Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod have had a successful first season at the head of the Chicago Cubs’ baseball department. Say what you will about the Cubs approaching 100 losses, the Cubs’ front office has managed to expand it’s scouting department while also adding several pieces that figure to improve the team’s farm system.
The latest success for Epstein came in the form of a seven year, $60 million contract extension that he agreed to with shortstop Starlin Castro. Despite changes in philosophy effecting Castro offensively this season, the 22 year old shortstop is still on the path to an elite status. That is why the terms of Castro’s seven year extension with the Cubs are very team-friendly. The extension could possibly expand to an eighth year with an additional $16 million. But despite some fans suggesting that the Cubs acted too quickly in signing Castro to a long-term deal, this deal certainly will be added to list of successes for Epstein in his first season as the Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations.
One clause that is not included in Castro’s extension is a no trade clause. Meaning, that if Javier Baez is determined to be the better shortstop and the Cubs have no other position to play Castro, then the team could look to trade the 22 year old shortstop. But, even if Baez is indeed the future shortstop of the Cubs, don’t expect Castro to be traded any time soon. Nonetheless, there is significance to the fact that a no trade clause was not included in Castro’s contract.
The previous regime took a fondness to no trade clauses. From the likes of Ryan Dempster–acquired no trade clause through 10-and-5 rights, Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, and Derrek Lee all possessed no trade rights during their time with the Cubs. Whether the clause was acquired through 10-and-5 rights or stated in their contract bares no difference. The fact remains that the Cubs’ front office was handcuffed with those aforementioned players. Before the Cubs traded Lee to the Atlanta Braves in August of 2010, the veteran first baseman rejected a trade to the Los Angeles Angels. Aramis Ramirez never had the opportunity to block a trade, though that is because the Cubs’ front office did not attempt to trade him given his rights. There was always speculation that the Cubs would try to trade Zambrano during his tenure with the Cubs, and there was always a thought of what team would Zambrano approve of. Fortunately for the Cubs, Zambrano approved his trade to the Miami Marlins this past off-season without any controversy. Then there is Dempster and Soriano. There is no need to remind you of the troubles that Dempster’s no trade rights caused the Cubs this past July. After working out a deal with the Atlanta Braves that would have landed the Cubs Randall Delgado, Dempster blocked the trade, and that resulted in the Cubs receiving a significantly less package for Dempster from the Texas Rangers. Meanwhile, Soriano, despite the many attempts by the Cubs to trade him, rejected a trade this season that would have sent him to the San Francisco Giants.
The bottom line is the Cubs’ recent history would show why no trade clauses fail to benefit a team. No player is untouchable. For that reason, no player should have a no trade clause in their contract. That is also the same reason why Major League Baseball should part with the 10-and-5 process. Just because Castro may seems to be close to untouchable status now, that does not mean that once Baez is deemed Major League Ready that the Cubs won’t look to trade their current shortstop. I’m not saying that will be case, just suggesting that a palyer’s status with a team changes season by season if not month by month. For that reason, like Epstein did with Castro, expect the Cubs’ front office to rarely–if ever–offer a no trade clause to a player as part of their contract.