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The Miami Marlins, Jose Reyes, and No-Trade Clauses

Former Miami Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes says that owner Jeffrey Loria told him five days before he was traded that he would never be dealt. Will the Marlins' insistence on no-trade clauses continue to be a thorn in their future free agent talks?

Former Miami Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes says he too was told he would never be traded from the Fish. Now he is wearing a Toronto Blue Jays jersey.
Former Miami Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes says he too was told he would never be traded from the Fish. Now he is wearing a Toronto Blue Jays jersey.
Tom Szczerbowski

When the mega-deal between the Miami Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays occurred, I proposed that the Marlins would have future difficulty getting free agents to come to south Florida because of their prior poor negotiations with players. In particular, I proposed that the team's latest trade broke all trust between the Marlins and free agents when it came to assurances regarding trades. The Marlins apparently made numerous verbal commitments to players about the team's desire to not trade them. Mark Buehrle mentioned that the Marlins "lied [to him] on multiple occasions" regarding not being traded.

Now Jose Reyes has joined the discussion, as he too mentions that the Marlins made verbal promises to him that he would not be dealt.

"Five days before I got traded I was with the owner of the Miami Marlins and he said he was never going to trade me," Reyes recalled.

If you take Reyes for his word (and I do not see a reason not to), it is hard to look at this in retrospect and see it as anything but disingenuous on the part of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. Loria, as we all know, was the one who centered the team's 2012 offseason plan around acquiring Reyes, as the club famously made a trek to Reyes's residence at 12:01 AM on the evening free agency began that offseason. Even throughout the midseason trades, the Marlins seemed like they were ready to move on with Reyes as part of the team's core. So it was quite shocking, not only to Reyes but Marlins fans in general, that he was sent away in the Blue Jays trade.

At the same time, you cannot fault the Marlins for doing what they thought was the best for their organization. If the team really did feel that trading Reyes was the best move for the organization, they had no contractual obligation to not do so. Verbal commitments are not bound in stone, and Marlins players are likely more aware of that now than ever before. The team does not need to keep its word with Reyes or anyone else if it feels it is in its best interests to make a trade.

Nevertheless, we can now officially add Reyes's account along with Buehrle's as signs that the Marlins will have much more difficulty in the future luring players to come play in Miami. Indeed, Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel says that the team is likely to have to include no-trade clauses in future deals if the club wants to get over this latest hurdle.

Like all things, however, no-trade clauses have a monetary value. The idea that the Marlins could simply pay past the value of a no-trade clause is feasible. But aside from the puzzling question of whether the Marlins could ever really spend the money they save on salaries in trades, no-trade clauses likely have different monetary values for different players and teams. There are likely some players who do not value these clauses much, but the long-term free agents that can be used to supplement a young core are just the type of players who would prefer to settle in in one location for five or six years. For those players, no-trade clauses are likely worth more in market value, and given the Marlins' checkered history with players like Buehrle and Reyes, they would likely value the clause even more when dealing with the Fish.

Thus, the Marlins run into the problem I outlined earlier after the trade was made. In order for the Marlins to succeed, they would need to supplement their club with talent, but the team may either have to break its team policy or be forced to pay such inefficient costs that, if anything goes wrong with the future Marlins, the club would be set back a significant amount or be forced to undergo this fire sale process once again. Their continual betrayal of trust of the players is causing a problem in negotiating with free agents, forcing the team to make bad signings or no signings at all, and that could hinder whatever competitive edge the team has gained in this trade over the next three to five years.