There is a rather remarkable article on FanGraphs today – not purveyors of clicking baits – that lays out an obscure-ish California law, Section 2855, that limits all personal service contracts to seven years. This will make it move:
Considering that Trout signed a six-year, $144.5 million contract extension back in 2014 – an agreement that runs through 2020 – this is just an interesting, but hypothetical, thought experiment, right?
Not necessarily. A relatively obscure provision under California law — specifically, Section 2855 of the California Labor Code — limits all personal services contracts (i.e., employment contracts) in the state to a maximum length of seven years. In other words, this means that if an individual were to sign an employment contract in California lasting eight or more years, then at the conclusion of the seventh year the employee would be free to choose to either continue to honor the agreement, or else opt out and seek employment elsewhere.
Trout, of course, is only in year three of his current contract, but as FanGraphs points out, multiple interpretations of the law have decided that the seven-year limit extends over multiple contracts. And the DE LA HOYA PRECEDENT goes even further:
The most aggressive interpretation of Section 2855 would go even further, however. At least one California court – in a case involving boxer Oscar De La Hoya – has held that employees may opt-out of a contract under California law even in the middle of a voluntarily signed contract extension.
In other words, under this interpretation of the provision, Section 2855 would allow a player to opt-out of a contract after year four of a six-year contract extension, so long as he has been employed by the team for a total of seven or more years. Because of this precedent, some California companies require their employees to spend at least one day “unemployed” – i.e., not under contract with the company – every seven years in order to avoid the application of Section 2855.
This is where we return to Mike Trout. Trout was drafted and signed by the Angels in 2009. The 2016 season thus marked his seventh full season in the Angels organization. Even though Trout signed a six-year extension in 2014, under the De La Hoya precedent he could now potentially elect to opt-out of his contract at any time. As could Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, or any other player who has been in a California team’s organization for seven or more years and has signed an intervening contract extension.
Why hasn’t anyone done this? Well, for starters, it would apply to very few players, and any player willing to test the law would likely have to deal with the full force of the team and league fighting the decision, because it would have a substantial impact on free agency rules. Currently, a player has to accrue six years of Major League service before becoming a free agent, but the California law would apply to his time in the minors as well. FanGraphs imagines a scenerio where Major League Baseball would have to change its service rules or seek an exemption from the law.
Anyway, the bottom line is that there is legal precedent for Mike Trout to opt out of his contract, like, tomorrow and come home and make #Trentz the most unstoppable duo of friends in sports history. You hire the lawyers, Mike. I’ll print the Section 2855 shirts.
Trust the (legal) process.
H/T to (@rfmchenry1371)