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Clark: Union could make compensation for executives a bargaining issue after Duquette saga

Clark: Union could make compensation for executives a bargaining issue after Duquette saga
Executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association Tony Clark talks with writers after meeting with San Francisco Giants on his first stop to meet with players from all teams. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

This winter's saga involving executive vice president Dan Duquette's potential trade to the Toronto Blue Jays might prompt changes in how baseball handles transactions involving non-uniformed personnel switching teams for compensation.

Given the Duquette situation and other recent examples of "trading" management types for players, the issue potentially could be brought to the negotiating table when the next collective bargaining agreement is hammered out, Tony Clark, the executive director of baseball's players association told The Baltimore Sun on Thursday.

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"It may very well be," said Clark, who was visiting the Orioles' camp Thursday as part of his annual spring meetings with the players. "It may very well be considering how often it seems to be coming up as a topic of conversation. We definitely will have to sit down and go through it."

Clark said that he and other union officials carefully monitored Duquette's dalliance with the Blue Jays' president/CEO position this winter and spoke to the commissioner's office about what was occurring.

"Obviously the concern that you are referring to, specifically here in Baltimore, is one that we paid a lot of attention to and even had conversation and dialogue with Major League Baseball," Clark said. "But I don't know that there is anything to this point that formally acknowledges where a dividing line would be."

Clark said he does not believe there is any formal language or guidelines that address what would be considered fair compensation – in terms of players – for non-players or how those transactions should be handled. That could change after the sport's collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2016 season.

"There have been any number of transactions that have included players, management, coaches, I think I even remember a commentator being traded from one club to another," Clark said. "It is something that we are watching. It is something that we pay attention to."

It was first reported in December that Duquette was a viable candidate to become the next president/CEO of the Blue Jays – a top decision-making position that is almost nonexistent in baseball circles. In essence, that post is held in Baltimore by club managing partner Peter G. Angelos and his family – team owners normally assume those duties with most MLB franchises.

Initially, Angelos said he expected Duquette to honor his contract with the Orioles, which was extended in 2012 and runs through 2018. But the issue would not go away, Duquette never denied his interest in the position and, ultimately, there were preliminary talks about compensation.

The sense was that if Angelos, a notoriously shrewd negotiator, was going to allow Duquette to leave for a division rival, the Orioles must be compensated handsomely in return – at least two top prospects and maybe more. Names that were bandied about reportedly included 2014 Blue Jays first rounders Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost.

Negotiations never progressed; the Blue Jays had no interest in meeting such a lofty price tag. Duquette remains with the Orioles and current Blue Jays CEO Paul Beeston will stay with that organization through this season. It's possible discussions could emerge between the Blue Jays and Duquette in the future.

Toronto reportedly would have been more inclined to pull the trigger on a deal if the compensation was more in line with similar moves in the past, like when the Chicago Cubs dealt fringe big-league reliever Chris Carpenter to the Boston Red Sox in 2012 for executive Theo Epstein. Also in 2012 the Red Sox sent infielder Mike Aviles to the Blue Jays for manager John Farrell and pitcher David Carpenter.

The Duquette transaction had the potential to be much more impactful. With that in mind, Clark said future situations need to be monitored – and action taken if warranted.

"Some of it may be cosmetic. Some of it is that the premise for a transaction of that type is not player for player," he said. "I think if it was something that resonated beyond the optics, we would have engaged in it a while back, particularly on the heels of it not happening near as often as it appears to be part of the discussion now -- which is why I'm sure we'll sit down and talk through it and see what may make some sense here going forward."

Clark did not want to comment on how the Duquette situation unfolded publicly or how long it took to be resolved.

"We were not privy to all of the conversations and dialogue that happens in between. I don't know how smoothly it could have gone or not," he said. "I don't know why some of the things that were offered publicly were, as opposed to being done behind the scenes to see if common ground could be found. I'm not privy to a lot of that. None of us at the Players Association are."

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A MLB spokesman did not comment, but typically the commissioner's office has stayed away from publicly discussing issues between teams -- or potential issues for future CBA negotiations.

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