely be necessary. Players signing their first major extension may not receive a no-trade simply because they lack the strong negotiating leverage. The Marlins are dangling guaranteed money at Stanton, for example, with the alternative that he waits three more years to become a free agent. Miami knows that it can continue to offer (increasing amounts of) guaranteed money with no competition for some time. Cano, on the other hand, can freely negotiate with everyone and can prioritize his needs more easily, thus forcing teams to give into some of his demands.
Should the Marlins give Stanton a no-trade clause? The specific case of Miami indicates that they should at least consider it. But the Fish do not yet know exactly what they have in Stanton, and it is possible he may not want to sign at all, clause or otherwise. But the future of this franchise, particularly in supplementing its own star players with outside talent, will likely require a no-trade clause.