The MLBPA has fought hard to secure and maintain guaranteed contracts across the board for its players. At the same time, teams are looking to reduce their risk in deals and some have taken to adding guarantee language to contracts, which could theoretically void the contract if a player is in violation of conditions in the clause. It's an issue that has yet to blow up, but it was of enough concern to the MLBPA that they discussed it at length in a New York City summit last year, sources tell Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
At the time, the Cubs, Yankees, and Nationals were among the teams that were putting additional language into their contracts to help protect them against certain off-the-field occurrences. That doesn't sit well with the union as they would argue that punishment for harmful behaviors is already covered under the collective bargaining agreement. Ultimately, the union was worried that teams could look to 86 contracts over things like PED use and misrepresentation of age. While this hasn't really been an issue yet, sources assure Passan that the Yankees have discussed turning to guarantee language to go after Alex Rodriguez.
In total, Passan counts four instances of teams attempting to use guarantee language to convert a deal from guaranteed to non-guaranteed in an effort to ostensibly void a deal. Three of those cases were settled for close to 90 cents on the dollar owed, sources said, before an arbitrator could rule on any grievance. The other case was when the Padres tried to void LaMarr Hoyt's deal entirely when he was caught smuggling drugs across the Mexican border, but they were unsuccessful.
Passan's article includes a look at the list of prohibited activities under the Cubs' standard guarantee language. The list is comically lengthy and covers everything ranging from hot air ballooning to bobsledding to participation in a show like the Battle Of The Network Stars, just in case that gets a reboot. However, agents have asked the Cubs to back off of that language and they have agreed. The bigger concern for the union is that the Cubs contract calls for a conversion in the event of things such as attempted suicide, contraction of HIV, criminal acts, and PED use. The MLBPA believed teams were broadening the conversion clause to potentially punish PED users beyond the discipline called for in the joint drug agreement.
While there is obviously some disagreement between the two sides on this issue, both tend to agree that truly standard guarantee language would go a long way toward fixing the issue. That was an idea that was brought up during the last CBA talks, but was too far down the priority list and wasn't addressed. That's something that could change ahead of 2016 when the league will have a new JDA. At that point, PED penalties will likely increase and the incentive to go after users will be even greater.