Bottom line? Mariners took stingy path, so Wolf walked
A common perception among fans is that players making millions should be happy just to be in the big leagues.
The case of Randy Wolf illustrates another side of the business — the cold-blooded side, in which clubs occasionally use the rules to try and take advantage of players.
Wolf, 37, agreed to a minor-league deal with the Mariners in February that was worth $1 million if he made the team, and included incentives.
Well, he made the team – the Mariners told the left-hander as much on Monday, deeming him one of their five best starting pitchers while awaiting the returns of injured right-handers Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker and Brandon Maurer.
The M’s, however, attached a condition, telling Wolf they wanted him to sign a 45-day advance consent form.
Wolf, a 13-year veteran, told the team no, then exercised his opt-out clause to become a free agent.
The Mariners wanted Wolf to consent to getting demoted or released within 45 days, which was not part of his original deal.
Wolf, in a telephone interview Tuesday night, told FOX Sports that the Mariners also told him that they would withdraw their request for advance consent if he re-negotiated his contract, and he was not willing to do that, either.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, speaking to reporters in Peoria, Ariz., said the Mariners merely were seeking “a degree of protection,” considering that Wolf missed all of last season while recovering from his second Tommy John surgery.
The Mariners’ attempt to exercise leverage over Wolf was not unusual; teams frequently make such requests of players under minor-league contracts, trying to gain roster flexibility.
But one agent, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the practice has become "much more widespread" in recent years. Advance consents have been permitted under the collective-bargaining agreement since 1997.
Wolf said he acted in good faith in signing his team-friendly, incentive-laden deal, and that the Mariners should have reciprocated in kind.
“I worked my tail off,” Wolf said. “I felt that if I made the team, I made the team.”
The Mariners, according to Wolf, had 24 hours to add him to their roster after he informed them Monday that he would exercise the opt-out clause in his contract.
It was then that the Mariners asked him for advance consent, and Wolf balked.
“It made me feel uncomfortable,” Wolf said. “I had to take a stand and not accept that. I just felt it was wrong. I understand they were within the rules. I just felt it was not good business.”
FOX Sports’ C.J. Nitkowski, a former major-league pitcher, tweeted about a flaw in the Mariners’ logic, invoking Robinson Cano’s contract with the club.
“You give a star FA 2B 10/$240M but are unwilling to guarantee 1 of your 5 best starting pitcher options $1M? No bueno,” Nitkowski said.
A lesser pitcher such as right-hander Blake Beavan or righty Hector Noesi is expected to take Wolf’s spot, leaving the team potentially more vulnerable.
It’s not the ideal approach for a team trying to win – and not one the Mariners’ players are likely to welcome.
“I felt I did everything right in this situation,” Wolf said. “I don’t understand the threat that my deal posed.”