No-Trade Clause doesn’t necessarily kill Blue Jays trade for Howie Kendrick


The Toronto Blue Jays are once again in the market for an upgrade at second base, and once again, the Los Angeles Angels are making Howie Kendrick available to teams in an effort to upgrade their pitching staff. With potentially some extra arms to deal from, the Blue Jays understandably have reached out to the Angels (H/T Ben Nicholson-Smith) to discuss possible scenarios involving Kendrick. There’s only one problem.

Howie Kendrick currently has the Blue Jays on his list of four teams in which he can block trades, per the aforementioned Ben Nicholson-Smith.

Of course, that immediately sent fans to run away from any potential discussion of the Blue Jays adding Kendrick via trade this winter. However, it shouldn’t scare them off just yet. While a no-trade clause sounds final, it has proven far from that in past years.

In most cases, they exist in order to provide the player with additional leverage in a situation where they normally would have none. It helps to guarantee that the traded player has some power to dictate his situation, whether it be a role, contract status, or the guaranteeing of team options.

In the case of the 31-year-old Kendrick, there are a couple of routes he could travel.

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Kendrick will turn 32 midway through the 2015 season and stands to be a free agent at the completion of the year. He’s arguably enjoyed a solid run through his prime, averaging .288/.332/.420 with 11 home runs, 67 RBI, 70 runs scored, and an OPS+ of 112 over the last five seasons. Additionally, he’s regarded as an above-average second baseman, with a career UZR/150 of 5.6 and 28 Defensive Runs Saved for his career.

Having come this far, Kendrick would certainly relish the idea of being able to test the free agent market for the first time, especially at a position where players of his caliber are few and far between. With that in mind, he’d probably want to do so as inhibited as possible. It wouldn’t be unheard of for Kendrick to take a similar route to Yoenis Cespedes, and demand that in order to waive his no-trade rights to the four teams above, they need to waive their right to extend him a qualifying offer. That would eliminate having draft pick compensation tied to Kendrick’s free agency.

The other route he could travel is demand that the acquiring team works out a contract extension with Kendrick in exchange for waiving his no-trade rights. While Kendrick does provide an offensive upgrade at a position where offense is hard to find, he will enter the free agent market in 2016 with a field that also includes Daniel Murphy, Chase Utley (vesting option with $2 million buy-out), and Ben Zobrist. He may wish to bypass that field and secure his deal before hitting the open market.

Of course, both routes also play a role in what value the Angels will get in return for him. If he wants to be unencumbered when hitting free agency, he greatly reduces the return package that a team like the Blue Jays will commit. The loss of a potential draft pick, along with whatever trade fodder is sent back to Los Angeles could be too much to get a deal done. Likewise, if a contract extension is negotiated upfront, the Angels will likely want a larger package of players in return, reaping more for more controllable years of Kendrick. So depending on how you look at it, that could have packages ranging from J.A. Happ and a mid-level prospect to Happ, plus a Triple-A arm (Graveman, Nolin, etc.), plus more pieces.

Regardless, the point here is that a no-trade clause doesn’t necessarily take Howie Kendrick off the table for the Toronto Blue Jays, it just means there would be a few more hurdles to jump through in order to get a deal done.

It all comes down to how high Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays are willing to jump in order to get the upgrade they want.