Are They Ever Actually Free?

There have been a number of stories in the basketball and baseball worlds recently that got me thinking about contracts thanks to having been a contract website developer for the last 17 years since I started college.

What really got my thoughts on the topic started was the story during spring training that Shohei Ohtani is expected to leave the Los Angeles Angels this winter and be paid upwards for $50+ million per season as a result of being the first true two-way baseball player since Babe Ruth retired in 1935. Of course since then the number keeps going up last I heard he is now expected to make upwards of $70+ million per year once he hits free agency this winter. Also, the MLB trade deadline storylines of guys, including Shohei, potentially being traded as “rental players”.

Another story that caught my attention was the Damian Lillard trade request over the last couple months since NBA Free Agency opened up. Along with the comments him and his agent have made about him not being willing to honor his contract. The second of these stories about Lillard actually caught my attention more than the first because players request to be traded away from the team they are on all the time so that is not really a big deal to me.

Before I get into the sports spin on this it is important for me to note that I have over twenty clients who I work on website design/development projects for regularly… including my fellow writer on this very site Steve Leblang. Two of those clients have worked with me on an on-going basis for over ten years of my career as a contractor; I also have another two clients who I have been working with for over five years on an on going basis. All of my other clients hire me on an as needed basis which could mean we sometimes go up to two years between talking. Another important note is that I have a few clients who pay me a yearly maintenance and support retainer that gives them priority over the clients who just hire me on an as needed basis.

With that in mind let’s get into the business spin on opt-out clauses, no trade clauses, and free agency. I understand why players are able to earn no trade clauses and I totally agree with the concept of them; however, I believe that all pro athletes should be given opt-out clauses on multi-year deals if they have not earned the no trade rights in their respective sport.

Let’s take for example the Cubs Kyle Hendricks.  In the middle of 2024, he will earn 10-5 rights which will give him a full no trade clause automatically– meaning him and his agent would have to approve any trade the Cubs want to make. I am using him as the example because while he is coming off of an injury last season he is also the last man standing (as a player at least) from the 2016 Cubs title run and there is a team option on his current contract meaning he will likely be back in Wrigley to start next season whether he wants to be or not.

That team option should have been mutual, which would allow him to exit stage right after this year if he wants to play for a team that has a higher chance of being in the playoffs next season and winning a ring. The thing is, I believe Cubs GM Jed Hoyer looked at the long term plan back in 2020 when offering Kyle that contract and added the team option because he had decided that come this winter he would make a serious run at Ohtani again after being the second in line behind the Angels back in 2018 when Shohei came over from Japan.

You are probably asking how any of that relates to the Lillard situation in Portland, aren’t you? Well here is the thing: as a contract worker my contracts all have opt-outs on both my end and the clients’. There have been many times over my career where for different reasons my clients opted to not work with me any more. There have also been a few times where I opted not to work with them any more. Using the Lillard comments about not honoring his contract as an example here. This would not even be a discussion if the Trail Blazers had given him a no trade or opt-out clause after each season. Same goes for all other sports, including baseball. If baseball players who have 10-5 rights would just be given an opt-out clause when they sign a multi-year deal these types of conversations would never come up.

As a fan, I realize that what I am suggesting will likely never happen because of the attention that is drawn to things such as “rental players” and in the case of Lillard players who are unhappy with the plans their current team has for being contenders. If a trade does go down at any point in the next six months that sends Damian out of Portland he’d be a rental player before hitting free agency. The marketing revenue alone that will come from the games if he is not traded before the regular season starts is enough for the league to not require teams to give players opt-outs or no trade clauses.

With that… let the rumors continue to swirl about Ohtani and Lillard.

If you cannot play with them, root for them!

Share This Article