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Frobby

2013: A study of service time manipulation

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55 minutes ago, Frobby said:

We often debate how frequently teams defer a player’s debut in order to manipulate service time.    I decided to drill down on 2013 to see if I could see how many players were gamed or not, and what kind of difference it made, if any.   Why 2013?     Because it’s the most recent year in which anyone who debuted that year who has played straight through has reached free agent eligibility and the signing period was completed.   (The 2014 class has graduated but many FA’s from that class remain unsigned.)

A few basics: 230 major leaguers debuted in 2013, a fairly typical number in recent years.    Of those, 160 weren’t on a major league roster in 2020.   34 debuted in 2013 but never played in a game after that year; 29 were done in 2014; 23 in 2015; 23 in 2016; 19 in 2017; 11 in 2018; and 21 in 2019.   The number for 2019 is probably a bit aberrant, relating to the pandemic, contract issues, etc. – I wouldn’t assume all of those 21 players are done.    But in any event, you get the idea.    For the majority of players, an extra year of service time before free agency is irrelevant; they’re gone from the game before 6 calendar years have elapsed.  

Then there’s the question of who is worth gaming, even if they survive 6+ years in the majors.    From the 2013 class, through 2020 nine player have been worth 20+ rWAR, 8 have been worth 15-19.9 rWAR, 15 have been worth 10-14.9 rWAR and 18 have been worth 5-9.9 rWAR.     That’s a total of 50 players worth 5+ rWAR – draw your own line as to where having an extra year of service might be worthwhile.   I looked at all 50 of these players to see if their service time had been gamed.  Needless to say, there could be players under 5 rWAR who were considered studs as prospects and had their service time gamed, but who never panned out as major players due to injury, poor performance or whatever.    But my time isn’t infinite, so I didn’t look for those.

Of the 50, I count 22 cases worthy of investigation to determine if service time was manipulated.   They all were called up between April 11, 2013 and June 30, 2013.    The ones called up before April 11 would have accrued a full year of service time if they played all of 2013.    The ones called up after June 30 were well beyond any possible deadline for who would have qualified as a Super Two, which is another reason for service time manipulation.    The exact Super-2 deadline is never known as the year is being played.    It so happens that by the end of 2015, it was determined that any player with 2.130 years of service would be a Super Two.    And that means that players who debuted before May 24, 2013, and stayed major leaguers full time thereafter, qualified for arbitration as Super Twos after the 2015 season.   But the cutoff could have been as early as May 8, or as late as June 8, based on experience in other years.    So, I used June 30 as a very safe date to assume no service time manipulation was involved in the player’s call-up date.

The 22 players break down this way:  Eight players were called up between April 11 and May 7; gaining an extra year of service may have been a motivation for these eight, but Super Two considerations clearly were ignored.    Eight players were called up between May 8 and June 3; teams may have been rolling the dice on Super Two status with these players, since they were in the window where the cutoff date usually falls.   Six players were called up between June 11 and June 30; teams undoubtedly were confident by then that the Super Two cutoff had passed, and may have been waiting just long enough.

I am going to drill down on these 22 players, but not in this post, which has gotten long enough.   Details will be forthcoming.    For what it’s worth, of the other 28 players, nine debuted before April 11 (and would have earned a full year of service time if they spent the rest of the year in the majors), four debuted in July, six debuted in August, and nine debuted in September.  

Perhaps Britt can piggyback on your data for the Athletic?  Kidding, of course, but thanks for the "expose' "!

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I think its harder for a competitive team to delay a player's call up from the minors because if he can add to a playoff run he is likely to get the call.  Think Manny.

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The Six Players Who Debuted Between April 12 – May 7

 There is nobody in the group who was called up the minute they would have earned less than a full year of service time, but here are the six who got called up soon after without regard to Super-Two status (in order of their debut date).

Anthony Rendon, April 21:   Rendon was the no. 6 pick in the 2011 draft and was rated no. 30 overall by BA going into 2013.  At first blush, you might think that calling up Rendon a mere 10 days after the deadline for earning six years of service time reeks of service time manipulation.    But it’s not as simple as that.    Rendon was called up because the Nats’ regular 3B, Ryan Zimmerman, had gone on the IL.   Rendon himself had been injury-plagued in 2012, only playing 43 MiL games (21 in AA with a .673 OPS there) after signing late in 2011 and not playing at all that season.    Rendon didn’t set the world on fire in his first short stint in the majors, posting a .647 OPS in 8 games and being sent back to AA (where he had started the year) as soon as Zimmerman came off the IL.   But he raked at AA upon return (1.136 OPS in 19 games), played three games in AAA and then got called up for good on June 5.   If the Nats were trying to manipulate his service time to avoid Super Two status, they failed.   He ended up earning 2.130 years of service through 2015, exactly at the cutoff line and earning his status as a Super Two.   Rendon earned $2.8 mm in his first year of arbitration, then $5.8 mm, $12.3 mm and $18.8 mm.   He then signed a 7 year, $245 mm deal with the Angels that was scheduled to pay him $26 mm in FA1 (it ended up being less due to the pandemic.  

Verdict:   I do not think his debut date was manipulated, as Rendon had very little minor league time and his initial call-up clearly related to Zimmerman’s injury.    It could be argued that the Nats tried to manipulate his second call-up to avoid Super Two, but if so, they failed to wait long enough and that cost them millions.

Juan Lagares, April 23:   An international signee who was never a top 100 prospect, Lagares had a .734 OPS in AA in 2012.   He posted a .929 OPS in 17 games in the PCL before his call-up.    He was paid $2.5 mm as a Super Two, then $4.5 mm, $6.5 mm and $9 mm in his fourth arbitration year.   He had a terrible final year with the Mets (.605 OPS) and had to sign a minor league deal with the Padres in 2020.

Verdict: No manipulation.

Robbie Grossman, April 24:  A 2008 6th round pick, Grossman had been BA’s number 76 prospect going into the 2012 season but was unranked in 2013 after a .786 OPS campaign in AA in 2012.   Grossman had an .805 OPS in the PCL prior to his call up, then posted a .553 OPS in 28 games and was returned to AAA, where he stayed until the end of July.   He’s had a somewhat successful journeyman’s career since then, earning 6.9 rWAR in his career but getting released twice and spending a good bit of time in the minors in 2014-16.    He’s now earned his six years of service but was signed as a free agent three times before that.

Verdict: No manipulation.

Nolan Arenado, April 28:   Arenado was a 2010 second round draft pick who was ranked the no. 52 prospect in MLB going into 2013.   In 2012, he played the whole year at AA and posted an okay but not great .766 OPS.   He began the 2013 season in the PCL and posted a 1.059 OPS there in 18 games and got called up.   He never looked back, easily qualified as a Super Two, and earned $5 mm, $11.75 mm, and $17.75 mm in his first three years of arbitration.    Before his final arbitration, he signed an 8 year, $260 mm deal with the Rockies.

Verdict:  Not a strong case that his service time was manipulated, considering his so-so AA season in  2012.  

Marcell Ozuna, April 30:   An international signee, Ozuna was BA’s no. 75 ranked prospect in 2013 after posting .812/.805 in low A/Hi A in 2012.   He started 2013 in Hi A, moved to AA after only 4 games, and crushed AA for a 1.193 OPS in 10 games and jumped to the majors.  He stayed in the majors until a season ending injury on July 22, spent all of 2014 in the majors, then in 2015 got sent down on July 6 after posting a .638 OPS in the first 79 games, playing 33 games in the PCL with a .937 OPS before returning to the Marlins.  He earned $3.5 mm, $9 mm and $12.25 mm in his three arb years, then signed a one-year deal with the Braves for $18 mm and is a free agent again this winter.

Verdict: No manipulation in the initial call-up.   Would have been a Super Two after the 2015 season but for being sent to the minors for 33 games in July/August that year.    Did the Marlins do that to avoid Super Two?    Hard to say, but if so, they cut it close.   He ended up with 2.124 years of service after the 2015 season; the cut-off turned out to be 2.130.

Carlos Martinez, May 3:  An international signee, Martinez was BA’s no. 38 going into 2013 after 22 starts in hi A/AA in 2012, posting a 2.90 and 3.00 ERA at those stops.   He made three starts in AA to begin 2013, then got called up to the Cardinals at age 21 and made it into 7 games as a reliever in May, before being sent down to AAA and resuming work as a starter.  He bounced between the majors and the minors several times that season, sticking around as a reliever after the September call-ups.   In all, he earned 73 days of service that year.   He was in the majors for good in 2015, pitching as a reliever that year.    After two successful years as a starter in 2015-16 and accumulating 3.070 years of service, Martinez signed a 5-year, $51 mm contract.

Verdict: No manipulation.

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Aaaahhhh.   SuperTwo is not the only kind of manipulation.   There is also getting an extra year of service time.  Several of these qualify for that.

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3 hours ago, wildcard said:

Aaaahhhh.   SuperTwo is not the only kind of manipulation.   There is also getting an extra year of service time.  Several of these qualify for that.

No they don’t.   Explain why you think they do.   

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2 hours ago, Frobby said:

No they don’t.   Explain why you think they do.   

Cots contracts:

Quote

Under the CBA, 1 year of service is defined as 172 days. A player may earn up to 172 days of Major League service during a championship season (regular season), which lasts 187 calendar days.

https://legacy.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/league-info/transactions-glossary/

The difference between a regular season and a year of service time is 15 days.   So if a player spends 16 days in the minors he will not get a full year of service year.  

Example: if Diaz plays in the majors from day one of the season he will get a full year of service time.  With the season beginning on April 1st if he is called up on April 16th he get 171 days of service time.  One day short of a full year of service time.  And the O's control him for seven years in the majors because after 6 years he will have 5 year  171 day of service  time an not be eligible for free agency at that time under the current CBA.   (What happens in the next CBA is not known)

So all the players you listed were called up more than 15 days after the start of the season.  The teams manipulated their call up to get an addition year of service time.

I must be missing something because you know all this.

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4 minutes ago, wildcard said:

Cots contracts:

https://legacy.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/league-info/transactions-glossary/

The difference between a regular season and a year of service time is 15 days.   So if a player spends 16 days in the minors he will not get a full year of service year.  

Example: if Diaz plays in the majors from day one of the season he will get a full year of service time.  With the season beginning on April 1st if he is called up on April 16th he get 171 days of service time.  One day short of a full year of service time.  And the O's control him for seven years in the majors because after 6 years he will have 5 year  171 day of service  time an not be eligible for free agency at that time under the current CBA.   (What happens in the next CBA is not known)

So all the players you listed were called up more than 15 days after the start of the season.  The teams manipulated their call up to get an addition year of service time.

I must be missing something because you know all this.

He listed these players because they were called up after the 15 days.

But just because they were called up after 15 days does not mean that the delay was due to service time manipulation.

He's challenging you to show evidence to support the idea that their promotion was the result of service time manipulation and not some other factor.  Like, for instance, a player injury.

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21 minutes ago, Can_of_corn said:

He listed these players because they were called up after the 15 days.

But just because they were called up after 15 days does not mean that the delay was due to service time manipulation.

He's challenging you to show evidence to support the idea that their promotion was the result of service time manipulation and not some other factor.  Like, for instance, a player injury.

Geeh, I don't know.   Was Mountcastle's call up manipulated?   He won the AAA MVP and the O's still held him down.   They say to make him better defensively but It was a losing season.  They could have called him up and he would probably have hit and they could have worked on his defense in the majors.  Its not like they were worried about losing games. 

Elias would never admit that and he should not. So how is anyone supposed to prove it?  Its same same for Mountcastle as it is for the players Frobby cited.  Prove that its not.

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1 minute ago, wildcard said:

Geeh, I don't know.   Was Mountcastle's call up manipulated?   He won the AAA MVP and the O's still held him down.   They say to make him better defensively but It was a losing season.  They could have called him up and he would probably have hit and they could have worked on his defense in the majors.  Its not like they were worried about losing games. 

Elias would never admit that and he should not. So how is anyone supposed to prove it?  Its same same for Mountcastle as it is for the players Frobby cited.  Prove that its not.

Frobby already provided his evidence, I certainly don't feel a need to check or supplement his hard work.

If you disagree with his take it would fall upon you to refute his points.

 

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34 minutes ago, Can_of_corn said:

Frobby already provided his evidence, I certainly don't feel a need to check or supplement his hard work.

If you disagree with his take it would fall upon you to refute his points.

 

I'll wait for his next post which is to talk about the other players that were called up.

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On 1/24/2021 at 11:31 AM, Can_of_corn said:

Great work.  So far my argument that service time manipulation isn't a common practice is looking good.

I don’t think it is common but we know about it because of top tier talents. 
 

Longoria in 08 with Rays and Bryant in 15 with Cubs. The headline players stand out. Teams aren’t tying to do this with marginal talents.  

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With this game, there is also the side of the coin where you're Luis Robert, Brandon Lowe or RMC's twin Evan White, and "figure out what you need to work on" in spring training to make the club.

On the surface they fall out of the 7th Year/Super Two window for this exercise, but I'd suggest they are some of the biggest "victims", notwithstanding the shiny 1.000 service time numbers in some of these instances.  

Lowe was competent in a 2018 cup of coffee, and was 5th on the 2019 Rays in WAR (those pictures across the top a pretty feature), but might have stolen RMC's MVP in different circumstances.   At least in the first half.

As always interested to see Frobby's take, if I'm getting the Service Time gist of it right, I think we get Gerrit Cole in the next batch.

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17 hours ago, wildcard said:

Cots contracts:

https://legacy.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/league-info/transactions-glossary/

The difference between a regular season and a year of service time is 15 days.   So if a player spends 16 days in the minors he will not get a full year of service year.  

Example: if Diaz plays in the majors from day one of the season he will get a full year of service time.  With the season beginning on April 1st if he is called up on April 16th he get 171 days of service time.  One day short of a full year of service time.  And the O's control him for seven years in the majors because after 6 years he will have 5 year  171 day of service  time an not be eligible for free agency at that time under the current CBA.   (What happens in the next CBA is not known)

So all the players you listed were called up more than 15 days after the start of the season.  The teams manipulated their call up to get an addition year of service time.

I must be missing something because you know all this.

You are definitely missing something because I explained in every single case why I didn’t think the player had been held back to get an extra year of service.   And the reason every player I listed debuted on April 12 or later is because that was the cutoff to spend less than 172 days in the majors that year.    That was my whole point.   

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