DALLAS - The Nationals want left-hander Mark Buehrle and Buehrle has the Nats in his final five. General manager Mike Rizzo believes that it's possible serious talks will accelerate now that Buehrle has established the teams in contention.
In other words, Buehrle has narrowed down his list and seems ready to take the next step. All indications point to the fact that Buehrle wants to come to a decision quickly, allowing him maximum offseason time get ready for spring training with his new team.
But Buehrle wants a no-trade clause and the Nationals don't really like those, though they included one in their deal with outfielder Jayson Werth a year ago. The reticence over no-trade protection is a leftover from the Stan Kasten days as the organization's decision-maker, but there's some logic to the thought that no-trade clauses hamstring a team.
Players love them because it helps them feel settled; they don't have to worry about playing a year in a new city and then being shuffled off to someone else if management changes or the team nosedives. Teams hate them because such terms often hamstring a GM, particularly in the latter stages of a long-term deal. And management dislikes the notion of needing to buy out a player's no-trade protection to facilitate a trade - it's like paying a player twice to make him go away.
Rizzo is playing it coy right now. He told reporters a couple of days ago that he's not really a fan of such clauses, but seems to understand that they create a sticking point that must be overcome for talks to proceed. And I get the sense that he'd hate for the Nats' dislike of including no-trades in contracts would be a stumbling block that cannot be overcome.
"I guess since we've opened that door, we prefer not to," Rizzo said, carefully measuring his words. "They will be a huge part of the negotiation. For the right player and the right fit, you have to be open-minded and flexible enough to at least think about it and talk about it."
Here's the way around no-trade clauses for the kind of multi-year deal Buehrle is seeking and the Nationals appear willing to entertain: Give the player limited no-trade protection.
A player and his representative can designate a list of teams - say five to eight clubs - that he can't be dealt to. Most times, this list includes teams farthest away from a player's home, clubs that are hopelessly rebuilding or teams with which a player has a less-than-pleasant history.
Some agents negotiate a floating list of such teams, increasing or decreasing the number of clubs on the list over the length of the contract. With the 32-year-old Buehrle seeking a deal in the neighborhood of four to five years, this might be a way around the potential roadblock.
Whaddaya think?: What do you think about no-trade clauses? Should the Nationals avoid them or use them sparingly? Is Buehrle worth a full no-trade clause? Would limited no-trade protection for the left-hander help a deal come together more quickly?
Update: According to Jon Heyman, Buehrle is down to three teams. Trying to determine if Nats are still among them.