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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

On Marwin Gonzalez and voiding contracts

Let’s start with this prerequisite: the Twins can’t sue Marwin for anything. That’s because of something called labor law preemption, which is to say that the Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLB and the MLBPA provides the exclusive remedy for a team looking to get out from under a contract.

We’ve seen how this plays out with Yoenis Cespedes and Jacoby Ellsbury recently. The Mets didn’t want to pay Cespedes because of an incident involving a wild boar, and the Yankees didn’t want to pay Ellsbury because he received treatment from a purportedly unapproved doctor. So if the Twins wanted to get out from under Marwin’s contract, it would probably play out something like that; they’d refuse to pay him, and Marwin would file a grievance. Alternatively, the Twins could file a grievance against Gonzalez.

There are a couple of wrinkles, though. Marwin played half of his contract already, so the Twins can’t ask back for the money they already paid him for games he already played. Plus, he played pretty well, and the Twins won 103 games, so it’s hard to say that the team was harmed. So let’s assume that the team just seeks to void the second year of Marwin’s contract because of the cheating scandal. Maybe the Twins decide they just don’t want a cheater on their team.

Major League Baseball contracts are fully guaranteed, meaning that barring a breach or violation of that contract, the player gets the full amount of money in the contract (excepting options, bonuses, and the like). Now, therein is the problem: both Cespedes and Ellsbury had money withheld by the teams because of actions they purportedly took whilst under that contract. The Yankees complained about a doctor that Ellsbury saw while he was a Yankee. The Twins saying that they have a right to not pay Gonzalez because of the cheating scandal is analogous to the Yankees saying they wouldn’t pay Ellsbury because of something he did when he was with the Red Sox.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 26, 2020 at 06:37 PM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sign stealing

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: February 26, 2020 at 10:13 PM (#5926682)
The argument is probably closer to the one that would sometimes be put forward by pundits/fans during the PEDs scandal -- if Team A signed Player 1 because of Player 1's PED-inflated stats with Team B, did that constitute some sort of fraud? If Marwin can only hit while cheating but he didn't inform the Twins of that ... That argument went nowhere then, hard to see how it could go anywhere now. Also not mentioned in the excerpt is Marwin's obvious argument that MLB didn't deem him worthy of punishment (for whatever reason) so on what basis do the Twins make the claim that he is.

Marwin is clearly still capable of playing MLB so the performance clause doesn't come into play. Cespedes was about engaging in risky activities that led to injury. Ellsbury is about supposedly getting unauthorized medical treatment for an injury (which based on what I've read doesn't seem like it would hold up at a grievance hearing). And there's nothing in the UPC that specifies that voiding the entire contract is the appropriate punishment -- it says they may be subject to fines or suspensions (another problem the Yanks have -- they "converted" Ellsbury's contract to non-guaranteed, then released him, actions that aren't anywhere in the UPC or CBA that I can see). None of that seems to apply to Marwin. The case has to be about mis-representation in the negotiation process.

And yes, while Marwin didn't have a great season, he put up 1.6 WAR which was average for his number of PAs and costs only $9 M this year. And, rabbit ball or now, his 2019 slash line was a bit above his 2018 and, further it was only that low due to an early big slump -- after April he put up a solid 285/340/450 line, a 108 OPS+ (also better than 2018). And FWIW, 2019 ZiPS projected him to 1.9 WAR and a 106 OPS+ so his actual performance is well within standard variation (with ZiPS projections fooled by the benefits of Marwin's cheating as well).
   2. bobm Posted: February 26, 2020 at 10:27 PM (#5926684)
These clauses from the MLB Uniform Contract would seem to be relevant here.

Loyalty
3.(a) The Player agrees to perform his services hereunder diligently and faithfully, to keep himself in first-class physical condition and to obey the Club’s training rules, and pledges himself to the American public and to the Club to conform to high standards of personal conduct, fair play and good sportsmanship.


and

By Club
7.(b) The Club may terminate this contract upon written notice to the Player (but only after requesting and obtaining waivers of this contract from all other Major League Clubs) if the Player shall at any time:
(1) fail, refuse or neglect to conform his personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship and good sportsmanship or to keep himself in first-class physical condition or to obey the Club’s training rules; or
(2) fail, in the opinion of the Club’s management, to exhibit sufficient skill or competitive ability to qualify or continue as a member of the Club’s team; or
(3) fail, refuse or neglect to render his services hereunder or in any other manner materially breach this contract.


IMO it is not an issue of "fraud" but rather the Club holding that the Player, in being revealed as a "cheater", is tainted as a player who has failed to conform to standards of fair play and good sportsmanship. It does not really matter that he was a cheater when playing for a different MLB team. This team may think it is bad for business today to be associated with a "cheater." No one signed free agent and alleged roider Barry Bonds for a reason.
   3. Buck Coats Posted: February 26, 2020 at 11:04 PM (#5926688)
yes, that reason was collusion.

and of course it matters if it was for a different team, those clauses don't say that they have in the past had good sportsmanship - they say that they will during the contract have good sportsmanship
   4. DJS Thinks Apples and Oranges are Similar Posted: February 27, 2020 at 02:39 AM (#5926711)
IMO it is not an issue of "fraud" but rather the Club holding that the Player, in being revealed as a "cheater", is tainted as a player who has failed to conform to standards of fair play and good sportsmanship. It does not really matter that he was a cheater when playing for a different MLB team. This team may think it is bad for business today to be associated with a "cheater." No one signed free agent and alleged roider Barry Bonds for a reason

The Twins, if they tried to void the contract, would fail. The Rockies tried to void Denny Neagle's contract for getting arrested for soliciting a prostitute *while* a member of the team and they were so confident in their success that they settled for paying Neagle $18 million instead of $19 million on the eve of the hearing.

Bonds was unsigned; choosing not to sign a player and voiding an existing contract are two very different things. A team voiding Bonds while under contract would be under even shakier grounds than normal here as the CBA explicitly prevents teams from taking their own actions stemming from drug testing violations.
   5. Do Not Touch Fancy Pants Socially Distanced Handle Posted: February 27, 2020 at 08:04 AM (#5926720)
I am surprised the Yankees still seem intent to try and take the Ellsbury thing to arbitration. From everything I have seen, it doesn't seem like they have a leg to stand on. But then, IANAL.
   6. Ron J Posted: February 27, 2020 at 08:24 AM (#5926721)
#5 Risk/reward. I don't see a potential downside for the Yankees and they might win.

Wish I could recall the ruling that in effect stated you can't apply the character clause selectively.
   7. Do Not Touch Fancy Pants Socially Distanced Handle Posted: February 27, 2020 at 10:32 AM (#5926763)
There are downsides, especially for a team like the Yankees, that likes to go after big FAs. If you get a reputation for trying to screw players out of guaranteed money, why would a FA pick your team, if they can get a comparable deal elsewhere? Image and reputation matters a lot, when you are trying to convince players to come and play for your team.
Sure, money talks, and they have the money to probably pay their way past any concerns. But if you end up having to sweeten the pot on a half dozen players, you may well end up losing more than you save, even IF you win. Which they have virtually no chance of doing.

On top of that, Ellsbury is a Boras client. Maintaining a good working relationship with him should also be very important to the Yankees.

If my guess on the probability of success is anywhere close to right, the effect doesn't have to be very large, for this to be a case of shooting yourself in the foot.
   8. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: February 27, 2020 at 02:15 PM (#5926844)
(2) fail, in the opinion of the Club’s management, to exhibit sufficient skill or competitive ability to qualify or continue as a member of the Club’s team


Eh, what? They can void your contract if you suck?
   9. Ron J Posted: February 27, 2020 at 02:22 PM (#5926848)
#8 Tough one to sneak past an arbitrator. Particularly since every team has there own disaster story that they continued to pay.
   10. Joe Bivens, Elderly Northeastern Jew Posted: February 27, 2020 at 02:52 PM (#5926854)
If you get a reputation for trying to screw players out of guaranteed money, why would a FA pick your team, if they can get a comparable deal elsewhere?
Because they're the Yankees, and because no one expects to have the career arc that Ellsbury had. They expect to play, in good faith.

I guess if a FA is injury prone, as Ellsbury was, they may have a concern, but no more so than of any other team.

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