The Reds just announced that Robert Stephenson will make Alfredo Simon’s start tonight. The veteran pitcher is suffering from bicep tendonitis.
This will be Stephenson’s second stint with the Reds this year. He was called up on Monday, April 4 to pitch on Thursday, April 7.
The call-up raises questions about Stephenson’s service time. Remember, per rules established in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, players must accumulate 172 days of service time for it to count as one year. [Post about how service time works.] Stephenson’s first trip to the majors earned him four days.
Big question: If Stephenson remains with the Reds all year now, would he reach a full year in service time?
Corrected: The answer is yes.
Because Stephenson was on the 40-man roster and optioned back to AAA, if he spends fewer than 20 days in the minor leagues, that time is credited back to him. He must spend at least 20 days in AAA this year for 2016 to not count as a full season of service time.
So because Stephenson has only been in AAA for 12 days, if the Reds keep him in the major leagues for the rest of the season (which they won’t, see below), he would accrue a year of service time.
There’s a separate issue of Stephenson’s arbitration clock. If he stays up, he’ll qualify for Super Two status and be eligible for four years of arbitration instead of three. That’s a money issue, not time. But it could easily cost the Reds millions of dollars.
I don’t expect Stephenson to stay with the major league team. Without Simon, the Reds starting roster is Raisel Iglesias, Jon Moscot, Brandon Finnegan and Dan Straily. The Reds expect Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani and John Lamb back in the next couple of weeks. Once one or two of them arrive, or if Simon’s health improves, expect Stephenson to be sent back down to Louisville.
The only circumstance that could cause the Reds to keep Stephenson in the majors after the rotation gets restocked would be if the organization has become impatient about the bullpen situation. Leaving Stephenson up would allow them to move Straily and Moscot and maybe Lamb to the bullpen.
Read this carefully: There are cheaper ways to conduct a panic-induced rebuild of the bullpen than blowing it on Robert Stephenson’s Super Two status.
Update: To make room for Stephenson on the 25-man roster, the Reds have optioned Jumbo Diaz to AAA Louisville.
Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.