PHOENIX – As Ryan Dempster said last year: “It’s awesome being the hammer and not the nail.”
Alfonso Soriano had that no-trade power, but moving him to the New York Yankees has been a relatively smooth process, with an announcement expected on Friday. The Cubs pieced the deal together without any last-minute drama or medical snags or Twitter fires.
Team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have made it a policy to not give out no-trade clauses, and Cubs fans have seen enough case studies to understand why. It should be a while before they have to hear about “the list” and geographic preferences again.
“You never know,” Epstein said. “I hope we have players who are here a really long time. And if they’re here a really long time, they’ll eventually earn 10-5 rights. But I don’t begrudge those rights. They’re earned.”
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That’s 10 years in the majors and the last five with the same team. That could be All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro in 2020 – the option year of his $60 million contract – or Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija sometime in 2019.
Last summer, Dempster hedged on the Atlanta Braves when it exploded across social media, tried to engineer a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and wound up with the Texas Rangers, about five minutes before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
Last July, Soriano told the front office to not pursue a trade with the San Francisco Giants, who wound up winning the World Series. Last November, the Cubs tried to ship Carlos Marmol, who had partial no-trade protection, to the Los Angeles Angels before the Dan Haren deal fell apart.
“Players have to play every day of their career up until (that) point,” Epstein said. “They might show up and be called into the office and their entire family has to move somewhere else. So I appreciate what those rights mean and I don’t begrudge them those rights at all. I think they’re well-earned.”
Epstein also recognizes it’s much easier to create a hardline policy while shopping for mid-range free agents and staying out of the bidding wars. When the Cubs feel like they’re one piece away and find the one player they absolutely have to have, it could be time to hand him the hammer of a no-trade clause.