Money stuff

Service time, Mike Leake bobbleheads and big decisions

The arrival of the 2010 season generated plenty of excitement for fans of the local ball club. All-Star talent was deployed across the field, from youngsters Joey Votto and Jay Bruce to veterans Scott Rolen and Brandon Phillips. Four-fifths of Dusty Baker’s rotation had been settled. Aaron Harang, Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey would inaugurate the season in that order.

A pitched battle (heh) for the fifth rotation slot between rookies Mike Leake and Travis Wood had played out during spring training. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty decided to put Leake on the Opening Day roster. Leake, with ragged blonde hair and scruffy beard, had been drafted out of Arizona State as a college junior the previous summer. He had won the National Pitcher of the Year award (Stephen Strasburg had been another finalist).

Travis Wood, Stephen Strasburg and rookie Aroldis Chapman spent the first few months of 2010 in the minor leagues.

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Mike Leake pitching on April 11, 2010 against the Cubs

Mike Leake debuted for the Reds at Great American Ball Park on April 11, the team’s sixth game of the season. Leake made his second start five days later on April 16.

I can attest that April 11 was a bright Sunday afternoon at the ballpark. Sparkling new Mike Leake pitched well and the Reds beat the stupid Chicago Cubs 3-1.

***

How do teams decide when to call-up their top prospects?

Many factors play a role. The framework established in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between MLB and the MLB Players’ Association structures the options. Ideally, clubs would promote a player when it’s best for  his career. A second reasonable concern would be when it would most help the major league team win. Teams often offer plausible development-related pretexts for delaying a debut. Perhaps the player needs more minor league experience and instruction. Possibly calling the player up too soon might injure his confidence.

The harsh reality is that the calculation is dominated by two factors: time and money.

Time

Per the terms of the current CBA, a team owns the right to a player until that player accrues six full years of MLB service time, assuming the club offers (tenders) a contract each year. After six years of service time, the player earns the right to free agency.

Service time is the number of years and days a player has spent on the 25-man roster of a major league team or major league disabled list during the regular season. Example: If a player gets called up for a game on July 1 and sent back down to the minors after the game on July 8, the player has earned eight days of MLB service time. The player doesn’t have to get on the field for it to count and off-days in between count as service time as well.

Counting off-days, there are about 183 days in an MLB season, but by counting rules, a player can only earn a maximum of 172 days per year. After he accrues 172 days in a given season, that’s it until next year. That means one year of service time is 172 service days. Example: A player on the roster for 175 days in a single season earns one year of service time. A player on the roster for 179 days also earns one year of service time.

Service time is usually written as (Years.Days). Example, a player with two years and 21 days would have 2.021 service time.

Now, back to the six-year rule. Note it says six full years of service time must accrue before a player becomes a free agent. There’s no rounding up. That means if a player ends a season at 5.170 (five years, 170 days), he is still under team control the entire next season.

In a sense, it’s misleading to say a team has six years of control over a player. If the club takes the modest step of delaying the big league debut of a player for 11 days into his first season, it is impossible for that player to accrue a full year. Functionally, it’s more accurate to think of team control as seven years.

The situation the Cubs faced with Kris Bryant last year exemplifies this choice. It was obvious during spring training that Bryant was the best third baseman in the Cubs system and on merit he deserved to be in their Opening Day lineup.

But the Cubs waited until Friday, April 17 to call up Kris Bryant. His service time currently reads 0.171. Because of those 11 days of patience, the Cubs pushed their superstar’s free agency year from 2021 to 2022, gaining an entire season of his services.

Extending the effective number of seasons of team control is the time advantage of delaying a player’s debut. There’s another tangible benefit as well: money.

Money

The collective bargaining agreement governs how player salaries are determined during that six-year (or seven-year) window and those rules further influence the incentives for when a player gets called up.

CBA basics: Until he has accumulated three full years of service time, a player has no power to determine his salary. That means, with few exceptions, they receive the league-wide minimum salary set by negotiators in the CBA. That number will be $507,500 in 2016. Teams offer modest raises for second- and third-year players.

After a player accrues 3 full years of service time, he earns arbitration rights. If the player (through his agent) and team can’t negotiate a salary, the player has the right to have an arbitration panel get involved. Generally, good players have three years of pre-arbitration salary and three years of salary determined with arbitration rights. Players typically see a large increase once they have earned the right to arbitration. Mike Leake, for example, earned $507,500 in 2012 his final pre-arb season. His salary in 2013 jumped to $3,060,000.

There is, however, a major exception in the CBA to the three-full-year requirement for arbitration – called Super Two – and it dramatically influences the calculation of when a player is called up to the major leagues.

Under Super Two rules, players with more than two and fewer than three years of service time are placed in a group and ordered based on who has the most service time. A player in the top 22% of that group is eligible for arbitration. Those players are called Super Two players because they don’t have to wait for three full years of service time to access the financial benefits of arbitration rights.

The Super Two rule often incentivizes organizations to hold players in the minor leagues for the first couple months of a season to make sure he doesn’t fall into the top 22% for that year.

Important: This incentive for delay is about money, not time. Super Two players still fall under the same service time rules (six full years before free agency). But they are eligible for arbitration for four of those years instead of three. That means more money in year three, a bonus that compounds the next three seasons based on percentage increases on a larger base.

For example, the Reds called up Jay Bruce on May 27, 2008, which was not quite enough of a delay in his service time to avoid Super Two status. The Reds right fielder became eligible for arbitration in 2011 as a Super Two with service time of 2.125 and earned $2.8 million instead of $450,000.

That’s how delaying call-ups until June or July can save the organization money.

***

If the Reds had simply skipped Mike Leake’s April 11 start and instead delayed the pitcher’s call-up until April 16, he would have remained under Reds control through the 2016 season. That’s right, the head-scratching decision to have rookie Mike Leake pitch 6.2 innings on April 11, 2010 cost the Reds 200+ innings – an entire season – of veteran Mike Leake’s service.

Hypotheticals abound. If Leake’s service time read 5.171 instead of 6.000 – a difference of one day – he, not Raisel Iglesias, would be the Opening Day starter. The Reds might finally get around to honoring Leake with a bobblehead night. And the front office wouldn’t need to consider Robert Stephenson for a start next week.

Stephenson.KE

Robert Stephenson / Photo: Kareem Elgazzar, Enquirer

Under that scenario, where the Reds had controlled Mike Leake in 2016, there’s no guarantee the front office still wouldn’t have looked to trade him last summer. But if they had, with the extra year of service attached, the return would have been substantially higher.

Major league organizations make crucial debut decisions about their top prospects every year. The Cincinnati Reds face that quandary anew in 2016 – in triplicate – as the baseball destinies of Stephenson, Cody Reed and Jesse Winker hang in the balance. The Reds’ mishandling of Mike Leake’s promotion in 2010 throws an unflattering spotlight on how those choices can backfire.

reed

Cody Reed / Photo: Cincinnati Enquirer

At the extreme, you could make the case that having a great position player like Kris Bryant on the major league roster for an extra 11 days might make a big difference in the standings at the end of the season. But that argument collapses in the case of a pitcher, where only one April start is at issue. And the Reds don’t need to be basing decisions on small changes in their 2016 win-loss record.

The good news is that teams can pause service time clocks once they start. If the Reds decide to use Robert Stephenson (or Cody Reed) as an emergency starter during the first week of the season, the organization can mitigate the cost in time and money by promptly sending the player back to the minor leagues. Although the more time a player spends with the big league club in an emergency role now means that much longer of a debut delay otherwise. For each of Stephenson, Reed and Winker, legitimate development reasons can be made to keep them in Louisville for a while longer. None are Kris Bryant.

JesseWinker

Jesse Winker / Photo: Kareem Elgazzar, Enquirer

The Reds have three options with each player. All this speculation, of course, assumes healthy, productive careers and no contract extensions or trades.

No 2016 call-up. This is the scenario with the most delay. Upside: It would assure the three players’ free agency was pushed back to 2024. 2023 would be age-29 and age-30 seasons for those three players. Johnny Cueto and Joey Votto produced $40 million-plus for the Reds in value those seasons. Downside: Zero big-league experience in 2016 means they would begin 2017 (eleven days into the season) as raw rookies.

Wait 11 days and call them up in late April 2016. The least-delay scenario. Upside: This choice would maximize big league experience. Downside: It would produce three Super Two players, raising the Reds payroll three, four and five years from now. Would forfeit control in the 2023 season.

Spread out the call-ups over the 2016 summer. This is the compromise option. Upside: You don’t start the arbitration clocks until after the Super Two deadline has passed, which saves millions of dollars for each. Players get about a half season big league experience. Downside: Forfeits team control in 2023.

84 thoughts on “Service time, Mike Leake bobbleheads and big decisions

  1. Steve, this is of the most well organized, well written and easiest to comprehend pieces I’ve read. Very nice job.

    It’s easy to be perplexed by the poor, short sighted moves teams have made regarding service time. Then again, this is the same sport, that until recently, focused on things like batting average and RBI’s to judge the value of its players. As baseball management has become more professional and competent, over sites such as these should be reduced.

    • I agree with your sentiment, Chuck. Contract and labor information has always been my weak point as an amateur baseball analyst. This article lays things out more simply than I think I’ve ever seen. Thanks, Steve.

    • Thanks. This topic has been jangling around my head for a couple weeks as it pertains to the decisions on Stephenson, Reed and Winker. Hadn’t really grasped the Leake stuff until recently. Like you say, so much has changed over the past five years in the way we analyze baseball and front office decisions.

      • Just curious – was there an outcry (or even a mention) as to why Leake was starting due to service time back in 2010?

      • Steve, you didn’t mention Cueto, who had the same issue as Leak the year before! He was the 3rd starter so it was 2 starts in an otherwise losing season. The issue became less acute because Cueto later signed a contract with an option for what would have been his first Free Agent year. Without that, we would have had no Reed, Finnegan or Lamb.

        Also, you didn’t bring up that Leake WAS sent down in 2011, as he was struggling in June or maybe July. He made 1 start at AAA but then they had an injury so he came back up. That was another wasted losing year. So, Walt doubled down on wasting a year of Leake for a losing team!

  2. As Chuck said above, this is a well written and informative piece. Thanks for putting it together.

    I would agree that none of these guys is Chris Bryant, Therefore, the situation the Cubs are in with Bryant filing a grievance likely would be a non-issue for the Reds for Winker, Reed, Stephenson. My question however is how does holding a prospect back for a while play when it comes to signing a team’s future draft picks? I would think the impact would be rather minimal but one does have to wonder if a top draft choice may refuse to sign (thinking someone like J.D. Drew) because the drafting team has a reputation for playing ‘service time games’ with their top prospects. J.D. Drew had other reasons for not signing, but I was using him as a high-profile example of a draft pick that sat out rather than signing with the drafting club.

    • Good question. Now that the draft is ” slotted” there doesn’t seem to be the type of JD Drew holdouts as once existed.

      I believe if a team overly manipulates service time it would adversely impact their ability to sign guys through their arbitration years or even signing free agents. The MLBPA and agents have long memories. It’s possible for a team to be both smart and fair.

      • At the same time, there are only so many teams and roster spots for free agents, so one that might be against signing initially, might very well be begging to sign a month later as their $$$ doors close. Obviously this isn’t ideal since we’d be getting leftovers that others deemed too expensive or poor fits for their own limited spots and $$$.

  3. Aren’t you able to call them up in September without it starting their service clock? A month of experience is better than none.

    • Every day on the MLB roster is one day of service time….the month doesn’t matter

    • September call-ups count as service time. MLB lifts the 25-man roster limit in September, which may be what you’re thinking of.

    • Nope. Any time in the big leagues counts towards their service time.

      If a fresh player is called up in September and accrues, say, 30 days of service time, the same “service time games” can be played the following season, you just have to keep that player in the minors for 41 days in stead of the 11 days stated in the column. That would cause the player to start the year at 0.030 and finish at 0.171 after that first year.

      A good example is Jose Peraza. He currently stands at 0.042 service time because of his time with the Dodgers last year. The Reds would need to hold him down for 42 extra days plus the standard 11, which puts you right around 27 May.

    • I believe (from what I’ve read on RML) that September roster time doesn’t count against a player’s Rookie Eligibility, meaning even with September time he could appear on prospect lists and be eligible for Rookie of the Year awards.

      • I thought it was something 125 PA for a batter, but I am sure service time would be a factor at some point

  4. I hope we live in a world in which the Reds top brass actually read these kinds of articles and strive to make the most savvy decisions they possibly can. I’ll save my cynicism for later in the season….CUZ IT ALMOST OPENING DAY!

  5. An interesting off-shoot of this discussion is how does a team attempt to balance competition in the near-term with preserving value in the long-term?

    I’m thinking specifically of Peraza, in the case where BP accepted a trade. Peraza would have to be held down until the end of May, almost June, in order to get that 7th year of service time. So, do you waste those 2 months of MLB experience in the short-term to get a theoretical 7th year of control? Perhaps Peraza is no good and that 7th year is worthless anyways. Wouldn’t it be good to know that as soon as possible?

    Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that a player is going to “break out” once they reach a certain level of experience, or be deemed a “bust” after they’d failed for a certain amount of time. This is highly theoretical and if it were true, there’d be no way to determine this for any individual player. BUT, the argument goes like this… bringing a player up as soon as possible gets you more quickly to the point where a determination can be made “yes, this is our future 2Bman” or “no, this guy is a bust, let’s trade him.”

    I’m finding this hard to explain via typing, but I hope I’ve explained it well enough to get some opinions or foster some discussion.

    I know there has to be SOME scenario where holding a guy down is the wrong decision (not just from a goodwill perspective, either).

    • Patrick,
      The only scenario I can think of is that holding a guy back dramatically impacts the ability to win the World Series.
      Let’s assume Stephenson is 4 years older and let’s pretend that Cueto injured himself August 2, 2012. You’re past the trade deadline and Stephenson is your best option. The team is good enough to win the WS…..but you’re starting the clock almost half a season early on your best prospect. In that case, to me, it’s worth possibly losing a year.

      • This is a good scenario; injury replacement on a potential WS candidate. Makes sense.

    • If the Reds are planning to go all out to compete in 2017, you could decide that a half-year of big league experience for Stephenson, Winker and Reed in 2016 would have them better prepared for the start of 2017. In Peraza’s case, I’d probably hold him back since there’s nowhere for him to start right now.

      • Agreed on Peraza, since in this world BP is still a Red.

        It would be interesting to see/hear if anyone work had been done on what you mention; that perhaps opening the window a bit sooner might reap financial benefits greater than losing a theoretical year of team control.

        • If BP wasn’t still a Red and with Peraza’s spring to go along with already accruing some MLB service time, I would think that the Reds would need to put him on the 25-man and have him as their starting 2B come Monday. So, that would have been a case where I think the right thing to do for the team and the player would have been to play him. As Steve and you both said, considering there is no place for him to get regular starts right now, I think the right thing is to send him to AAA where he can play every day and you get the bonus of him not accruing MLB service time.

      • “If the Reds are planning to go all out to compete in 2017″…

        Steve, your statement implies that the Reds have already made that decision and unfortunately, that implication is probably correct. Right now, there’s simply no way to make a rational, informed decision regarding 2017. The Reds may be able to compete in 2017 or they may need to wait until 2018 to compete. Right now, no one knows, even though the management team may guess and dictate their decisions based on that guess.

        The soonest such a decision can be legitimately made is the all star break during the 2016 season, unless the team simply ignores all the critics and decides they are going to compete in 2016 from the get go. There are just too many questions surrounding the roster right now to make a legitimate evaluation for next season. Will Mesoraco emerge as the monster of 2014 and stay healthy? Will Hamilton be anything more than a speedy, defensive CF? Will Bruce rebound as a core player for 2017 or premier trade option to return a top position prospect? Will Duvall and/or Schebler provide more than replacement level (not to mention above average) production in LF? How many top-flight startering pitchers will emerge from the starting options sans Stephenson and Reed? Will Stephenson get his control issues…under control? Who is going to play SS in 2017? No one has the answers to those questions and won’t have the answers to those questions until the on-field results are in.

        I get the distinct impression that the managment group is playing their see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil game again and just assuming everything works and is planning accordingly.

        • I think they’re going to call those three players up during the summer, assuming they each keep performing well. Once all the pitching gets healthy there won’t be enough room in the major leagues for them all. Maybe that’s when we see them package a couple young arms for young impact bats.

    • Patrick: I have to assume that, players being humans and therefore subject to feelings of resentment, depression and the rest, a guy who believes himself to be worthy of a slot on the major league roster could get a bad attitude about being held back for reasons having nothing to do with his ability. Somebody, I’m sure, is going to say something to the effect that the player is an employee and has no right to feel that way, much less let it influence his play, but I answer that such a statement betrays a lack of understanding of the difference between theory and reality, not to mention human nature.

      • Better to find out now if a player is that selfish. I agree holding back a player clearly ready is asking for trouble (well, for 11 days it makes sense), but holding back the prospects we’re discussing? None of them are “clearly ready” so if they have a bad attitude about it, find out now, as opposed to after signing them to a big contract in a few years.

  6. Great, informative article. Thanks for the research. What’s more inexplicable is that Leake was optioned to Louisville May 14th if 2011 and recalled on May 27th (12 days off the roster). That means that if he’d been delayed one more day in Louisville in 2011 then the club would have controlled another year also?

    • MLB has a rule that if a player is optioned down to the minor leagues during a season, but stays less than 20 days, then the option doesn’t count and the service time is retroactively restored. So in that case, in 2011, when Leake was sent down on 5/14 and recalled on 5/27, the Reds needed to leave him in the minors another week. So yes, another example of them narrowly missing an opportunity to extend Leake’s control through 2016. Reds probably couldn’t imagine that would be a factor in early 2011. Leake had been demoted to the bullpen. The club was probably more concerned with not using up an option than assuring they would have him for seven years. Amazing.

      • In May of 2011 the team was trying to win games too. I’m sure that factored into that decision. In hindsight, that extra week in AAA wouldn’t have hurt anything and would have given them an extra year of control. It’s an easy call looking back but maybe not quite as easy when they were early in a season that they had just gone to the playoffs the season before.

  7. Reed and Stephenson makes sense if our goal is to win a pennant, perhaps considering them a duet, whereas, theoretically, they would pitch 4 innings each. Reed pitched magnificently for 3 innings the other day. They would thus share the risks of rookie mistakes, taking the pressure off both. That would give us a four-man, April, major league rotation until Bailey, Moscot(?) and Lamb healed. Even though we’re counted out of the pennant race we have looked pretty good lately. Spring brings about hope eternal in baseball.

    • To clarify….you’re suggesting that the Reds start the service time clock…on their 2 best pitching prospects….who will serve as a “pitching duet”……in order to improve their chances of winning the pennant from perhaps 1% to 1.5%……based in part on 3 solid innings pitched….in a Spring Training game….largely against guys who will be in the minors next week……that is what you’re suggesting?

      • I didn’t read it that way. I read it more like that may be what he’d do if the Reds were indeed in a better position to compete in 2016. Of course clarification would be good.

    • There is little doubt that “duet” would be hitting sour notes and missing notes all year long. They would hardly be part of contending. They could be, best case scenario, average starting pitchers…think 3.75 ERA and probably .500 records. Most likely case, both have ERAs north of 4.00 and have at least 6 outings where they can’t make it through 5 innings and we lose 1 year of control.

      Better to get more refinement in AAA, with normal workloads (increasing the innings by 20 or 30 this year) and then, if mowing down AAA, possibly calling them up in July.

  8. As some have already mentioned it, excellent article, Steve, and another proof — as regards Mike Leake’s service time — that little things sometimes do matter. Many thanks!

    • The thing about Leake was, he wasn’t a difference maker. There were other options in AAA that were about equal given Leakes’ youth. Leake had more upside, but was going to need a few years to realize his best baseball.

  9. Great piece Steve, thank you. While reading this it occurred to me that the problem of which players to bring up when is an interesting optimization problem. I wonder if analytics departments have analyzed this and come up with a model. This problem would actually make for a nice masters thesis in operations research.

  10. It’s just spring training numbers and they don’t mean anything. Players have varying agendas during spring training and production is not a priority unless you’re a player on the bubble and fighting for a position on the 25-man roster. BUT…

    After today’s game against the Pale Hose:

    .352/.444/.593 Suarez (3B)
    .440/.516/.640 Votto (1B)
    .373/.400/.667 Phillips (2B)
    .438/.471/.938 Mesoraco (C)
    .314/.375/.510 Bruce (RF)
    .313/.313/.578 Duvall (LF)
    .278/.339/.519 Schebler (LF)
    .241/.353/.414 Cozart (SS)
    (P)
    .195/.214/.390 Hamilton (CF)

    Cozart played the entire 9 innings today. Everyone looks not only ready, but itching to play the games for real. Could the players have a little chip on their shoulders with something to prove? Now if the pitching can get squared away…

    • An additional aside, Price announced that De Jesus and Duvall have made the 25-man roster. Holt was optioned to AAA, Villarreal and Hayes were reassigned to the minor league camp and O’Grady was offered back to the Halos after clearing waivers.

      • Mattheus and JC Ramirez sent out also. … And from the pre-game interview with Price, it sounded like he has a pretty good idea of who else he might break camp with if this group stays the same, but he wasn’t ready to tell anybody else they definitely have a job and then have them get the rug pulled out from under them, as what happened to Frazier when the Reds picked up Simon years ago.

        • I think the Reds brain trust want Pacheco on the 25-man roster and are willing to ignore his career 78 OPS+ in favor of his spring training results. I also think the same brain trust wants Peraza on the 25-man roster and those two additions will make them forget whatever plan for 2016 they may have had.

        • I’m hoping the Cossack is wrong but I’m leaning towards him being on point with this one.

      • It does seem like the roster is coming together, and we can piece the roster in based off of what Price has said.

        He’s said he wants to start with an 8 man bullpen. There are 8 relievers left in camp with Hoover, J. Diaz, Cingrani, Wood, Ohlendorf, Cotham, D. Diaz, and Sampson left. D. Diaz would need to be added to the 40-man.

        The rotation will include Iglesias, Finnegan, Simon, and likely DeSclafani (although he may start the year off the roster due to being behind and not needing to come up right away.) Melville is the other remaining starter and I would guess it’s between Stephenson and him to fill in the early April start. Melville would have to be added to the roster.

        The starters are likely set with Duvall taking LF a good chunk of time. Add in DeJesus and Barnhart to the bench and that leaves 2-3 more spots to fill depending on whether we start with 4 SP or 5. Cave, Schebler, YRod, Pacheco, Peraza, and Cabrera remain. Cave and YRod out of options/can’t be sent down. Pacheco would need to be added. Peraza doesn’t have an obvious place to play. This is where the roster decisions get really interesting. Cabrera likely goes to AAA.

        I do think the Reds want to make room for Pacheco, especially as he can be the 3rd C and also play around the INF. I would think the Reds want Schebler as the LH part of the platoon, LH PH off the bench. That dynamic would make for an interesting set up for Cave and YRod. Possibly only one spot left on the bench and no one else on the roster serves as a true back up for CF.

        Personally, I’d hate to risk losing either Cave or YRod because the Reds wanted to add Pacheco. But I feel that is where the Reds are leaning. Maybe they option Schebler and keep both, but I doubt that.

        • The Brewers announcers a few days ago made the comment that Jay Bruce still isn’t sure he will be a Red come Opening Day.

          And Kelch made the comment also in the last few days that he thinks the Reds will keep Pacheco for that aforementioned versatility. Marty had said the day before that he thinks the Reds will keep Yorman, but he didn’t think it was the right thing to do.

          Personally, I don’t see the point of keeping Cave the entire year as a bench warmer. And if the Reds are as unsure about Billy offensively as I am, would Cave be the guy to replace him?

    • Does Duvall really have no BB? I don’t think he’ll hit .250, let alone over .300. He’s gonna have to walk at least a little bit… I have loved his power this spring and the end of last year. He hits them and they stay hit.

  11. Hindsight is 20/20, but the Reds drafted Leake at 5 when a guy named Mike Trout was drafted twenty picks later.

    • Yes, everyone knew Trout was probably going to be good. I don’t think anyone thought he was going to be a superstar though. The Reds were just one of many teams that passed on him.

  12. Joey Votto’s .516 spring training OBP is lower than his 2nd half OBP last season (.535). That is silly.

    2nd Half 2015 + Spring Training: 385 PA, .374/.532/.621

    • I believe Joey Votto is preparing to have a monster season and justify to the masses every penny the Reds have or ever will have invested in his salary. The 2nd half of 2015 was not a fluke, only a delayed performance resulting from that stupid knee injury. The question bugging the Old Cossack is if Joey will take the team along for a ride with other players rallying to augment his performance.

      Please let the season begin already!

      • I agree with this.

        Most players decline as they age because they rely on their physical skills only. They don’t use their brains. I listened to an interview with Baltimore CF Adam Jones on MLB Network the other day and someone asked him about his swing and he said (paraphrased) “I don’t know, man. I just try to put a good swing on the ball and hope for the best.”

        Votto, on the other hand, is likely becoming a better and better hitter as the years go on. If his cerebral approach increases his hitting skill at a higher rate than his physical skills decline, then he should actually get better with age. Scary thought.

        I’m pretty sure Votto could OBP .500 or hit 40 homers or hit .370 in a season if he wanted to. Instead, he’s chosen a balanced approach, which has worked quite well thus-far.

        • The things that effect players the most as they age are eyes and reaction time. Votto will be able to offset the latter some but let’s hope his eyes stay great.

    • That will do just fine. Give us 650 or so plate appearances with that slash line and even if the Reds lose 100, Joey wins the MVP.

  13. It won’t matter in the Reds’ case when they call up these guys if Bryan Price is the manager. Price is the most overrated pitching coach in MLB history. He’s badgered Tony Cingrani so bad the poor guy, who should be the 3rd starter so bad the guy has Stockholm syndrome and Robert Stephenson couldn’t hit the broadside of the Ohio River from the bridge. This club is so bad Joe Nuxhall could make the club this year out of Spring Training. Think about it.

  14. A very nice and informative read. Now, if just the Reds front office can practice a little discipline in 2016 with their roster moves. Roster management is one of Jocketty’s biggest weaknesses however. The confidence level is low in the front office in 2016 regarding the 25-man roster. The front office will give us lots to scream about in 2016.

    • Roster management is perhaps a GM’s primary responsibility. Given that Jockety’s teams have made the playoffs 10 times in 21 years ( amongst the best of current GM’s)…how could roster management be a weakness?

      • Really? 1-20 he’s fine but I’ve never seen so many washed up scrubs 21-25 in my life!! They always always went from 200+ atbats with the Reds to immediate retirement the next year like True Grit Skip

      • I agree with your first sentence. However, you jumped the tracks after that.
        Roster management weaknesses? Well for starters, there is the bench ever since he arrived in 2008. Every year it has been horrendous. The bullpen the last 2-3 years. The leadoff spot since he arrived in 2008 (one exception=one year of Choo). The second spot in the lineup. The LF situation since he arrived in 2008. The usage of Chapman for 5 years. The above mention of not getting an extra year out of Leake. Annually having very little at AAA to call up in injury and emergency situations. And let us not forget the debacle of 2015 with Byrd, Boesch, Dominguez, Gregg and Marquis. Two year contracts to Ludwick and Schumaker. Jocketty paid Sean Marshall $15M over 3 years for 31 innings pitched. Unpleasant memories of Taveras, Harris, Burgeois, Valdez, Costanza, etc. dot the landscape.
        Jocketty is an all-star caliber GM all right.

        • Exactly! Jim Caldwell went to the playoffs (and a SB) as the Colts coach but that doesn’t mean he could coach? The game passed Jocketty by….period! I am not exaggerating whatsoever when I say that you could take any random nerd (like myself) out of a $20 fbb league and they could’ve put together a better bench then that motley crew last year! Put Stevie Wonder as your lead scout and he could’ve told you that Marquis and Gregg were trash as well. Delusional??

        • Any items that pertain to the farm system are fair and and I don’t disagree. However, that is a different topic than roster management.

          A poor bench is a common malady for small market teams. When you can spend “x” you have to make do with less in other areas. You either pay Joey Votto or you have a strong bench. You pay BP or a left fielder. You generally can’t have both…..unless you have a great farm system….which is more about organizational focus than roster management.

          While reasonable people can debate the Chapman situation into the ground, they made him a closer. The Yankees, who have unlimited resources and an already good bullpen are keeping him as a closer. Given that he throws a high number of pitches per inning and has proven to have some “emotional instability”….is it possible that the Reds determined he would be a less effective starter than closer? He’s argueably the best closer in baseball so I fail to see how that was a bad decision.

          The Mike Leake service time issue was a mistake….made by every GM over the course of the last 30 years. Until the Bryant situation of last year, can you name one player who was intentionally held back for service time reasons? Can you name one time that holding someone back to manipulate service time was even brought up for discussion?

          He has a 21 year body of work that is rather impressive. He doesn’t have a money tree, nor does he get to tell Bob C. what the organization is going to focus on. His job is to build a roster with the resources he was given.

        • Roster management and the farm system cannot be separated though, as a weak farm system directly leads to the signing of washed up veterans to fill out the roster instead of using league-minimum guys to fill those roles. If there had been guys at AAA ready to step in to bench spots then guys like Skip, Bernadina, Bourgeois, Dominguez, Boesch etc don’t need to be called on (and paid more than league minimum).

          This season the bench should be filled with Barnhart, Schebler/Duvall, DeJesus, and some combination of YRod, Cave, or Pacheco. All of those guys outside of Pacheco should make pre-arb salaries and will likely provide more value than what we’ve seen in recent years. That is how you fill out a roster, not through retreads.

        • Hotto….I agree that having a farm system that can produce replacements in order to avoid the Byrds and Marquiss of the world is optimal and even necessary. I would argue that in recent years only the Cardinals have been able to consistently archieve that objective.

          They’ve been able to do that because the organization has placed a premium and thrown unrivaled resources and focus on player development. That was a top down decision….one the Reds…and virtually every other team…. didn’t pursue until recently.

          Jocketty was given a budget and orders to do the best he could in a given year with the resources given. It is an outdated and candidly,stupid approach….one that the Reds seem to be moving away from over the past year.

        • I honestly had no issues with the Marshall contract at the time, nor the Ludwick contract with the exception of the high price of the buyout. You couldn’t see either of those injuries coming. Marhsall in particular had been a horse and had been excellent since moving to the pen with the Cubs. I also think the original idea was that Marshall would be closing games.

  15. It seems like the Reds never really knew what to do with Leake…yes in hindsight they could have kept him a year longer by delaying him a few days his rookie year, or keeping him in Louisville a little longer in 2011…but they could have kept him a little longer, too, by offering him a more extended contract, instead of continuing to offer him year-to-year ones. To have both him and Cueto in free agency in the same year, while having blown up your rotation the previous year is what makes the least sense. While not a No. 1 pitcher, and even though he had his ups and downs, he was reasonably reliable and durable.That’s more than we can say about Homer.

    • What we don’t know is rather or not the Reds actually offered Leake an extension. It’s speculation that they didn’t. They may have and Leake rejected? I don’t think any of us can say for sure.

    • Leake is the kind of guy that might help you make the playoffs but Homer has the kind of arm you can win playoff series with….Game 3 SF series for example even though we lost.

      • I thought Bailey was better in that game than in his no-hitters. He was dominant.

  16. Talk of YRod being held out for a hamstring issue. I smell a DL stint coming on to allow the Reds to pick their spot after rosters are to run him through waivers

  17. The good news….. Price indicates Hamilton will start the year batting down in the order and have to earn his way back to the top

    The bad news…. Hamilton’s status means Cozart is the likely lead off hitter

    • I’d prefer Schebler vs righties and then maybe Suarez/Cozart vs lefties but I haven’t looked at their #s vs lefties? Not even sure Schebler makes the team though? He did show that he could work a walk once in a while in the minors atleast

    • I’d rather Hamilton than Cozart.

      Geez. Lineup construction isn’t hard, yet Price can’t seem to figure it out. Giving the most at-bats to one of the two worst hitters in the lineup is a bad thing to do.

      • The issue is the Reds apparently think that Cozart’s first half and his spring is indicative of what kind of hitter he’ll be going forward. They don’t think he’ll be one of the team’s worst hitters.

        • Recency bias at its best…and for what? That stellar .310 OBP Cozart put up in 2015!

          Cozart went on a 5 week hot streak (or whatever it was) and people forget 450 games of data.

      • Going into the winter off-season, Jocketty knew that the leadoff spot and the 2nd spot in the lineup, if Votto has to bat 3rd, were glaring weaknesses. What did Jocketty do to help Price alleviate this situation??? He obtained Jose Peraza and his lava-hot AAA OBP of .310. Whoa Nellie, a monster move by a bungling GM. Cave has proven that he is nothing more than a 4th OF.
        What exactly did Jocketty do to help out the leadoff spot and the second spot??
        Jocketty is a joke. When he goes all-in, he goes halfway all-in as we saw in 2012 and 2013. And now going into a payroll slashing all-in re-build, Jocketty again goes halfway all-in with this re-build. Jocketty FUBARed the Chapman trade and the BP and Bruce attempted trades.
        Jocketty is the Reds problem. Not Bryan Price.

        • Bryan Price still fills out the lineup card and seems to want to pick the worst two options to bat leadoff. It’s mind-boggling.

    • Why not BP? That’s what I would ask. The guy’s OBP isn’t the best but he’s a better option than Cozart for sure.

      • Agreed 100%. I’d be happy with BP batting 1st if Cozart and Hamilton are the other two options. At least with BP you pretty much guaranteed something in the .305 to .325 OBP range. BUT… he’s an RBI GUY!

        Here’s my list of best leadoff hitters among likely rosterees:

        Votto (R/L)
        Suarez (L)
        Cave (R)
        Schebler (R)
        Phillips (R/L)
        Bruce (R)








        Hamilton
        Cozart

  18. I don’t think any of them should be up this year. I just don’t see the benefit. MLB experience? Meh. They’ll see great curveballs and splitters in AAA too, just less control of it. You see patient or powerful hitters in AAA, just less age and refinement. I don’t think there is much to gain, aside from ridding ones self of butterflies and possibly more coaching (bigger staff) at the MLB level? The bonus to AAA is less focus on winning-at-all-costs and more focus on incremental improvements for the future.

    • …and in surefire, consistent playing time at AAA, as opposed to pine riding at the whim of Bryan Price, who might manage to save his job (win at all cost) versus doing what will improve a prospect for the future.

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