MLB CBA rule meant Joe Ryan giving Carlos Santana his No. 41 would cost $225K

Carlos Santana has worn No. 41 throughout his 14 years in the major leagues. He chose the number as a tribute to his former Cleveland teammate, Victor Martinez.

So when Santana signed with the Minnesota Twins in February, pitcher Joe Ryan, who has worn No. 41 since 2022, was willing to give up the number to his new teammate.

One problem, though. As part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, number change requests must be made by July 31 of the previous season. If Santana really wanted No. 41 for the 2024 season, it was going to cost him $225,000.

Phil Miller of the Star-Tribune explains:

That’s the estimated value of all the Twins jerseys, caps, T-shirts and replica uniforms in MLB Licensing’s inventory, and those of the sport’s retail partners, that already have No. 41 on them.

The problem is, all that merchandise has Joe Ryan’s name on it, too, since Ryan, one of the team’s most popular and marketable players, has worn the number for the past two seasons.

Buy those thousands of Joe Ryan souvenirs and make us whole, MLB told Santana, or find a new number. Ryan has to keep wearing the number that’s in the program and on store shelves.

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Exceptions can be made as the CBA details:

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Office of the Commissioner will not deny a request to change a Player’s jersey number even when the requisite notice was not provided if: (a) the Player changed Clubs following the notification deadline; or (b) the Player (or someone on his behalf) purchases the existing finished goods inventory of apparel containing the Player’s jersey number that is held on hand by the then-current authorized apparel licensee(s).

Santana, who is only his sixth team since 2020, said he’s never experienced this situation as the number has been available for him at each stop.

Ryan wore No. 14 in the minor leagues and had to reverse it when he was called up since it belonged to Kent Hrbek and was retired by the Twins in 1995. No. 41 resonated with him since he was a fan of fellow No. 41 wearer and California guy Tom Seaver.

“A veteran guy comes in, he’s got more than a decade in the majors and it’s going to make him super-happy, I can switch numbers for a year or two. I told him that,” Ryan said. “Can’t blame him for second thoughts when he saw the cost, though.”

We see many times across sports one athlete offers money or gifts to a teammate in order to get the number they want. Ryan and Santana had gone down that route before they learned the real price — one they couldn’t negotiate.

Santana instead will have to stick it out this season with No. 30.

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