Zimmerman Forever

Just a quick note about the greatest Zimmerman-related news in Washington ever: the Nats signed the Face of the Franchise to a six-year, $100 million extension today. I am beside myself with joy.

I’d been a bit of a prophet of doom on Twitter about the Zim extension talks. I can’t help it. I am inclined to doubt any contract negotiation rumors until the ink is really dry on a player’s signature.

The most intriguing thing about the whole drama was the question of whether or not Zim was going to get a No-Trade Clause effective immediately. Zim was going to be able to veto any trade after 2015 (the 10/5 rule), and the Nationals were willing to give Zim no-trade clause protection beginning in 2014. There matters stood, and there the talks seemed destined to break down–until the two sides reached a creative solution.

I’m surprised, for instance, that nobody has made much out of this tweet from Nats insiderMark Zuckerman:

Just to be clear about no no-trade until ’14: If somehow Nats dealt Zim before then, new contract contains significant financial escalators.

Significant financial escalators. To me, that reads like a poison pill provision. In essence, if the Nats attempted to trade Zim, Zim’s price would rise instantly.

That strikes me as a particularly creative and interesting way of solving the problem. Zimmerman was willing to give up a lot in terms of market value in exchange for security and stability with the Nats. The Nats could technically still trade Zimmerman before 2014–but the the true price for Zimmerman on the trade market would not be Zim’s current contract price (which reflects a “home-town discount’). Instead, Zimmerman’s price on the trade market would presumably be closer to his free-agent salary level: high enough to deter all but the highest-payroll clubs from even inquiring.

I’m familiar with poison-pill provisions from a corporate mergers & acquisitions point of view, but this is the first time I’ve heard of such a provision being used in the context of baseball player contract negotiations. If anyone knows anything about similar arrangements, drop me a line in the comments–I’m fascinated by the concept.