For the past couple weeks, the only thing that Detroit Tigers fans can talk about is the prospect of trading either Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander this offseason. The club itself hasn’t shied away from that possibility. General manager Al Avila has even told the media that he will listen on offers for both superstars, which, naturally, sent everyone into a panic. Now that the Houston Astros have expressed some interest in Cabrera, fans are becoming even more apprehensive.
Let’s hold the phone for a moment, though. Because of their long tenure with the Tigers, Cabrera, Verlander, and Victor Martinez are all protected by 10-and-5 rights, an MLB clause that affords veteran players full no-trade protection if they meet two simple criteria: 10 years experience in the major leagues, and at least five consecutive years experience with their current team. Cabrera and Verlander have been with the Tigers for much longer than that, while Victor Martinez just reached the five-year benchmark in 2016.
Here’s the full definition of the 10-and-5 rights rule from MLB.com:
Players who have accrued 10 years of Major League service time and spent the past five consecutive years with the same team are awarded 10-and-5 rights. Under these circumstances, a player can veto any trade scenario that is proposed. In essence, 10-and-5 rights function as a full no-trade clause.
This adds a major wrinkle to any trade involving those three stars. Many teams will already be reluctant to add their big contracts onto the payroll, and that pool becomes even shallower if the player in question does not want to be traded.
It’s not uncommon to see a player exercise his veto power over a trade. Former Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy infamously vetoed a trade to the Cleveland Indians last July, presumably because the Tribe would not guarantee that he would be their starting catcher in 2017, Lucroy’s final season before free agency.
Others have held out for certain contract demands, such as guaranteeing option years on the back end of their contracts. Both Verlander and Cabrera have vesting options at the end of their deals, which could make an already lucrative contract even more difficult for another team to accept. Cabrera, in particular, has two $30 million vesting options that would push his remaining contract to a staggering nine years and $272 million owed. Verlander’s vesting option is “only” $22 million, but would increase his contract’s value to four years and $106 million owed.
It’s still possible to trade players with 10-and-5 rights — second baseman Chase Utley waived his when he was dealt to Los Angeles in 2015 — but it does add a wrinkle that is not present in many other instances. In the Tigers’ case, it makes their fans’ worst fears that much more unlikely this offseason.