Mike Trout to the Phillies?!

January 6, 2017

And now that I have your attention …

Mike Trout will undoubtedly be the most sought-after free agent in baseball when he becomes a free agent in 2020. But an obscure loophole in California labor law could let him out of his rookie contract sooner.

Section 2855 of the California Labor Code mandates that no employer may hold its employees to an employment contract for more than seven (7) years. This presents an interesting intersection – and conflict – with the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA – a federal law – governs Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement. The sticking point is whether baseball players are considered to be governed by the CBA during their minor league years. They aren’t, but that might only work in players’ favor if they were to attempt to gain early free agency via this piece of California law.

What does this mean, practically, for both Mike Trout and for Phillies fans? Well, we know that Mike Trout and Carson Wentz are real tight homies. Wentz has been trying to sell Trout on coming to the Phillies. It wouldn’t be a hard sell for Wentz: Trout has some nice Eagles season tickets; has gotten at least one game ball from Wentz; and went hunting with Wentz in South Jersey in December. Plus Trout is from Millville, NJ and is a life-long Eagles and Phillies fan.

The practical issue for Trout, however, would mostly be that labor lawsuits take time, especially when the NLRA is involved. I’m not a California attorney – I’m licensed in Pennsylvania only – but if the procedure is anything like it is in PA, there is extensive state Labor Relations Board litigation prior to any recourse from the state or federal courts. Even if he started now, Trout would probably reach free agency the old-fashioned way before he’d win a lawsuit.

Deadspin has more on this interesting quirk of CA labor law and how Mike Trout – and the Phillies – might benefit from it.