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February 6, 2014

Skewed Left

The Truth About One-Day Contracts

by Zachary Levine


Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (SEO Power Boost!) was even to most baseball fans the most recognizable name taken in baseball’s Rule 5 draft, and by far the most recognizable name taken in the generally ignored minor league phase.

That’s only because the biggest name available was passed over, though.

For $4,000 in the Double-A phase (the one for players not on either the 40-man roster, the Triple-A reserve list, or the Double-A reserve list), you could have had a two-time Cy Young Award winner months removed from active duty and two years removed from being worth five-plus WARP—albeit a broken one. It would have been just as symbolic as the Rangers snagging Wilson from the Rockies to be a motivational speaker, but technically, according to major league sources and a literal reading of a symbolic signing, Roy Halladay was very much available.

The story told is that Halladay signed a one-day contract to retire as a Blue Jay. That’s how BlueJays.com (and pretty much every other outlet) told it, and that’s sensible. It’s the language that’s used across sports and is understood as something purely symbolic, the same as when Hideki Matsui retired a Yankee and when Frank Thomas retired with the White Sox.

What Halladay signed was a somewhat modified form of a plain old contract, which goes for a year. It was a minor league contract, so there would be no need to have space on a 40-man roster. And it came with the understanding that Halladay would voluntarily retire, which he did. But the contract was still out there and unprotected on a reserve list for anybody who wanted to spoil the party for $4,000.

The one-day contract isn’t the only way to bring a retiring player back into the fold, nor does it even always suit its supposed purpose. Michael Young, who retired last week, did so without the formality of a one-day contract and still had his press conference at the ballpark soon to be known as Globe Life. And Halladay signed a ceremonial contract to declare that despite his ending his career with the Phillies, his true allegiance is to the Blue Jays. And then he celebrated by taking a gig guest-coaching spring training with the Phillies.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Examini... (02/06)
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