Baltimore Orioles: Seeing the Devil in the Clause
By C.R. Defuoco
The Baltimore Orioles have a firm stance against the Opt-Out Clause. Is it time other teams follow suit before its too late?
The Baltimore Orioles have had a few criticisms this Off-Season, one of which is their unwillingness to sign ballplayers looking to include an Opt-Out Clause in their contract. Unfortunately, these clauses are becoming increasingly popular, especially in contracts involving high profile players. Zack Greinke is the most recent to have a successful use of this clause, well successful for him not Los Angeles. With his success, I fear it may become even more popular and begin trending into lower tier player signings.
There are a variety of opinions throughout baseball in regards to the use of the Opt-Out clause. My opinion is the same one shared by both the Baltimore Orioles and Rob Manfred. This past December Manfred was quoted as saying “The logic of opt-out clauses for the club escapes me,” as told to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. “You make an 8-yr agreement with a player. He plays well, and he opts out after three. You either pay the player again or you lose him”.
As fans we’re more likely to see the game through the eyes of the players because we romanticize with the All-American baseball dream. Growing up, not many young baseball fans dream of owning or running a professional Baseball team but that doesn’t mean we can’t sympathize with a clubhouse when they’re being taken advantage of.
I stand behind Baltimore’s firm stance against them and hope the new Collective Bargaining Agreement finds a way to subdue their use, although unlikely. With that being said, I would like to start this discussion by briefly describing the details of the Opt-Out so that fans understand what teams are getting themselves into.
The Opt-Out Clause is merely the use of including a loop-hole in a player’s contract that allows them to extract themselves from an existing agreement to take advantage of an inflated market. So in essence, if a team would like to have to renegotiate with, an already overpaid, player in the middle of their commitment and either pay them grossly more or lose them than include the clause.
Some may argue that the benefit for a club is that if, for example Zack Greinke, were to under-perform over the next few years that the Dodgers were lucky to have included the clause because it gave them the out, although in reality that wasn’t under their control. The way I see it, if Los Angeles was concerned with the latter half of Greinkes’ contract they should have either not signed him or signed him to a shorter agreement.
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The very first use of the opt-out clause was by baseball’s very own bad guy Alex Rodriguez. In 2000 he signed a $252 million dollar 10-yr deal. After 7 years Rodriguez opted out of his contract in the middle of the World Series, one of many classless actions to follow the remainder of his career, all with the Yankees. Another 10-yrs and $275 million dollars later, we all have seen how this has worked out.
Most recently it was Zack Greinke to opt-out of his contract with the LA Dodgers. After singing a $147 million dollar contract he chose to opt-out after three years and test the open market for a larger contract after over performing from 2013-2015. It worked out for him as the Arizona Diamondbacks signed Greinke for a 6-yr $206.5 million dollar contract. Good for him and I hope it works out for the Diamondbacks, but I do not respect the use.
My major problem with the opt-out clause is the lack of commitment and respect on the player’s side. A ball-club goes out of their way to sign a large contract, often times thru to the players least productive years based on age, and the player doesn’t chose to commit equally to the club. This also affects the fans, those that pay the bills, by allowing the excitement and fan following to develop and support both the player and the team just to have the rug pulled out from beneath them.
The opt-out clause only benefits the player because if the player under-performs or gets injured, the team doesn’t get the option to opt-out of the players contact. They’re stuck with the bill as the player conveniently goes to the pot and never shows back up to the table. It’s a complete lack of respect for a contract.
As a fan, if Baltimore would have included an opt-out in Chris Davis’ contract, which he didn’t and is a better man than to, and he would have opted out after two or three years, I would be absolutely furious and insulted personally and for the entire Orioles organization who worked so hard to keep him.
Everyone knows the current Collective Bargaining Agreement ends with the completion of the 2016 season. I personally would like to see this issue acknowledged. The most likely scenario is that the use of this clause will only grow and most likely start being used in lower tier players as well. If this becomes the case than we may as well throw contracts and commitments right out the window and let players do whatever they want.
There would never be a player signing ever if ball-clubs were to include an option to release a player from a contract, in similar fashion, if that player were to under-perform or become injured. So why is it alright for a player to do the same thing? Baseball is seeing more money filtering into the game in years and a resurgence in popularity since the strike jeopardized everything. Allowing opt-out clause will challenge the current balance of power between players and teams and most certainly risks a worst case scenario.
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Thankfully the Orioles have shown they won’t do business with a player who would like a chance to opt-out. I hope this continues and other clubs follow suit. The only way to stamp it out is for all teams to get on board and put it to an end before it becomes a virus. As fans, what are your thoughts?