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Trade (sports)

In professional sports, a trade is a sports league transaction involving an exchange of players' contracts or draft picks between sports clubs. Cash is another commodity that may be packaged together with contracts or draft picks to complete a trade. Typically, trades are completed between two clubs, but there are instances where trades are consummated between three or more clubs.

Trade bait

"Trade bait" refers to a player on a team used to entice another team into making a trade with them. Occasionally, it just refers to a player that is traded often or any player that is traded at all.[citation needed] For example, John Wockenfuss was used as trade bait in 1984, when the Detroit Tigers sent him along with Glenn Wilson to the Philadelphia Phillies for Willie Hernández and Dave Bergman.

No-trade clause

A no-trade clause is an amendment to a contract, usually relevant in American professional sports, wherein a player may not be traded to another club. Sometimes this clause is implemented by the club itself, but the vast majority are requested by the athlete and his sports agent. In many cases, these no-trade clauses are limited, where a club may be limited to trading the athlete only at certain times, or only to a certain team or geographical area.

No-trade clauses are found in most sports in the United States, including Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, and some minor leagues around the country. Many European leagues, mostly professional soccer and basketball, also implement these contract amendments.

Each league usually has its own rules regarding these clauses; for example in the NBA, no-trade clauses can only be negotiated into contracts when a player has at least four years of service for the team he's signing the contract with and at least eight years total in the NBA.[1] Other leagues have other varying rules, for example in MLB the "Ten and Five" rule gives mostly every player limited control on his tradability once he meets the ten and five criteria, which means the player has played in the league ten seasons and with the current team for at least five. In the NHL, these rights have been blamed for the lack of trades that have been pulled off in recent years, with critics citing examples where "done deals" were blown up by "selfish players."[2]

Waiver of no-trade clause

Often the no-trade clause is waived by the players themselves, usually in order to play for a contending team.


In one dramatic case in 2001, Tampa Bay Devil Rays first baseman Fred McGriff mulled over waiving his rights for nearly a month before ultimately accepting a deal which sent him to the Chicago Cubs.[3]


In 2007, Kobe Bryant was willing to waive his own rights with the Los Angeles Lakers in order to be dealt to either the Phoenix Suns or the Chicago Bulls, but in this case Bryant's own pickiness as far as where he would like to play limited the Lakers' ability to move him and eventually no trade was made at all.[4]


Darryl Sittler's no-trade clause protected him from being moved, when owner Harold Ballard and manager Punch Imlach wanted to get rid of or reduce Sittler's influence on the team; a few years later Sittler waived the clause when relations between him and Ballard deteriorated. Dany Heatley demanded a trade from the Senators at the end of the 2008–09 season, and a deal was in place to send Heatley to the Edmonton Oilers on June 30 but Heatley refused to waive his no-trade clause (the Oilers had missed the playoffs for 3 straight seasons), so he was traded to the San Jose Sharks instead.[2]Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets demanded a trade during the 2011-12 NHL season but the deal could not be completed due to Scott Howson's high asking price from the teams Nash waived his clause to which was the Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks, or the Philadelphia Flyers. The holdout lasted into the summer of 2012 where he was traded for : Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon, Artem Anisimov, and the Rangers first round pick in the 2013 draft.

In an unusual case, Mats Sundin refused to waive his no-trade clause during the latter part of the 2007-08 season, even though his Toronto Maple Leafs were on track to miss the playoffs and his contract was set to expire after the season concluded. Leafs management requested that Sundin waive his no-trade clause in order for the team to rebuild by acquiring potential young talent and/or draft picks, and Sundin was coveted by several teams looking to bolster their roster for the playoffs before the trade deadline. Sundin said he did not believe in being a "rental player" and that if he won the Stanley Cup, he wanted to do it over the course of a whole season.[5]

Trade deadline

A trade deadline (or trading deadline) is a rule regulating the trading of professional players' contracts between clubs. In Major League Baseball and the National Football League, players acquired through trade after the trade deadline are ineligible for postseason play in that season, unless the respective league allows them to replace an injured player on the roster. In the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, post-deadline trades are not allowed. This term is used mainly in North America. In the approach to the deadline, there is heightened activity and interest in trades.

The purpose of a trade deadline is to keep competitive balance near the end of the season, and to prevent poorly performing teams to acquire well talented players to help offset their poor seasonal performance near the postseason.


The Major League Baseball (MLB) non-waiver deadline is July 31. After the All-Star break, teams will determine whether or not they are in position to contend for the post-season. Because of free agency and the lack of a salary cap in baseball, players in the final year of their contract are often put on the "trading block" by many of the non-playoff contending teams. Smaller market teams will not — or cannot afford to — pay their better veteran players high salaries, so they will attempt to trade them to a post-season contender, in exchange for some minor-league prospects or other players who might be able to help them in the future.

The MLB waiver deadline is August 31. There is much less activity between July 31 and August 31 because players must clear waivers.[6] Players may be acquired after the August 31 deadline; however, while they can contribute to a team's push for the playoffs, they are ineligible for postseason play.

The trade deadline was instituted by MLB in response to various attempts by two New York City-based ballclubs, the Giants and Yankees, to use its financial advantages to tilt its respective leagues' competitive balance in their favor from 1917 through 1922. In the Yankees' case, most of its dealings were with the Boston Red Sox. The American League (AL) established MLB's first-ever such rule in 1920 as an indirect result of the Red Sox's sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees. It prohibited the trading and selling of ballplayers between August 1 and the conclusion of the World Series. A uniform rule serving both major leagues, which was adopted prior to the 1923 season, set the deadline at June 15. The date, chosen by MLB Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis based on a suggestion from Pittsburgh Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss, remained in effect through the 1985 season.[7] The rule in its current form originated with the 1986 Basic Agreement which resulted from the resolution of the 1985 MLB strike.[8]


The National Basketball Association's deadline falls on the 16th Thursday of the season (usually in February) at 3pm Eastern Time.[9][10] Although due to the shortened 2011-2012 season caused by a lockout the NBA Trade Deadline was on March 15, 2012.[11] In the NBA, post-deadline trades are forbidden.[12]


The National Football League's deadline is the Tuesday following the eighth week (formerly sixth) of the regular season, which typically falls in mid-October. However, this was changed for the 2012 NFL season, with the deadline being moved ahead two weeks in hopes of more trade activity at the deadline.

Usually, there is fairly little activity on this day and almost no star players are ever dealt to other clubs on the sixth week of the season. The early deadline, along with players having to learn a whole new system on the fly, along with the salary cap often makes it difficult to make blockbuster trades on this day, unlike most other sports. Like in MLB, post-deadline trades are allowed in the NFL, but only via waivers.


The National Hockey League's trade deadline is typically the last Monday of February (or the first Wednesday in March in seasons that correspond with the Winter Olympics). Much like Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, the NHL's trade deadline is often a period of increased player movement, especially between teams who are out of playoff contention and teams who are seeking to improve their chances in the postseason. Like in the NBA, post-deadline trades are forbidden in the NHL.

Association football

Main article: Transfer window

Association football clubs have two transfer windows per season. In most countries, one falls during the middle of the season and the other runs during the period between seasons, generally called the "close season" in Europe and "off-season" in North America. For those countries with seasons starting in August/September such as most European countries, the midseason transfer window usually falls in January, and the other one opens from June to September. In countries with seasons that operate entirely within a calendar year, like the leagues in Latin America or Northern Europe, the midseason transfer window opens in July/August, while the other starts from March to April. The difference between a transfer window and a trade deadline is that players cannot be bought or sold outside these transfer window periods. The notion of transfer windows was initially introduced in Europe, and subsequently adopted by FIFA. Like North America's trade deadline, there is greatly increased activity and interest as the close of a transfer window draws near.

See also