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Navigating Francisco Rodriguez’s No-Trade Clause

When I first heard that Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez was switching agents from Paul Kinzer of Wasserman Media Group to Scott Boras of Boras Corp., I praised Kinzer for a job well done in his representation of the former New York Mets closer.  After all, Kinzer helped Rodriguez negotiate a 3-year, $37 million deal, which included a very impressive $17.5 million for an additional year had Rodriguez closed 55 or more games this season.  But as of late, most people are talking about a mistake Kinzer may have made, which could have negatively affected his former client.

I linked to a HardballTalk article in last week’s Shabbat Shalom: Friday Wrap-Up, which brought up a New York Times report about Kinzer failing to submit Rodriguez’s no-trade list to the Mets prior to his trade to the Milwaukee Brewers.  Rodriguez could have provided a 10-team no-trade list roughly 2.5 years ago, but Sandy Alderson of the Mets stated that the organization never received said list from Major League Baseball and/or the MLBPA.  Further, Rodriguez seemed to be under the impression that the list was effective and that the Brewers were a team on that list.  And apparently, Alderson recently told Kinzer and Arn Tellem of Wasserman Media Group that the Mets never received the no-trade list.  Boras says that Alderson’s message was never relayed to Rodriguez.

Luckily for Rodriguez and Kinzer, the only reason Rodriguez had not wanted to go to the Brewers was because back in 2008, Trevor Hoffman had the closer position on lock.  Unfortunately for Kinzer, even if Rodriguez closes at least 55 games this season, he will not be earning any commission on the closer’s 2012 salary.

Late last week, K-Rod and Boras agreed to turn Rodriguez’s $17.5 million vesting option into a mutual option in exchange for changing K-Rod’s buyout from $3.5 million to $4 million.  It is almost certain that Rodriguez will in fact become a free agent next season at the ripe age of 29 and command a large multi-year deal based on his final numbers from this season and past seasons combined.  Scott Boras will negotiate that contract, which means Kinzer will take no part of it.

But maybe Kinzer should just be thankful that K-Rod ended up on a team that he no longer wanted on his no-trade list and that Boras was able to structure a deal with the Brewers that makes Rodriguez happy.  In a different situation, where K-Rod would have been traded to a team that he wanted on his original no-trade list and continued to want to block from attaining his services, he could have been taken the issue up with the MLBPA by filing a grievance.  David Waldstein of the New York Times thinks that Rodriguez may still argue for damages based on Kinzer’s alleged failure to submit a no-trade clause.  Waldstein states,

It could be argued, and most likely will be, that his rights under his original contract were compromised and he lost something of value.

I happen to believe that after Boras accomplished a re-structuring of Rodriguez’s deal, he will not suggest to his client that a grievance be filed for any damages resulting from Kinzer’s apparent lack of providing the no-trade list to the Mets.  Damages would be particularly hard to prove.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.