What’s to be done about Trea Turner?
You probably read Ken Rosenthal’s story about Trea Turner already. If not, a nutshell … Turner’s a talented young shortstop, drafted last June by the Padres. The Nationals wanted him, and got him in a trade this week. Ah, but there’s a catch: By baseball law, a drafted player can’t be officially traded until a year after he’s signed his first contract. So Turner was a Player to Be Named Later … except everybody’s already named him. Rosenthal:
Does this make any sense?
No, and Turner’s agent, Jeff Berry of CAA, told FOX Sports on Friday night that he "will vigorously pursue all available courses of action to remedy this situation," including a possible grievance in conjunction with the players union.Article continues below ...
Berry said that it was "unconscionable" that Turner must stay with an organization that already has traded him and "has zero concern, motivation or interest in his health, development or performance."
"Trea is one of the top prospects in baseball and on a fast track to the major leagues," Berry said. "In this case, the plan to ‘trust us’ is not enough when it comes to a player’s well-being and career.
"Given the circumstances and the undoubtedly negative impact on Trea Turner, for the teams involved and Major League Baseball to endorse and approve this trade is not only unethical, but also goes against the very spirit of the Minor League Uniform Player Contract that players sign when they first enter professional baseball. That contract requires a player to ‘serve the club diligently and faithfully.’ Shouldn’t the clubs and the controlling parties at Major League Baseball be held to the same standard?"
First, it’s best to think of agents as advocates. Like a criminal-defense attorney. Or the head of a union. Or … well, or an agent. The primary consideration of most agents, and especially agents at a huge agency like CAA, is to extract as much money from management as possible.
Which is why I take everything Jeff Berry says just half-seriously, because he’s saying these things just half-seriously. Does he really believe the Padres will have zero interest in Turner’s health, development or performance"? I don’t know. Maybe he really does. I don’t. I don’t think the Padres want to be the ones who somehow ruined Trea Turner’s career. Yes, it’s a zero-sum game and Turner’s obviously not the apple of A.J. Preller’s eye. But I expect the organization to behave honorably.
Second, I do love the idea that teams should adhere to "the very spirit of the Minor League Baseball Uniform Player Contract." That’s rich, it really is. If these things were about spirit, everything would be done with a handshake.
It’s not like this sort of thing has never happened before. I don’t know what the record is, and maybe this sets the record for the longest a player’s contract is owned by one team while he’s unofficially been traded to another. But other minor leaguers have spent weeks and maybe months after being the unnamed Player to Be Named Later, and I think the number of associated horror stories is small.
Granted, we are talking about roughly four months here. That’s different. What’s also different is that everyone knows. Usually it’s just a few people in the front offices. This time it’s everybody. For four months. Which is going to be make for an uncomfortable situation.
One wonders, though … Does this mean Trea Turner should be sent along on his merry way to the Nationals? Or does it instead mean that the Commissioner should invalidate this part of the transaction?
Look, there’s a reason this rule exists: So teams won’t essentially trade draft picks. Now, you might argue that teams should be allowed to trade draft picks, and I might agree with you. But they’re not allowed to trade draft picks. And if you let a team draft a player, then trade him after he’s played just a couple of months, you’re opening the door, opening it pretty wide, to essentially trading picks.
That’s not what happened here, and perhaps neither team should be penalized. But simply "freeing" Turner might send a message to teams that when it comes to just-drafted players, essentially anything goes. Just leak the name of a PTBNL, and he’s yours right now!
I’m not sure what the right answer is. But I think it’s probably not the obvious one.