Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is one of the world’s best players if not the best. He just was awarded his second American League MVP award. He is 25 and besides his two MVP awards, he has finished second three times.
Trout signed a contract extension of six years at $144.5 million in 2014 with the Angels, which kept him with the team through the completion of the 2020 season.
Had he not signed the extension, Trout would have been a free agent at the end of the 2017 season.
Now there might be a way Trout could become eligible to be a free agent before the end of the 2020 season.
An obscure provision of a California law – Section 2855 of the California Labor Code – sets a limit for all contracts of personal services, such as employment contracts, to no more than seven years.
In other words, if any individual were to have signed a California employment contract that lasted eight years or more, then after the seventh year that employee could choose to continue with the contract or opt out and look for employment elsewhere.
Although the legislature in California has considered eliminating that protection previously for professional athletes, included players in Major League Baseball, no amendment has passed as of yet.
Therefore, Section 2855 would apply to any baseball player employed by one of the five teams in major league baseball residing in the state of California.
The provision applied to workers who have been bound by a number of contracts of one year such as players in pre- or arbitration-eligible years, so it is not limited to contracts that are long term.
Any player in baseball who has played for one of five teams based in California for the last seven years, in theory could apply for free agency through Section 2855.
That means anyone in 2009 that was signed or drafted like Trout would be eligible.
The same law would apple as well to other players such as Buster Posey and star pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The big question is why there has not been any player to date pursuing this avenue of free agency. One reason is the legal battle in court that would eventually occur that could prove long and costly.
In addition, the California law is so obscure a number of agents might not even be aware of its existence.