Player Power

It's not often that I take something from the comments and put it on the front page, but I found myself agreeing so strongly with the following "tirade" that got buried in amongst yesterday's Bears talk (guys, you should know better, follow real football - you know, the one in which they use their feet) that I thought I'd give it a little attention...
433--
I just don't get why Hendry has started agreeing to the player option to become a FA mid-contract. All that does is give the player leverage to renegotiate the deal at that point -- if the player CAN become a free agent, he essentially IS a free agent for negotiating purposes. If the player is unable to use the FA opt-out as leverage (because it's unlikely that he would be able to get a better deal elsewhere), that will just mean that he is being paid above market by the Cubs at the time. The thing I dislike most about that option is that it's self-defeating. Here's how. We have to assume that Hendry offers the option as a way to secure a salary that's slightly less attractive to the player in some way (amount, years, structure, etc.) than the player might accept without the option. (If that's not true, then the option wouldn't be offered in the first place.) But if the player agrees to a salary that isn't the absolute best he can get, it just makes it that much more likely that the player will be at a below-market salary when the option kicks in, and consequently able to use the option as renegotiating leverage. So even if the option "works", it backfires. I know that each deal is a unique negotiation and it's likely that Hendry gets something in return for this concession (i.e. it may be the final throw-in in order to get the player comfortable with the dollars offered). But this term really has the potential to blow up in Hendry's face.
It is indeed a trend amongst Hendry's deals of late, and it's one I also don't like. I'm also really not a fan of the more traditional player option at the end of a contract, which can be used to similar ends, and which is the only reason Glendon Rusch has himself a shiny new two-year deal right now. Not that it's a terrible deal in this market - as you probably know, I'm a bit of a Glendon Rusch fan. Still.
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I can see the logic of your argument 433. The only reason I can think of off the top of my head that Hendry would like this clause is that it fits with his negotiating style of offering some degree of trust to the player and not looking at them only as a commodity. This approach of course doesn't make sense when analyzing a single contract (like Aramis'), but if you gain the trust of your players through individual deals (and I'm sure the players talk about their negotiations), then you're giving all your players an incentive to resign with the club and when doing so consider things like leaving Hendry enough money to sign a big free agent when Hendry explains to the player he's on a strict budget. If there is no trust between the negotiators, such an explanation sounds simply like a tactic to weasel some money out of the deal, instead of a mutual feeling of making the club better.

Further, with the player option, if he gets hurt or under-performs, then it's just like a deal over the course of the entire contract without the option. If he over-performs, Hendry will likely want to resign him a year earlier (like he did with Aramis and we propose he does with Lee), and now the player is keenly aware of the trust Hendry put in him since his ability to become a free agent this year was given to him by Hendry in his previous negotiations. And like you said in your above post John, if the player is greedy and spurns the trust Hendry offered to him, then in the long term we probably don't want him on the team anyway.

I know Aramis has the opt-out in his contract, and supposedly Furcal would've had it, but who else has Hendry given this to?

He's also given Kerry Wood an opt-out after 2006, IIRC. For the record, Scott Eyre has a $3.8mm option in 2008.

I was about to comment that the player option (or opt out) is self-defeating in the sense that it essentially is only used by the player to lock-in a salary above what he would otherwise find in the market. In other words, Scott Eyre will only exercise his $3.8mm option in 2008 if he can't find that on the market. Similarly, Aramis Ramirez will not exercise his opt out after 2006 if his $11mm salary in 2007 (and his future salaries beyond that) are above what he can find elsewhere. In this sense, economically speaking, the Cubs can't "win" on player options; their best hope is that if Ramirez is worth more than $11mm next year, that he and the Cubs renegotiate for a market rate salary at that time.

The problem with this thinking is that it overlooks the fact that, in Hendry's opinion, he was signing Ramirez, Wood, and Eyre to *below* market rates through the date of their respective options. Put another way, with respect to Ramirez, Hendry can't "win" in 2007, but he believes he already "won" when he signed him in April 2005.

I would like to hope that the Cubs aren't going into these arrangements blindly -- they should be aware of the fact that the player options can only be used in a way that would make them overpay, but should be considering this the cost of getting some payroll flexibility on the front end . . . or the cost of getting the player to sign in the first place.

John, thanks for the props.

Cubsnerd, it's possible (maybe even likely) that Hendry is banking on the relationship to get him past the player option window in these deals, but I really hope that's not the case. Time clouds one's memory, especially when money is involved and there's a contract that clearly spells out the rights of the parties.

Sadly, this option requires us to hope that the player isn't worth more than his Cubs salary when the option kicks in. That is an upside-down result of a goofy deal term.

I disagree that player trust gets cloudy over time. People remember being treated well and it makes them more willing to work with you than simply for their own interests.

I say this from doing custoemr and billing service for 20+ years. Giving a little now often means keeping more later.

I don't think that trust get's cloudy either, as long as it's properly maintained. But trust has little to do with being paid what one thinks he is worth.

The player FA option wouldn't be included in the first place if the player wasn't expected to be able to use it. Trust and good feelings might make it more likely that the player will stay with the Cubs, but at a renegotiated, higher salary.

I'm just guessing that Hendry thinks that in the vast majority of the cases the over-performing player won't use the free agent option because the Cubs will have an inside track on resigning the player due to the fact he's already a Cub and Hendry has built up a healthy relationship with the player. There might be some cases where this could be problamatic such as in the case that the Cubs have a young stud on the horizon that will be ready as a replacement the year after a player option of a player at the same position. The cubs would want to have the player for only one more year. But it's my guess that Hendry would want to resign him anyway if he thought he could get above market value and use the young stud as a trading chip to aquire a stud at a position of need.

John,

If you want some soccer-talk, how 'bout some musings about how the U.S. got screwed with their World Cup draw this year? Italy, the Czech Republic, and the U.S. are all in the top 11 of the international rankings, and Ghana isn't a team to just dismiss, either. I know a lot of people are saying that the group with the Netherlands and Argentina is the group of death, but that one doesn't have the depth that the Czech-Italy-US group does, and i don't think Argentina and the Netherlands have as much to fear in terms of elimination as the other 3 do...

AND HOW BOUT DEM BEARS?!!?!?

I also think that Hendry knows if the player walks, its the player that looks poor to the public and not the Cubs. Thus, in many ways its a publicity move for the Cubs. They get a "discount" and the player will have to opt out and walk away to get more money if this is something they are considering. The majority of fans will just see a greedy player.

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