Many have been distracted by the juggernaut contracts being dished out like nothing this offseason, without noticing a key component in many of them. The opt-out is a strategic way for the player to optimize and collect as much money as they can, without risking their long-term security. We’ve seen a bunch handed out recently – Price, after three years. Cueto, after two years. Jason Heyward even has multiple options during his eight year contract!
As a player, opting out seems completely tilted towards your favor. You have the option to back out of a deal – something you will only do if you can grab a better offer on the open market. If not, you’re guaranteed security with the deal you’re in. Requesting an opt-out clause may cost a couple of bucks, but it may very well be worth it.
If it seems so lopsided, why would a team consider it? Surely there has to be a positive for them?
Well, first, when a player such as 26-year old Jason Heyward hits the open market, there is a chance near-zero that he would take a one-or-two year deal. If he were to have two offers on the table – 1/$30M or 6/$150M – I can almost guarantee he would take the longer deal. Why? The answer is simple. Security. When an opt-out clause is included, the player gains security and the option to maximize his value! It’s a win-win situation for the player.
By including an option in a contract, the team has a chance to sign the player to a theoretical “two-year” contract. And if they front-load the deal, chances are that a Heyward/Price caliber player will opt-out, effectively signing for the two years you want him for.
Also – as I pointed out before, the opt-out is valuable for a player. When offered the clause, the player is willing to take less money to have it included! So, the team saves money there too.
Going through the normal aging curve, players tend to get worse as they get older and closer to the end of their free-agent contract years. The risk of signing a player to a six, seven, or even eight year deal, is if the player’s performance tanks towards the end. When they accept the opt-out, you’ve received the prime years without the risk of the performance downfall!
On top of all of that, when they opt-out, the team has the chance to receive draft-pick compensation, assuming the player opted-out due to positive value.
Dave Cameron said in an online chat, “The benefit to the team; they lower their total costs if the deal goes badly. They give up some upside to get a smaller penalty if the deal goes south” (Fangraphs).
I’m not saying the clause is an automatic win for the team – not at all. The commissioner of baseball, Rob Manfred, is completely against the deal from a teams standpoint. He was quoted saying, “The logic of opt-out clauses for the club escapes me” (Fox Sports).But it isn’t a clear win for the player. There are many reasons for the team that people don’t understand or think about. Point is, there are definitely cases that are a win-win, for both the player, and the team.
Spark Sports Analyst