Tigers might trade Cespedes ... to keep him?

Ken Rosenthal

Get this: If the Tigers want to re-sign left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, they might be better off trading him than keeping him.

Sounds counter-intuitive. It is counter-intuitive. But if the Tigers keep Cespedes, a unique clause in his contract effectively will close the Tigers'€™ negotiating window with him five days after the World Series is over.

Cespedes had leverage when he signed with a four-year, $36 million contract with the Athletics after leaving Cuba in Feb. 2012. His agent at the time, Adam Katz of the Wasserman Sports Group, used that leverage to gain the right for him to be released at the end of his deal (Cespedes is now represented by Roc Nation).

A team cannot extend a qualifying offer to a released player under the collective-bargaining agreement. Nor can it re-sign him as a free agent until after May 15 of the following year.

In other words, the Tigers hold exclusive negotiating rights with Cespedes only through the five-day window at the end of the World Series. After that, they would be at a disadvantage unless he was willing to sit out until May 15.

If, on the other hand, the Tigers traded Cespedes, they would lose the ability to negotiate with him for the rest of the season and through the exclusive negotiating window. But they would gain equal footing with other clubs in free agency, and could sign Cespedes without losing a draft pick.

Will any of this influence the Tigers'€™ decision on whether to move Cespedes? Perhaps not - the Tigers might not trade anyone, considering that they are only three games back in the wild-card race. Besides, Cespedes is telling friends he wants to re-sign with the club, regardless of the circumstances.

Still, Cespedes'€™ contract adds a fascinating wrinkle to an already complex decision. Normally teams damage their chances of retaining a player by trading him. This time, that is not necessarily the case.