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Consider the case where a player is signed to a contract and the amount he is due far exceeds his value. He no longer has a starting job on his team and would like to be traded, but other teams won't pay his salary and his current team won't cover enough of the cost of his contract to facilitate a trade.

The player is willing to decrease his salary by a certain amount to increase his marketability to other teams.

Is this permitted?

  • Just to be clear, you're essentially asking about MLBPA policy? – jerepierre Mar 6 '15 at 17:40
  • @jerepierre That or any other official rule that would prevent this. I can't think of anything other than MLBPA policy or something in the CBA. – Jer Mar 6 '15 at 18:27
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Possibly yes. I've only ever heard of players being willing to take less. Here is a link to an article showing players from different sports who have taken pay cuts to stay with a team, or to be able to play one more year even if they might not be the player they used to be.

Here is another article from 2005 where Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves offered to take a pay cut so that the Braves would be able to keep Tim Hudson.

He was introduced to Jones, the Braves' highest paid player, who's owed $32 million over the next two seasons and has $15 million vesting clubs options in 2007 and 2008. He could restructure his contract to clear up funds for a Hudson offer.

"Maybe a little rebate so we can sign him," said Jones, the only non-catcher who showed up Wednesday, doing some hitting and pronouncing himself healthy.

"Whatever [it takes]," Jones said. "I'm game. I've made no bones about it - my family loves it here, and I love playing here. I've made sacrifices before, and I'm open to more if it'll help bring guys in or keep them. I want to win."

It is very uncommon that a player, especially one signed to a huge contract would ever take a pay cut to stay with a team, or be able to sign with a team who has a chance to go all the way. It happens quite a bit in basketball, with older players who want to win a ring(reference my first article).

Lester even went so far as to admit that he would take a pay cut in order to stay in Boston and help his team win a consecutive World Series title. His inspiration for being so outwardly willing to take less pay in order to remain on the team he loves comes partly from his teammate Dustin Pedroia, who decided to leave a larger offer to stay with the Red Sox. As much as I dislike this team and their recent success, it enthralls me to hear this kind of talk in the offseason.

Here is another quote from this article that shows Jon Lester's willingness to take a pay cut to stay with the Red Sox, just as Pedroia took a lesser offer from the Sox to stay.

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    Thanks, and the Chipper quote is interesting. However the other examples are about players who took (or talked about taking) less than market value for a contract extension - they weren't talking about renegotiating their existing contract downwards. I have seen comments in message boards that imply that players are not allowed to do this (based on MLBPA rules). Of course the teams would welcome it, but it may be the case that the union doesn't allow it. I skimmed the CBA and didn't find anything... – Jer Mar 5 '15 at 15:39
  • I made edits, because you're right, I don't really provide any proof that it can happen, just players that say they're willing. I will do more research. – New-To-IT Mar 5 '15 at 15:44
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    I think what you'd usually see is a player extend his contract to reduce the year-to-year cost but keep the total value of the contract. – Joe Mar 5 '15 at 17:11
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    @New-To-IT Between wikipedia and Baseball Reference, it's clear he did restructure his contract after 2005; instead of a 16MM 2006 and options for 2007 and 2008 at 15MM, all three years were guaranteed at $12MM. – Joe Mar 5 '15 at 17:17
  • @Joe - do you mean tacking on an extra free (or close to it) year or two at the end in order to reduce the average annual value? I've never heard of this happening. – Jer Mar 6 '15 at 16:57
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It's certainly permitted. Here's a related situation. Suk-min Yoon signed with the Orioles ($5.75M / 3yr) in the 2013-2014 offseason out of Korea. His 2014 season went very poorly at AAA Norfolk [Baseball Reference stats]. Now he would like to return to Korea, and the Orioles would like to save the money on the contract. They are working out a buyout to allow Yoon to return to Korea [NBC Sports].

  • I'm surprised contract stipulations do not allow the Orioles to cut bait easily. In other words, I thought there were ways teams can protect themselves from this if the player doesn't pan out. – user527 Mar 5 '15 at 18:45
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    MLB contracts when not covered by the reserve clause are always fully guaranteed. The only non-guarantee is when there is an option year. As such, yes, the Orioles could just cut him entirely, but they'd still owe him $5.75MM (presumably around $4MM left); if they instead reach a buyout, they might be able to pay him substantially less. – Joe Mar 5 '15 at 19:51
  • I think this may be a bit of a special situation with a foreign player. Also I believe Yoon signed in Korea for more money. The MLBPA wants to be as friendly as possible to foreign players, so preventing a player from getting out of his contract when both he and this team wanted to, AND he could return home for more money doesn't seem to be in anyone's interests. – Jer Mar 6 '15 at 16:52

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