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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Giants’ Samardzija celebrates 10 years in majors with call for service-time reforms

CHICAGO - The Giants held a private celebration for pitcher Jeff Samardzija on Sunday for reaching 10 years of major-league service time, a milestone that guarantees a full big-league pension and stands as a symbol of endurance.

“I got a shark cake, a lot of butt slaps and a lot of attaboys, but when half your team already has 10 years it’s not really that special,” he joked.

Samardzija got serious, too, when asked if he appreciated the union’s role in getting those pensions and other rights, such as a player’s ability to veto any trade once he reaches 10 years, plus five with the same club.

The 34-year-old, who faces his original club at Wrigley Field on Thursday, turned the conversation toward teams using minor-league options and delays in promoting top prospects to limit service time, hold salaries down and delay free agency.

Something to keep in the files, in case there is labor unrest the next time the CBA expires….

 

QLE Posted: August 22, 2019 at 06:22 AM | 39 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: jeff samardzija, service time

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   1. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: August 22, 2019 at 10:39 AM (#5873406)
"These guys are being productive for our team but at the same time only getting 70 to 80 service days a season. It's going to take them till they're 34, 35 or more to get six years, and then 40 to get 10 years. … We need to make sure one option can't be 10 callups or call-downs where we can use them as swing guys who don't accumulate any time."
Somehow tamping down the AAA shuttle would do a bit to limit the endless parade of faceless relievers in MLB, and functionally shorten the pen slightly. So people who care about those things might side with the union there.
   2. JJ1986 Posted: August 22, 2019 at 10:48 AM (#5873410)
Don't options only affect service time if they are for 20 days or more? The Giants seem to have a few pitchers who keep getting optioned, but guys like Dereck Rodriguez and Tyler Beede should get 1 year of service time.
   3. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2019 at 11:04 AM (#5873419)
Pretty obvious fix. You can only demote a player twice in one season. After the 2nd demotion he must stay down. DL stints obviously don't count as demotions.
   4. catomi01 Posted: August 22, 2019 at 11:38 AM (#5873435)
Pretty obvious fix. You can only demote a player twice in one season. After the 2nd demotion he must stay down. DL stints obviously don't count as demotions.


Or count any day on the 40 man roster as service time (or maybe a day on the 40 man, but not on the 25 man or IL counts as a 1/2 day or something?)
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2019 at 11:46 AM (#5873438)
Or count any day on the 40 man roster as service time

That's good too. I'd do both.
   6. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: August 22, 2019 at 11:50 AM (#5873440)
Good for Jeff. Things like this won't change at all without more of the veterans speaking up; it doesn't impact them anymore so most just don't.
   7. GregD Posted: August 22, 2019 at 12:57 PM (#5873468)
I don’t care about demotions but do care about service time manipulation so I like that idea. For pension purposes etc just count 40-man as service time (or a fraction as catomi suggests) and you don’t have to regulate demotions. Any regulation on demotions can run into problems with injuries and it would be silly to see a team spike their pennant chances because of a rule on demotions that has no injury exceptions. Given the potentially huge consequences of a rule against multiple promotions you’d see teams stashing guys in triple A in case they have to have them in the home stretch as an injury replacement. That would actually mean fewer players getting called up when they could help the team and thus hurt both teams and minor league players
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2019 at 01:03 PM (#5873476)
Any regulation on demotions can run into problems with injuries

Injuries aren't a demotion, so I don't see the problem. Players already get MLB service time on the MLB DL.
   9. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: August 22, 2019 at 01:07 PM (#5873479)
What about when they rehab in the minors after an injury?
   10. Zonk Rocks You Like a Sharpiecane Posted: August 22, 2019 at 01:10 PM (#5873480)
Do teams really play games with pension obligations (i.e., the 10 year mark)? I haven't heard any such thing - but maybe they do...

I think the service time thing is really all about arbitration and team control -- and there, I believe the best solution (which I don't expect to ever see) is really a more gordian one. One that is far, far less dependent on big league roster and more dependent on pure time as a professional. Maybe you make some changes for teens vs 20somethings (i.e., INTL/HS draftees vs college draftees) - or, maybe you don't?

Of course - push it too far and you may well end up with the Charlie Finley idea of everybody a FA every year.... something I think the MLBPA would also say "whoah whoah -- no, we're not saying do that!"
   11. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2019 at 01:13 PM (#5873483)
What about when they rehab in the minors after an injury?

I believe they're still officially on the DL during that time.
   12. bunyon Posted: August 22, 2019 at 01:22 PM (#5873488)
They should do something about service time games played with rising stars but this one seems pretty easy to fix: the ten year clock starts with your first day on the 25 man roster. If you see MLB action ten years, or more, later, you get a pension.
   13. Brian C Posted: August 22, 2019 at 01:40 PM (#5873498)
Pretty obvious fix. You can only demote a player twice in one season. After the 2nd demotion he must stay down. DL stints obviously don't count as demotions.

This seems rather unfavorable to the players. If I wanted to limit demotions - and it's not obvious why I should, but for the sake of argument - I'd change it so that after the 2nd demotion, they can't be sent back down again without clearing waivers. Basically, they'd have to be DFA'd, and a team that actually wants them on the 25-man roster would be able to claim them.

But I'm worried that limiting demotions would discourage teams from making call-ups in the first place, and that doesn't sound so good. Better to not worry about demotions and just fix service-time to accrue more fairly. Extending service-time accumulation to the 40-man roster would do nicely, even if guys only get half-time or something when they're not on the 25-man.
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2019 at 01:57 PM (#5873504)
But I'm worried that limiting demotions would discourage teams from making call-ups in the first place, and that doesn't sound so good. Better to not worry about demotions and just fix service-time to accrue more fairly. Extending service-time accumulation to the 40-man roster would do nicely, even if guys only get half-time or something when they're not on the 25-man.

I also want to stop the AAA shuttle giving teams even more RPs to use. I'm fine with the 2nd or 3rd demotion being a DFA. I also support full service time credit for the 40-man.

Basically what I want is for a team to have their best 25 men on the active roster all season (barring injuries). I don't want fugazy DL stints or demotions to expand the effective roster. I don't what players getting screwed on service time manipulations.
   15. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 22, 2019 at 02:12 PM (#5873506)
Besides getting full pension credit for players regularly riding the shuttle between MLB & AAA, the players should push for free agency rules that recognize age, as well as service time. Players who don’t stick in MLB until 27 or later never reach free agency during their prime years, which seems more than a bit unfair.
   16. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: August 22, 2019 at 03:01 PM (#5873523)
What if you assigned service time based on time spent on the 40-man roster, not the 25-man?
   17. spycake Posted: August 22, 2019 at 04:05 PM (#5873561)
They should do something about service time games played with rising stars but this one seems pretty easy to fix: the ten year clock starts with your first day on the 25 man roster. If you see MLB action ten years, or more, later, you get a pension.


The pension isn't a binary thing. Full benefits require 10 years, but a player starts earning some pension benefit at 40 days.

I think Samardzija is expressing a general concern that guys on the AAA shuttle are not accumulating benefits as quickly as their contributions to the team suggest. I don't know the Giants, but my Twins have been very aggressive with their AAA shuttle this year -- calling up a guy, using him for multiple innings, then swapping him for a fresh guy. Some guys might wind up with 40% of a full-timers innings, but only 20% of the service time days.
   18. Brian C Posted: August 22, 2019 at 05:29 PM (#5873598)
What if you assigned service time based on time spent on the 40-man roster, not the 25-man?

What if you were literally the fifth person in this thread to suggest that? But maybe that's the joke.
   19. Walt Davis Posted: August 22, 2019 at 06:42 PM (#5873611)
On "limiting demotions", are we including the original spring 25 vs. 40-man decision a "demotion" for those not on the 25-man?

A similar idea on limiting demotions is that after the second stint in the majors, any subsequent ML stint guarantees the full ML salary for the remainder of the season. (I'm not sure if this is the case under the proposed DFA requirement ... possibly my idea then would just be a compromise.)

I think the "injury" concern expressed wasn't about the concern that an injured player would get sent down (against the rules) but whether there needs to be a loophole allowing a team to call up a player a 3rd time as an injury replacement. It's relatively easy to see this happening to 3rd Cs. Taylor Davis of the Cubs was up for a short while when Caratini got hurt, then (I think) again briefly when Contreras got hurt before Maldonado was acquired, then again when Contreras got hurt again before Lucroy was acquired and presumably will be again when Sept rolls around.

calling up a guy, using him for multiple innings, then swapping him for a fresh guy.

This has been relatively common practice for a while. Some form of it is inevitable given current practice. Back in 7-man bullpen days, teams averaged around 490 relief innings a year; now with 8 man pens, it's at least 560 and has been more like 590-600 the last couple of years. That's 70-75 innings per relief slot. But over the last 3 years (2016-18) combined, only 94 relievers have made it to 70 innings (basically 1 per team) and only another 154 (under 2 per team) have made it to 60. Your top 4 relievers are only gonna cover maybe 250 innings ... that leaves 300-350 innings for the last 4 slots. The whole system falls apart without shuttling guys through those last few slots to pick up, say, 5-6 innings over 10 games then getting sent back.

The Cubs like vet relievers in all 8 slots so possibly they are more stable than most (they have less flexibility in shuttling guys) but so far this year, their "planned" bullpen, including Kimbrel, has (give or take) 297 appearances and 272 IP in 126 games. There's also Tyler Chatwood as long relief/spot start with 24 relief appearances and 40 innings. That is pretty good but has left 103 innings spread across another 13 pitchers and 3 position players. In the Cubs' case that's not so much "by design" as it is legit injury coverage (and some suckitude replacement) -- that penchant for vet relievers all the way down (they even added two new ones at the deadline). Other teams will start the season with a couple of slots pre-assigned to the AAA shuttle then they'll likely need to cover another 1-2 slots due to injury -- although that probably often just means that the most successful of the original shuttle guys become regular relievers.
   20. GregD Posted: August 22, 2019 at 08:52 PM (#5873623)
You could have a taxi squad idea, a 32-man roster where everybody gets service time for the entire year and all the guys with options can shuttle as needed


The injury problem posed by a limit on demotions and promotions is that if a player is out of promotions when the mlb team has an injury at his position you are

1) penalizing the minor league player
2) teaching teams in future to stock their useful minor league players in aaa rather than use up their promotions just in case you get a last minute mlb injury. That also disadvantages the minor league player

The “problem” of minor league relievers on the shuttle is nowhere near the problems posed by the solution
   21. . Posted: August 22, 2019 at 09:00 PM (#5873625)
Or you could do the fairer thing and the thing the other sports (essentially) do, which is to get rid of the idea of "options" and "demotions" and other than maybe a tiny residual taxi squad, say that if a guy can't make your top 25, you have to put him on waivers and give him the opportunity to be a major leaguer with another team if they think he's one.

The fundamental problem is that organizations have way too much control over these guys for way too long. Solutions that don't get at that fundamental problem are lipstick on a pig.
   22. Walt Davis Posted: August 22, 2019 at 11:23 PM (#5873657)
The fundamental problem is that organizations have way too much control over these guys for way too long. Solutions that don't get at that fundamental problem are lipstick on a pig.

Starting the service clock when a guy makes the 40-man is a fairly big step here. Under current rules, players have to be on the 40-man or exposed in the rule 5 draft after 3-4 years in the minors. After 3 years on the 40-man, they are out of options and have to be put on the 25-man or on waivers. The team then gets 6 years of control before FA in the majors. So they can keep a player up to 12-13 years before FA. (maybe longer for the 16-year-olds) Starting the service time clock with the 40-man roster cuts a full 3 years off that potential time. If you keep him on the 40-man for the full three years, you only have 3 years of MLB control left so teams have no strong incentive to do that. The drawback is that teams would be extra reluctant to add a player to the 40-man before they had to which makes it less likely they'd call up some really young guy for a couple of weeks of filling in. I doubt that happens all that much anymore anyway. It might also cut into the cheap vet market -- already disadvantaged against cheap, young talent, teams would have even more incentive to promote the AAAA player if he's gonna burn a year of service time either way.

But sure, getting rid of options (or replacing the 40-man with a substantially smaller 25+taxi roster) are more direct options -- and not one the owners will be all that eager to implement so what do the players give up? The X years or Y age restrictions would be functionally similar but also cleaner and more direct than the 40-man service time idea. I'm not sure there's much advantage to the 40-man idea relative to those others but players on the 40-man are already represented by MLBPA so there's no question about whether they can negotiate these rights.

And of course the other sports don't have minor leagues to speak of. Hockey does kinda but I assume their system is reasonably close to MLB (but I don't follow the sport closely enough to know if this is still true). It's not clear where/when players develop and even less clear how the minor leagues survive without some system that provides team control over players for several years. Not to mention the massive decline in signing bonuses we'd see if teams don't get several years of control.**

** In theory these are just put off until the player is ready for at least the taxi squad but, if nothing else, that will be a much smaller pool of players so there'd be some big winners and a lot of losers.
   23. manchestermets Posted: August 23, 2019 at 04:53 AM (#5873679)
I'd be blunter than any of the suggestions so far. One day on the 25-man roster in any year = 1 year of service time.
   24. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: August 23, 2019 at 10:21 AM (#5873715)
A more modest proposal: add a significant service time bonus for each promotion that occurs after opening day. Something like 45 days, I think. So if you get promoted and spend one day on the 25-man you accrue 46 days of service time. Something like this would reward a player being treated like a yo-yo -- get promoted three times and spend two weeks on the roster each time and you've got a full year of service time. It would also further penalize teams for Kris Bryant-style shenanigans -- rather than keeping him down until April 17, the Cubs would've had to let him work on his defense in Iowa until something like June 1. That's a very real penalty for a contending team. I think the 45 day bonus also wouldn't harm more fungible players -- no one cares about the service time of a AAAA player.

There would have to be an annual cap of 172 days, so a player couldn't earn 1.5 years of service time in a single season. And probably also some sort of carve out for September call-ups of players with fewer than X number of days in the majors, so the "cup of coffee" tradition might survive.

EDIT: Thinking on it, I'd likely strike the "after opening day" part. Promotions at the end of spring training should count to. That might prevent other sorts of shenanigans later in the year.
   25. . Posted: August 23, 2019 at 10:34 AM (#5873722)
And of course the other sports don't have minor leagues to speak of. Hockey does kinda but I assume their system is reasonably close to MLB (but I don't follow the sport closely enough to know if this is still true).


Hockey does have minor leagues, but free agency is more liberalized and early, as is arbitration. Stars and near-stars get really big paydays at 20 and 21. There's a bit of stickiness in the RFA/offer sheet market now, but all the guys in it are really young and are eventually going to get *paid*.

As far as development, players can develop in other leagues like they used to in baseball and as they do in soccer. Or in MLB affiliates, but only if MLB pays them fair market, non-draft-monopsony value early on, as soccer teams have to do.
   26. flournoy Posted: August 23, 2019 at 10:45 AM (#5873731)
A lot of interesting suggestions here. Probably all of them would involve a lot of unintended consequences, I suspect.

Regarding a taxi squad, is there any doubt that teams would just designate their starting pitchers as the taxi squad, and replace them on the "real" roster with more relievers? Maybe that's an okay result, but I don't think it's the intent.
   27. Bote Man Posted: August 23, 2019 at 11:03 AM (#5873739)
BREAKING: Teams game the system that was designed to prevent them from gaming the system. Film at 11.
   28. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: August 28, 2019 at 08:24 AM (#5874994)
#23 would be my opening position as the union if I thought it wouldn't badly sour negotiations. Not one I'd hold to for long, but I'd definitely want to start from there.
   29. Rally Posted: August 28, 2019 at 09:53 AM (#5875003)
Off topic a bit, here's an OOTP service time situation.

A friend has a player with 4 years, 150 or so days of service and asked to send him down to AAA. A starting pitcher with an ERA around 3.20, so very good. Player is right on track to finish season with 5 years service, then a free agent after next year. He has options, so technically the move is legal.

I denied it as service time manipulation. I give my mangers the call on timing of prospect promotions, but I didn't think there was MLB precedent for doing something like this. In 2009 Brewers demoted JJ Hardy at a similar service time point, and it ended up delaying his free agency by a year, though he was traded twice before he got there. But at least the Brewers could make a case it was performance based, as Hardy had a 75 OPS+ that year (after good years in 2007-2008).

My friend claimed he was not trying to manipulate service time, but wanted to shut the pitcher down since his team was out of the race and he feared the guy pitching into a 12 month injury if he pitched meaningless August and September games (not an unreasonable fear, as a big reason his team is out of it is pitcher elbow injuries). Of course you can get injured in OOTP in the minors as well, so I suggested an alternative, shutting the pitcher down with an invented injury.

What's really cool about OOTP is it lets you edit and put in custom injury explanations. The pitcher ended up on the DL with "emotional trauma resulting from drafting Andrew Luck in his fantasy football league". He should be recovered by spring 2020.
   30. base ball chick Posted: August 28, 2019 at 11:33 AM (#5875036)
it is more than obvious that the Shark is right about this, and that very few major leaguers actually even get to arb.

some of yall have come up with some ideas but everyone else is throwing poopoo at them. so can anyone actually come UP with an idea that just might could work to stop screwing the guys on the AAA shuttle?

does anyone know exactly what the rule of service time actually IS? i had always thought it was that each day in the ML was a day of service time, but it isn't? so all these guys position player or pitchers on the AAA shuttle like myles straw are NOT really getting service time?

not that 43 days of service gets you much of a pension

one more thing

i know that if a player spends a single day in the majors, he gets health insurance for life. does anyone know if he has to pay for it? in the majors, back in the minors? out of baseball?
   31. . Posted: August 28, 2019 at 11:51 AM (#5875044)
The best thing would be to get rid of the draft and any type of service time requirements altogether, but in US sports that's unfortunately currently unrealistic. In terms of realistic proposals, I'd make age rather than service time the trigger for free agency. You could keep the six years currently in place and make it the earlier of six years or age 26/27. I'd start the negotiation at age 25 and be willing to give a year or two.

Another possibility would be standard entry-level contracts like the other sports have whereby the first three-five years wages are essentially set based on draft position, but then the player is free.
   32. Buck Coats Posted: August 28, 2019 at 01:28 PM (#5875071)
I'd be blunter than any of the suggestions so far. One day on the 25-man roster in any year = 1 year of service time.


This is my proposal too, but I would have an exception for September - you can call guys up for September callups without burning a year.
   33. Rally Posted: August 28, 2019 at 01:39 PM (#5875074)
does anyone know exactly what the rule of service time actually IS? i had always thought it was that each day in the ML was a day of service time, but it isn't? so all these guys position player or pitchers on the AAA shuttle like myles straw are NOT really getting service time?


I'm pretty sure they are getting ML service time for the days spent on the MLB roster. But not for days when they are optioned down. So spend a year up and down the AAA shuttle, and you wind up with maybe half a year of MLB service time.

I'd make age rather than service time the trigger for free agency. You could keep the six years currently in place and make it the earlier of six years or age 26/27.


That's probably a good idea. I've seen proposals about making it age based instead of service, which would eliminate the roster games for a Kris Bryant or Bryce Harper. It's the superstar players who most put the issue into the spotlight when everybody knows they are ready to play at an early age but are kept at AAA for a few weeks for vague reasons. Thing is, those players are exactly the ones who would be hurt by a straight age based rule. Harper hit the free agent market a few weeks after turning 26, far younger than most players are when they finish 6 years of service. And that's with the Nats keeping him in the minors to start 2012.

I don't know how close anyone has ever come to this, but the worst example of keeping a player from getting service time would be if he were a starting pitcher and optioned after every start. You couldn't get 30 starts, 30 days of service out of him because once sent down you have to stay there 10 days. But you could definitely get 15 starts, 15 days, and probably work out 20-25 starts with one day of service each time since the 10 day rule doesn't apply if you replace an injured player.

I don't think anyone has exploited to that extreme, but if I were the PA I'd cover may bases and make sure teams could not do that. A minimum of 5 days service time earned for a regular start, but make sure it's worded in such a way not to include the stat "games started" so that teams can't get around it by using the opener strategy. Something like X minimum days of service time credited for a pitching appearance facing Y number of batters.
   34. flournoy Posted: August 28, 2019 at 01:50 PM (#5875078)
I think a more elegant solution to that would be to limit the number of times a player can be reassigned to the minors during one of his options years. Say three times, for example. Once you send him down the third time, you cannot recall him again that season. (Or at least not until September.)

You could even make the number dependent on the option year. For example, if it's a player's first option year, you can send him down four times, but if it's his last option year, you can only send him down once.
   35. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: August 28, 2019 at 02:08 PM (#5875085)
Increasing the amount of service time players earn is going to cost the owners money, so any proposal that does that also needs to have something to say about what to give owners (or, in the extreme, threaten them with) in order to get the extra service time.
   36. flournoy Posted: August 28, 2019 at 04:09 PM (#5875137)
Increasing the amount of service time players earn is going to cost the owners money


I get why you say that, but you're begging the question. It could just as easily result in more non-tendered contracts and more unsigned fringe players, with those players being replaced on rosters by pre-arbitration players.
   37. GregD Posted: August 28, 2019 at 07:34 PM (#5875174)
Increasing the amount of service time players earn is going to cost the owners money, so any proposal that does that also needs to have something to say about what to give owners (or, in the extreme, threaten them with) in order to get the extra service time.
Given that owners have been capturing larger amounts of revenue without offering to give anything back in return, the players would be crazy to make every proposal revenue neutral. They should be demanding a higher chunk of revenues. This would be pretty minor, and if the owners could buy off votes with stuff like this, they'd be crazy not to do it.
   38. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: August 28, 2019 at 09:38 PM (#5875201)
does anyone know if he has to pay for it? in the majors, back in the minors? out of baseball?


That's a good question. I'd guess they probably are a part of the MLBPA health plan, with whatever the copays and insurance premiums come with it. Since they're a fairly strong union and it's not much money for the owners compared to the revenue stream, I'd bet it's pretty generous and with pretty low premiums, but I'm entirely talking out my ass.
   39. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: August 28, 2019 at 10:38 PM (#5875218)
This study (comparing the NFL's health & retirement plans to those of other sports) has a few details about MLB's health plan. The plan seems to cover the standard stuff, and is a PPO. Retired players have to buy into it. MLB says it spent $13 million subsidizing health care for retired players, but I don't really know what this means in terms of cost per ex-player.

Apparently players are on the standard league health plan once they make the 40 man roster, and once they're not longer active can either stay on that via COBRA, or enroll in the retired players plan. I mean, MLB is a US employer so of course it has to offer COBRA. But it's funny to me that, say, Craig Kimbrel probably spent the first six months of the year on COBRA.

From the study:
MLB’s Benefit Plan also provides some wellness benefits, including access to clinicians for mental health and treatment for alcohol or drug abuse. However, the plan does not include other benefits included in the NFL Player Insurance Plan, including child and parenting support services, elder care support services, pet care services, legal services, and identity theft services.
If there's a strike, I predict that it will be over pet care services.

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