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Twins Daily Roundtable: Shifting Service Time

Twins Daily Roundtable is a weekly series. As part of this series, a question will be posed to the site’s writers and they will respond in 200 words or less (Some writers don’t like to stick to this limit). This will give readers an opportunity to see multiple points of view and then add their own point of view in the comments section.

There has been plenty of discussion in Twins Territory about Minnesota’s decision to not call-up Byron Buxton for the end of September. In doing so, the Twins are going to gain an extra year of team control. Some feel this is unfair to the player. Some feel it is the team utilizing the rules to their advantage.

This week’s question is: “Do MLB and the Player’s Union need to revisit the service time rules as part of the next collective bargaining agreement? Why or why not?”
Image courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
John Bonnes
I like linking free agency to service time as a professional player instead of service time as a major league player. I'm cautious because it could conceivably be a radical change, encouraging teams to move players through the minors at a rushed pace, but that might be a positive development. Both sides could embrace that change because it will result in players making it to the majors more quickly (and thus getting paid more) but teams could get more years of control at the major league level. I would think there would be three areas to negotiate:
  • Different tenures of service time based on how a player signs, so 16-year-old international prospects have a higher threshold than amateur draftees, which are higher than college draftees. Something like 12 years/10 years/8 years. This is important for teams.
  • An escalating level of compensation once a player is in the majors that leaves them close to their actual free agent value by the end of their service time, similar to arbitration, but with required changes. This is important for players.
  • Perhaps modifying the service time based on the quality of the player? So exceptional players can make it to free agency a year earlier? I'm not as sure about this aspect, but I expect this would be important for agents.
Tom Froemming
Yes, the player's union needs to find a way to counteract the adjustment modern front offices have made. Teams know that even the very best players are rarely wise investments once they've surpassed 30. Accordingly, they've stopped throwing out big, long-term contracts to most free agents. At the same time, the system has been set up to suppress the earning potential of younger players and front offices are getting, let's say more creative, in the ways they're finding to delay a player reaching arbitration/free agency.

Basically, the owners are winning on both ends of a player's career.

Maybe the solution is something as simple as dramatically increasing the league minimum, which was $545,000 this season, or maybe they can find a way for players to reach arbitration/free agency earlier by updating the service time rules. The big issue in the short term seems to be that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which just went into effect last season, is in effect through 2021. With that being the case, it's difficult to see the owners to have any urgency to concede anything, unless there's (gulp) a strike.

Jeremy Nygaard
Absolutely it's time for the rules to be revisited. The problem is that there isn't a great solution. Do you change it from six years of service time to something like six seasons of control after a player's debut? Or five seasons? Can it be only based on a player's age? Or some other counting stat? It's going to be difficult to find a way that a club can't continue to manipulate... but it definitely has to happen.

Cody Christie
Service time rules will change as part of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. There was one simple solution I saw during the entire Buxton-saga. After a team drafts a player, they get:
  • High school player= 10 years of team control, 6 years of arbitration
  • College player= 8 years of team control, 6 years of arbitration
Even if a player hasn’t made the MLB level, he would still qualify for arbitration. Some hiccups in this rule would come from international signees. Would teams get 12 years of team control with the final six years being part of the arbitration process?

Injuries also present an interesting predicament. If a player misses an entire year because of Tommy John surgery, what would be the options for a team? Could teams get something like a “red-shirt” year where they get an extra year of control because of a season-long injury?

Changes are coming but the owners aren’t going to give up too much team control.

Steve Lein
I definitely think it will be a big part of the discussion on the next CBA. There are always going to be problems (including plenty that could be pointed out with my thoughts below), but there are a couple things I dislike about what is done now:

1. Time on the disabled list counts toward service time.

2. A year of service equates to a full-calendar MLB season.

There aren’t many players who play all 162 games in a season, but to get a full year a player is required to be active the entire time. I would look to have only active MLB roster days count, and a full year of service be a number like 120 days.

A pitcher needing Tommy John surgery may have only pitched 2 games but earns a full year of service, while another guy who plays 130 games in the field doesn’t. The math is off to me. I don’t like to penalize injuries to a player, but that’s another wrinkle for the player’s union to tackle.

This way, teams have a much harder decision to make about keeping players in the minors to “gain” an extra year. Instead of a couple weeks and still getting a guy like Kris Bryant into 151 games during the season (how was that NOT a “full season”?!), it’s a couple of months and maybe 100 games. Something that can really affect a team’s aspirations for the season if that player could be a big part of it.

Most of all, I will never understand a rule that keeps potential superstar players, and other deserving ones, off an opening day roster. That is what is beyond stupid to me with the current rules.

Ted Schwerzler
When looking at the current CBA, how it’s interpreted, and how it’s exploited, I think it’s absolutely fair to question the validity of the current situation. In the case of Byron Buxton, Minnesota is well within their means, but it’s a situation that looks unethical and reflects poorly on the team.

When comparing millionaire players and billionaire owners, fans should always side with the product on the field. At the end of the day, there needs to be a better representation when it comes to the Player’s Association and the ideals that are fought over. Common ground can be found here, but there’s opportunity for it to land in more of a middle ground than it currently does.

Seth Stohs
Does it need to be changed? Probably.

Am I smart enough to know what the best system would be? Nope.

Will teams try to find the loopholes and ways around whatever a new system might be? Absolutely.

SD Buhr

I have to imagine that service time is a part of virtually every CBA negotiation and I’m sure that will be the case on the next one, too.

I don’t think anyone should expect major adjustments to the current system, though. There almost has to be a line drawn somewhere and wherever it’s drawn, owners are going to do what they can to preserve as much control over a talented player’s salary as possible.

Any change that works more to the union/player advantage will come with a cost, of course. The players’ side will need to give up something and I’m not sure this issue has affected enough players to a significant degree that the other 98% of the union membership will be willing to give much to get better terms.

I do think the next CBA negotiation is going to be far more challenging than the past couple have been. Draft slotting, international pay limits and almost every issue affecting payroll have all been tilted heavily toward ownership lately and I sense that players are going to negotiate much harder on any number of issues.

I could see the owners giving a bit on service time in order to avoid get what they want in other areas of greater priority.

If you missed any of the most recent roundtable discussions, here are the links:
The Looming Mauer Decision
Grading the Front Office
Grading Molitor
Closing Time
Prospect Promotions

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32 Comments

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yarnivek1972
Sep 11 2018 03:23 PM
Quote: Basically, the owners are winning on both ends of a player's career.


Well, the players have been winning for the last 30 years and what we have is a largely boring product with steadily declining viewers and steadily declining attendance that an average family has to pay upwards of $400 to attend.
    • Oldgoat_MN, notoriousgod71, TheLeviathan and 5 others like this

I hope that in the next CBA the players have the dignity to insist that minor league players get paid better. And yes, I know that minor league players are not paying dues.

 

It's a shame that no team has stepped up and increased MiLB wages on their own.

    • diehardtwinsfan, Kevin, TheLeviathan and 5 others like this

 

I hope that in the next CBA the players have the dignity to insist that minor league players get paid better. And yes, I know that minor league players are not paying dues.

 

It's a shame that no team has stepped up and increased MiLB wages on their own.

 

Why?If minor league players were not being paid enough, there would not be enough minor league baseball players.The supply of players is not a problem.

    • Minny505 and Original Whizzinator like this

I think that players will need to have get control of their careers between the ages of 26 to 30 if the are going get paid for their most productive years. Clubs under this new analytical management have proven that most productive years are usually in that time spand. Today with way the agreement is clubs have been manipilating the players service time so these players are under team control durning these years. If we get these changes as fans for sure would see younger players on the small market teams much faster than we have seen presently. I also think that another change that would help is moving the trading deadline up to middle of June to first of July forcing clubs to put together team they think they can win with and also requiring them to move players to majors if they think they can win. Second is that teams maybe shouldn't automatically get first draft pick with the worst record because it has put in place teams that want to fail to rebuild quickly. This was fine when we had where all team tried to win each year but this new group of General Managers have been manipulating the system to put together dynasty team for the future. The analytical people have improved statistics of the game but in my mind the changes have made game boring and also less exciting because now they have figured out how to stifle the offense of the game. The game with flaws led to more upsets and cinderella teams would have been great now with expanded playoffs. They need to get back to that where you had more flawed game.

Why are baseball and professional sports unions different than most other unions.If you have a carpenter crew, they all get paid the same unless you are an apprentice.So a player's first year is at a fixed rate as a rookie/apprentice.After that, the league takes 50% of the revenue and divides by the number of players.Everybody gets paid the same.Build in some type of bonuses for doing X, Y and Z.Maybe the bonuses can double or even triple your annual return.  

 

That's how the trade unions do it, or at least did back when I was building things.Why not baseball?

    • Minny505 likes this

Why?If minor league players were not being paid enough, there would not be enough minor league baseball players.The supply of players is not a problem.


How very libertarian of you.
    • gunnarthor, Oldgoat_MN and TheLeviathan like this
To answer the specific question: Yes, it, along with about 4 other things, will be addressed.

As for Buxton, this month's events will, in the long run, turn out to be rounding error when it comes to his life-time earnings. If e lives up to his (seeming) potential, he'll make a third of a billion over his lifetime. If he doesn't, he won't.

So, in which year he signs a free agent contract is relatively trivial. Whether he is paid as a superstar, or as a defense only .200 hitter is the important part. So, roughly 95% of his earnings is very much in his control.

One final point: The biggest events between now and the expiration of the CBA will be the renegotiations of the national TV contracts.

From Wikipedia:

"On September 19, 2012, Sports Business Daily[21][22] reported that Major League Baseball would agree to separate eight-year television deals[23] with Fox Sports and Turner Sports[24] through the 2021 season. Fox would reportedly pay around $4 billion over eight years (close to $500 million per year) while Turner would pay around $2.8 billion over eight years (more than $300 million per year)."

Will these (and local TV contracts) continue to increase, remain flat, or actually fall?
    • TheLeviathan, Original Whizzinator and rdehring like this

Given the salaries of players, I don't really care if they have to settle for a lousy $10 million or so via arbitration for one more year before they get to be a free agent.Make the owners spend more money on the minor leaguers.

 

 

    • Oldgoat_MN, caninatl04 and rdehring like this
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Winston Smith
Sep 12 2018 03:35 PM

Nobody watches a game to see the owner sit in his private box. The players are the game so I don't get people complaining about them getting paid. It's a very small percentage of players that do get PAID well. It's very difficult to be a major league player and even harder to be a very good one. The people that own teams don't need more money, to most it's a hobby.

I hope I never complain about players getting paid.

    • mikelink45 and Vanimal46 like this

Why are baseball and professional sports unions different than most other unions. If you have a carpenter crew, they all get paid the same unless you are an apprentice. So a player's first year is at a fixed rate as a rookie/apprentice. After that, the league takes 50% of the revenue and divides by the number of players. Everybody gets paid the same. Build in some type of bonuses for doing X, Y and Z. Maybe the bonuses can double or even triple your annual return.

That's how the trade unions do it, or at least did back when I was building things. Why not baseball?


Tradesmen are never going to have some amazing ability that allows them to do their job multiple times better than every other tradesperson can.
Sports are not similar to other lines of work.
    • ashburyjohn, TheLeviathan and jimmer like this
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yarnivek1972
Sep 12 2018 04:37 PM

Why are baseball and professional sports unions different than most other unions. If you have a carpenter crew, they all get paid the same unless you are an apprentice. So a player's first year is at a fixed rate as a rookie/apprentice. After that, the league takes 50% of the revenue and divides by the number of players. Everybody gets paid the same. Build in some type of bonuses for doing X, Y and Z. Maybe the bonuses can double or even triple your annual return.

That's how the trade unions do it, or at least did back when I was building things. Why not baseball?


Let me know when trade union workers generate billions of dollars of revenue because people watch them work.
    • mikelink45 and jimmer like this
I certainly don't know the answer to this, but the fight between MLBPA and owners is going to be intense. Can this sport survive another strike/lockout? Who will break first?

MLBPA hired Bruce Meyer, who literally wrote the book on sports law, and won free agency rights for players in the NBA and NFL. I'm sure the players will be fighting for less service time before hitting free agency.

Sheryl Ring of Fangraphs wrote a detailed article about Meyer if you're interested in learning more.

https://www.fangraph...ief-negotiator/
    • gunnarthor, Oldgoat_MN and TheLeviathan like this

I'm 100% on board with delaying a rookie's debut for service time considerations. After all, you're only talking about three weeks to start the season. Who cares. It's a smart investment.

 

But doing this after a guy has played for a couple of years, after he leads the team in WAR in a year and earns a Platinum Glove? Wow. Sure, send a guy like that to the minors if he needs it. But keep him there for service time? Again, wow.

 

 

I'd agree with Bonnes point #2 and Most of Tom's Points.The real problem is a player going from 4 mil to 20 mil.In the first 6 years the player is underpaid (per value of open market) and then the player is overpaid because of the reduced quality free agents.I would cut the years of control and also raise the arbitration money awarded to be closer to F.A. levels.  

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yarnivek1972
Sep 12 2018 05:48 PM
Arbitration is the cause of high salaries, not free agency. If players were free agents after 4 years instead of the current 6, salaries would eventually go down because the supply of free agents would be higher and the quality better (because they would be younger). Arbitration setttlements are simply an artificial way to increase salaries. Don’t believe me? Consider Kyle Gibson. Made $2.9 in 2017 coming off a season in which he posted an ERA north of 5 and generally terrible peripherals. He proceeded to post almost impossibly identical numbers in 2017 and then LOST his arbitration case giving him a salary of “only” $4.2 mil in 2018.

That’s the system that needs to change.

Arbitration is the cause of high salaries, not free agency. If players were free agents after 4 years instead of the current 6, salaries would eventually go down because the supply of free agents would be higher and the quality better (because they would be younger). Arbitration setttlements are simply an artificial way to increase salaries. Don’t believe me? Consider Kyle Gibson. Made $2.9 in 2017 coming off a season in which he posted an ERA north of 5 and generally terrible peripherals. He proceeded to post almost impossibly identical numbers in 2017 and then LOST his arbitration case giving him a salary of “only” $4.2 mil in 2018.

That’s the system that needs to change.


Agreed. That system is built to reward old metrics like BA, HR, RBI for hitters: Wins, ERA and saves for pitchers.

There's a reason why outlets like MLBTR can accurately estimate everyone's arbitration salaries. System hasn't changed in 30+ years.
    • caninatl04 likes this
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Channing1964
Sep 12 2018 07:57 PM
In any system there are going to be inequities. The owners are going to talk to each other to find loopholes in the CBA. The agents are going to squawk about it and file grievances on behalf of their clients. Thats their job! The minor leagues should be part of the union and the minor league players should be paying dues to the union. This service time issue is going to bite the Twins in the butt because they so blatantly used it to their advantage and basically admitted it publically. If that's not shooting yourself in the foot then i must have seen something that nobody else saw. Now Minnesota, as an organization can be basically red flagged by every agent and veteran player as one that doesn't shoot straight and will get over on the players any way they can. I can't put it any other way. Nobody us gonna wanna come here because of our commitment to Winning Baseball in this regime. The question is what do we do now to fix it. Fixing it is gonna take way more effort than it was to screw it up in the first place. What surprises me is that this CBA doesnt even expire until 2021.
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Original Whizzinator
Sep 12 2018 08:35 PM

Tradesmen are never going to have some amazing ability that allows them to do their job multiple times better than every other tradesperson can.
Sports are not similar to other lines of work.


I don't know, if someone in the trades is that good they usually will go out on their own with the ability to make unlimited money or create a business at any scale. Just like sports the most driven in any business or occupation will take it as far as they do. The 10000 hour rule would apply here. In sports or any activity the best have put in an obsessive amount of work, an amount many would not be willing to replicate.
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TheLeviathan
Sep 12 2018 09:22 PM

 


Will these (and local TV contracts) continue to increase, remain flat, or actually fall?

 

This is a really interesting question.All the trends in baseball are negative - the fan base is aging, ratings are down, attendance is down, etc. 

 

However, baseball might be in a really good spot as far as TV deals go.With CBS, NBC, Fox, and ESPN all vying for eyes on cable, baseball presents a really strong option to build a programming schedule around.I could see that competition for ratings driving them to get a really good deal for their national contract.One that probably exceeds what the sport deserves based on their trends.

 

As for the money situation - it's hard for me to root for the players or the owners.They both are making insane profits at the expense of jacked up prices for fans.Whoever sticks up for the minor leaguers will get my support.

    • caninatl04 likes this

 

Nobody watches a game to see the owner sit in his private box. The players are the game so I don't get people complaining about them getting paid. It's a very small percentage of players that do get PAID well. It's very difficult to be a major league player and even harder to be a very good one. The people that own teams don't need more money, to most it's a hobby.

I hope I never complain about players getting paid.

I'm not complaining about the salaries as much as not caring about the final number for the players who make free agency.I want more players to get paid more at the minor league level, rather than the individual superstars to individually earn more.

 

When Calvin Griffith owned the Twins, and the early days of Carl Pohlad, salaries were shameful.I remember a very young Gaetti talking about how it was hard to stay in condition over the winter as a young player because he was bagging groceries all winter to pay the rent.That's just shameful.The major league minimum salary at that time was a joke for what players went through.That's a big problem, especially in the minors today, compared to the difference between a really good player making $25 million per year or having to settle for $10-15 million.

 

So I'm not complaining about their salaries, but I don't feel sorry for them if they have to delay free agency a year.An awful lot of players never qualify for that anyway.Let's take care of the rest of the players.

    • mikelink45, DocBauer and caninatl04 like this

 

I hope that in the next CBA the players have the dignity to insist that minor league players get paid better. And yes, I know that minor league players are not paying dues.

 

It's a shame that no team has stepped up and increased MiLB wages on their own.

The bigger problem I have is the fact that the minor league players are bound by the terms of the CBA, yet are not eligible to be members of the union. They just have to trust the MLBPA to look out for their interests, and it's definitely not a priority.

    • Riverbrian and DocBauer like this

I dislike about what is done now:

1. Time on the disabled list counts toward service time.

2. A year of service equates to a full-calendar MLB

Maybe instead of getting of getting full credit for DL time, they could work out a formula based on total time accumulated and time credited over the past MLB year.Maybe the initial 10-day period counts, then additional time counts at the percentage of the higher of the time spent on the MLB roster the past year or the total time/3 service years

 

IIRC, the service year isn't quite a full year, but it's ridiculously close (171/183 days?).I'd like to see something closer to 120 in a single year or 150 over any combo of years that didn't reach that threshold.

 

I haven't given it a great deal of thought or played around with the math to figure out loopholes. Maybe any two consecutive years that add up to 270 count as two years (to be fair to the guy who was on the roster for 100 + 180 - that might discourage holding off calling a guy up until there are 119 days left.

The CBA was negotiated by big boys staring across the table at each other. 

 

The CBA is an Acronym for:

Collective - A group representation.

Bargaining - Terms and Conditions were negotiated. 

Agreement - Both Parties AGREED on the terms. 

 

Once the agreement is in place, the two parties will utilize the agreement to guide their future decisions.

 

If there was an oversight or mistake made by either party during the negotiation and agreement. It is not the job of the other party to go back to table and say... I'm sorry we have a clear advantage and we would like to give that advantage back in the name of fairness. 

 

If you read the actual CBA... Service Time Management is tacitly encouraged. The "Good Faith" covenant is all they got and it seems to be working (a little) because JT Realmuto wasn't sent down to the New Orleans Baby Cakes to gain the extra year while the Marlins are clearly out of it. 

 

The Owners clearly won the negotiation and the MLBPA failed to predict the result of analytics taking over every front office. 

 

The biggest issue is going to be peak value and years of control. 

 

Once the front offices decided not to give out long term contracts to decline phase players and they collectively did that this off season, in my opinion, this was a paradigm shift that will lead to the MLBPA to insist on players reaching free agency at peak value, therefore at a younger age. The Owners won't want to give that up and I'm prepared for a strike or lockout or something that will ruin my summer. 

 

The radical solution is this:

 

No first year player draft at all. 

 

Just like I can choose to work wherever I'd like as long as someone will hire me.

 

    • SD Buhr and Sconnie like this

I obviously don't have the full answer, but one thing I would try for if I was a player or the MLBPA is to eliminate the 172 day cap.If you are up the full year, you get the full 183 days.The cap essentially can give teams 11 days of to tinker with Service time each season which can add up to an extra year if they do it right, ala Buxton.

Maybe the answer could be to change the rules with options.

 

Maybe its 2 option years instead of 3. Maybe you give them a finite number of options instead of option years. Maybe you can't option them if they have been on the active 25-man roster for X number of consecutive days.

 

Not much deep thought, but just a couple ideas I jotted down on the spot.


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