Dodgers left fielder Gary Sheffield has demanded that the team trade
him, citing a lack of appreciation by the team. It’s not just any trade
demand: Sheffield has indicated that he wants to be traded to either New
York team of the Atlanta Braves, and that he does not plan to report to
spring training with the Dodgers.
It’s fair to say that the people who write for Baseball Prospectus
tend to be pro-players in the labor/management wranglings. Whether that’s
because it’s the right side of the argument or just as a reaction to the
generally pro-management coverage in the mainstream media is up for debate.
So those of you who have read us for a while may find the following a bit
Gary Sheffield needs to be slapped repeatedly upside the head, preferably
with a blunt object.
This isn’t about respect: it’s a blatant money grab. Sheffield would have
been perfectly happy to stay in Los Angeles if the team had acceded to his
request–with three years remaining on his current deal–for a four-year
contract extension. The Dodgers wisely decided that tying up a DH, even a
very good one, for $15 million a year through age 38 wasn’t a wise move,
and declined. Cue trade demand.
Sheffield is no dummy, either. Just like Roger Clemens did after the
1998 season, Sheffield knows that being traded would activate the rule that
allows a player dealt during a multi-year contract to demand a trade after
the season and, if not placated, become a free agent. The rule is in place
to prevent a player who signs a long-term deal from being sent somewhere he
never intended to be. What Clemens did, what Sheffield is trying to do and
the way in which Ken Griffey exploited his 10-and-5 rights last winter are
all misuses of rights that the players fought long and hard to get for the
To hell with that. Kevin Malone, here’s your press release:
"Mr. Sheffield has a contract that pays him $9.5 million in 2001 to
play baseball, and right now, we’re his employer. We’ll explore trade
options, but since his ill-timed demand and quite specific requirements
have taken away all our trade leverage, it’s unlikely he’ll be dealt.
"We expect him to be in camp next week. Each day he’s not there, we’ll
donate his Murphy money to charity. Just to make the accounting easier,
we’ll make it a thousand dollars a day. If he elects to sit out the season,
we’ll do the same with his salary. Something good will come of this, one
way or another.
"We would like to remind Mr. Sheffield that when we acquired him from
the Marlins, he demanded that we pay him a handsome sum to acquiesce to the
trade. We did so, because we felt the deal made the Dodgers a better team.
We still believe that today, and look forward to seeing him in camp next
Of course, this probably won’t happen. The same aversion to risk that makes
front offices spend money on Ricky Bottalico and Ron Coomer
will keep the Dodgers from pushing the issue. It would be nice to see a
team show the same stomach for a fight with an All-Star that they like to
show when a second-year man comes into camp with no leverage but a great
season behind him and asks for a raise to the league median.
This is one of those rare times when an MLB management team is on the right
side of the argument. Let’s see if the Dodgers take advantage of that fact.
Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Contact him by
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