Why Wait?

9 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

When I’ve been asked this offseason when I thought that Kyle Gibson would be promoted to the Twins, my response has been late-June, maybe July. If you’ve been reading this site for any period of time, the typical follow-up is that it doesn’t make sense to bring him up until there is no concern about him being a Super-2 candidate.

I thought I’d take a step back and make sure that everyone understands what that means, but also look at Gibson and other similar scenarios.  I will use Gibson in many of the examples because he is the current player who Twins fans are wondering about, but just a year ago, the Twins waited until June to promote Danny Valencia. Buster Posey was promoted in June by the Giants last year. Matt Weiters was promoted in June of 2009.

Let’s start with when a player becomes arbitration-eligible. From MLB.com:

A player with three or more years of service, but less than six years, may file for salary arbitration. In addition, a player can be classified as a “Super Two” and be eligible for arbitration with less than three years of service. A player with at least two but less than three years of Major League service shall be eligible for salary arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and he ranks in the top 17 percent in total service in the class of Players who have at least two but less than three years of Major League service, however accumulated, but with at least 86 days of service accumulated during the immediately preceding season.

86 Days essentially puts them to the end of June. Of those players that were called up by that time, the 17% with the most service time are Super-2s. That is why a lot of teams wait until June because they are generally more likely to not reach Super-2 status. It is possible that the date will be later each year for awhile because most, if not all, organizations are following this philosophy with its top prospects. More teams are being brutally honest about the reason now. What does it mean in terms of dollars?

Here is a chart with estimated salaries:

Year Gibson’s Age Full Season or Super 2 Up in June, Not Super 2
2011 23 $400K $200K
2012 24 $420K $410K
2013 25 $450K $430K
2014 26 $3M $450K

The chart illustrates what we have talked about before, that by getting past the Super 2 date; the team saves money in that fourth year. I use $3 million, but that’s assuming that Gibson pitches to a level similar to Kevin Slowey (who made $2.7 million in his first year of arbitration). Doesn’t this just make a lot of sense?

But what if we expand this chart to look at probably the even more important factor in why Kyle Gibson should not start the season with the Minnesota Twins.

Year Gibson’s Age Full Season or Super 2 Up in June, Not Super 2
2011 23 $400K $200K
2012 24 $420K $410K
2013 25 $450K $430K
2014 26 $3M $450K
2015 27 $6M $3.5M
2016 28 $8M $6.5M
2017 29 F/A $9M
2018 30 F/A F/A

More important, the Twins would have one more year of Gibson before he could become a free agent. Obviously these dollars values are all estimates, and this is making an assumption that a long-term contract is not worked out to buy-out some arbitration and/or free agency years.  

So, if the Twins don’t care about Super 2 status, they really should be sure to wait a few days before calling up Gibson. If he were to be called up in late April, he would likely be a Super 2 and would be arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2014. However, since he would not have six full years of service time at the end of the 2016 season, he still would not be a free agent until after the 2017 season.

One such example happened with the Rays and Evan Longoria. He did not make the Rays 2008 opening day roster, but on April 12th, he debuted with the big league club. He would have been a Super 2, and probably would have been eligible for arbitration four years. However, on April 18th, just six days after his debut, the Rays and Longoria agreed on a six year, $17.5 million contract with options for 2014 and 2015 and 2016. Such a team-friendly, long-term contract meant that none of the above arbitration/free agency years) matters.

So, even if the Twins would decide that Kyle Gibson should be in the starting rotation to start the season, the smartest thing would be to send him to Rochester, and then add him to the 40-man roster and call him up four days later. Again, that would mean that his service time would be just shy of six years after the 2016 season, and the Twins would get an extra season before he hit free agency. Gibson would get a fourth year of arbitration, but he would be under Twins control for an extra season.

That isn’t being ‘cheap,’ it’s just being smart.

Finally, there are many reasons to wait to promote Kyle Gibson to the big leagues that go beyond the financial, although that is clearly very important. The Twins have six starting pitchers right now who have all experienced some level of success over the last couple of years. In fact, I think we could say that Glen Perkins has had some success in the big leagues as a starter and as he is out of options, he deserves another crack at a roster spot. The Twins will give every opportunity to Scott Diamond to make the roster. Eric Hacker was brought in and put on the 40 man roster. Jeff Manship and even Anthony Swarzak have pitched well at times with the Twins. The Twins have options that deserve an opportunity at the start of the season.

Kyle Gibson will be a big league pitcher. Having depth allows the team to be more patient with him, as well. We seem to forget that 2010 was Gibson’s first full season. He moved from Ft. Myers to New Britain, and ended the season with three starts in Rochester. Giving him a couple more months to continue to work on some things can only benefit him. As he pitched about 150 innings last year, the Twins would certainly prefer to keep him to about 175-180 innings in 2011, and they can control his innings for the first couple of months in Rochester to keep him strong through the rest of the season.

As terrific as we think that Gibson will be, like any pitching prospect, we won’t know until he is there. And, most pitching prospects don’t come up and have an immediate huge impact. Gibson will come up when he is ready, and at that time, he will have four big league pitches. He will induce a lot of ground balls. He has incredible makeup and mound presence. He has a chance to be pretty good.

When the Twins season reaches June, we will have much better idea of what holes the team has in its lineup, in the bullpen and maybe in the rotation. If Gibson is pitching well at that time and someone in the rotation is struggling, the Twins will not hesitate to bring him up.

Hopefully this helps illustrate a little better the arbitration and Super-2 terminology. Again, I used Kyle Gibson as the example because that is what people are talking and asking about now. But this is also a theme we are hearing all around baseball as teams are not afraid to talk about it out loud. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to discuss in the comments section.

——————————————————————-

  • Last night’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast was about ½ hour of me and Cody Christie (North Dakota Twins Fan) talking about a bunch of Twins topics. Check it out.
  • Following the podcast, I answer Twins-related question in a Live chat for about two hours. Lots of good questions. You can read the transcript here.
  • Seth’s Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2011 is now available online here. For just $14.95, you get 170 page of Twins minor league content.
  • Edited by John and featuring the entire TwinsCentric crew and several more of your favorite Twins writers, the Maple Street Press Twins Annual 2011 is now available for pre-order here. Pre-ordering means that you will get it before it reaches news stands, and you won’t have to stand in line to pick yours up!!
  • 100 Things Twins Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die is a new book which will be available March 1. Twins writer Alex Halsted is the author, and I’m told I may have a cameo.
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8 Responses to “Why Wait?”

  1. Peter Gammons February 9, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    superb post Seth!

  2. TT February 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

    Seth -

    There are a couple problems with this analysis. The first is that in the arbitration discussion you are comparing 3.5 seasons to 4 full seasons. The second is that the Twins will have to pay somebody else at least the major league minimum while Gibson is in the minor leagues.

    The cost of that half season is difference between his arbitration salary. Arbitration salaries are based on comparisons to players with the same service time. Liriano only got $1.6 million last year.

    Unlike the super-two rule, which adds an extra year of arbitration awards for getting close, the free agent requirement is absolute. So if a player is even one day short of six years, they have to wait another full season. Again what the Twins gain is that initial half season minus whatever they paid someone else.

    Of course, there are other reasons behind these decisions. Players are rarely, if ever, sent to the minor leagues solely to save salary. Joe Mauer, for instance, started his rookie season with the Twins. Its a combination of factors, with major league service time being only one of them. The biggest factors remain whether a player is ready to help at the big league level and whether the team has a role for them. If the Twins only had four starters and they thought Gibson was ready, he would be on the roster.

    In the case of Gibson, it is doubtful he will be in the major leagues at all this year. The Twins have an abundance of starters and Gibson isn’t eligible for the 2011 rule 5 draft. It will take two openings in the rotation for him to get a chance.

    I would also point out innings pitched measures how many outs a pitcher gets, not their work load. The better the pitcher, the fewer batters they will face while getting the same number of batters out. I would expect Gibson to be on pretty much the same schedule as the major league rotation when it comes to pitch counts.

    • TT February 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

      One other thing, this is just plain wrong:

      “So, even if the Twins would decide that Kyle Gibson should be in the starting rotation to start the season, the smartest thing would be to send him to Rochester, and then add him to the 40-man roster and call him up four days later. Again, that would mean that his service time would be just shy of six years after the 2016 season, ”

      A year of major league service time is 172 days. Four days is not going to be enough to effect free agency – its going to be more like two weeks. And there is no reason I can think of to add him to the roster first and then use up an option to send him to Rochester.

      • Seth February 9, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

        So, TT, if the Twins call up Gibson on the 4th day of the season and his service time in 6 years is 5 years and 168 days, he can become a free agent? From my interpretation, it’s either 6 years or more, or not at all. Even one day shy of 6 years and he would not be a free agent.

        And, they wouldn’t be using an option to send him down. He’s not on the 40 man roster until they call him up. If he is called up and never optioned, there is no option.

  3. TT February 9, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    Seth -

    Sorry. I was going too fast and misread the order on the moves. You are right.

    The reason four days isn’t enough is that the actual major league season is longer than 172 days from start to finish. The 2011 season starts on March 31st and ends on September 28th. That is 182 days this year by my reckoning. I think it was more than that last year.

  4. mike wants wins February 10, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    The best players should be on the roster. If Gibson is a better pitcher than 1 of the proposed startes, then he should be up. An extra win or two in April, May, June could be the difference between being in the playoffs or not. Making the playoffs is worth millions of dollars today, not mythical millions of dollars in some time 4-6 years out that may or may not happen. Now, i don’t think it is clear Gibson is better than Slowey, so I don’t think he’ll be up anyway. But saving a few million dollars years from now, when your team is in a dogfight for the division this year, is penny wise and pound foolish.

    • TT February 10, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

      Mike -

      “saving a few million dollars years from now, when your team is in a dogfight for the division this year, is penny wise and pound foolish.”

      I agree with this. Which is why Mauer was on the roster out of spring training. But absent a complete meltdown or injuries, Gibson is highly unlikely to win a spot in the rotation based on his performance ine spring training. In fact, he is unlikely to win a spot period this season.

      As for Liriano. He just had a pretty good season. But I don’t think he has a long term future with the Twins. He is going to want a lot of money and years and, with his history of injuries, its just too big a risk for a team like the Twins. I think he is their plans for this year though. Frankly I think the STRIB must being having readership problems because they sure are stirring the pot.

  5. mike wants wins February 10, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    Liriano not in their plans? The Twins are insane.

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