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Why the no-trade clause works against Toronto

A no-trade clause is something awarded to veterans to help them control if or where they are traded later in their careers. Unfortunately it often works against the Blue Jays.

I couldn’t help but chuckle when I came across a tweet from Ken Rosenthal that said that Jay Bruce has the Toronto Blue Jays on his five team, no-trade list. Bruce negotiated that clause into his last free agent contract, and he has the right to keep his current employer from sending him to his least desired locations. In this case it’s a little bit funny to me that he’s included Toronto, only because the Blue Jays have been repeatedly rumoured to be interested in him as a free agent and trade candidate in recent years. I sincerely doubt there would be any interest now, but you never know what could happen.

However, it also got me thinking about the no-trade clause and what it means for the Blue Jays in many cases. Bruce obviously isn’t the only big league veteran with this kind of control, and some players have the ability to say no to any team in the league. However, it’s not uncommon for players to get a list of five or ten teams that can put on their no-trade list, and unfortunately the Blue Jays often appear on them.

Why is that?

Well, unfortunately the Blue Jays have a few things working against them when it comes to players wanting to play in Toronto. To start with, they are the only team in Canada, and the only club that isn’t situated in the United States. Having to spend your time in another country is a bit of an issue for some players, and understandably so. There are also plenty who don’t like the idea of a colder climate, and Toronto can offer that at times, especially early in the year. There are also many misconceptions, but their validity doesn’t matter if it has a real effect on some players.

Secondly, the Blue Jays play in one of the most difficult divisions in baseball, especially because they share the space with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Each are known as perennial contenders on the field, which is a big enough problem, but AL East pitchers also have an additional worry. The Yankees have the ridiculously short porch in right field that turns routine fly balls into home runs, and the Red Sox have the “Green Monster” to play with in left. Neither are terribly appealing to free agent pitchers.

There’s also the whole “turf” thing, both in Toronto and also in Tampa Bay, who the Blue Jays have to play on the regular. Between the Blue Jays’ Rogers Centre and Tropicana Field in Tampa, there a lot of games away from the natural grass. This has been an issue that has come up several times in recent years, and has re-surfaced a bit with recent comments from Josh Donaldson. As I said yesterday, if Donaldson has a bounce back year in Atlanta, the discussion could heat up even more, and veterans are paying attention.

The whole Canadian Dollar argument is moot because the Blue Jays pay in American currency just like everyone else, but there are definitely factors working against the Blue Jays when it comes to the no-trade clause. That said, winning ultimately trumps everything when it comes to luring players to join you, and if the Blue Jays build a strong product from within their own system, the rest of these “factors” could become pretty insignificant to a lot of people.

Next: Blue Jays reportedly shopping Russell Martin

Still, any time I see someone like Jay Bruce include the Blue Jays on their no-trade list, I can’t help but wonder why. Maybe Bruce just got tired of the rumours tying him to Toronto, but in this case I’m willing to bet it was one of the other things I just described. Some they can’t control (geography), but hopefully an eventual change to natural grass, and (more importantly) conquering the division are things that can happen.

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