Morgan Ensberg Drops a C-Bomb

No, not the kind that makes your mother gasp while serving as punctuation in a Guy Ritchie movie, the former Astro-turned-analyst is talking about collusion.

Judging by this tweet, Ensberg suggests teams are shopping for players to help keep their prospect’s “arbitration clock” from striking two. As in Super 2, the service time designation which allows young players to reach free agency salary arbitration one year early. Ed Note: Thanks to commenter Torgen for pointing out players reach arbitration, not free agency, a year earlier.

Teams, as you would imagine, are in no rush to let their elite young players reach arbitration before they’re finished milking all the value from their entry level contract. So young players who can contribute are artificially held in the minors, usually with some manufactured excuse like “seasoning” or “handling the pitching staff” serving as the wool pulled low over the eyes of hopeful fans.

The 45 day time period Ensberg mentions is more than enough time to let young players finish the season with the big club and stick on the roster for the duration of the following season without risking losing that one cheap year.

Up step veteran free-agent ballplayers in need of a full time gig. Teams offer handshake contracts with “unspoken” deadlines. If the player produces, they might land work with another team or make themselves attractive in trades. If it doesn’t work out, it is easy to cut bait and fill the lineup with the young talent who should’ve been there all along.

This is the type of de-facto “pay for performance” the MLBPA has long rallied against. With the baseball CBA due to expire on December 11th, expect many of these arbitration loopholes to close. The union needs to look out for both its young players coming up and the veteran players at the end of their careers. Baseball owners need to avoid the huge guaranteed money pitfalls the NFL is bound and determined to eliminate.

When management is openly flaunting abuses of the system, it is clearly time to adjust the manner in which contracts are structured.

Comments (8)

  1. Super 2s don’t reach free agency sooner, they just go to arbitration 4 times. Ending a season one day short of 6 years of service time is a separate thing.

  2. Well if everybody’s doing it, 45 days won’t be enough to get you clear of Super 2. It’s a relative measure, a certain percentage of players are going to get Super 2, so what’s the big deal from a union perspective. Well actually, it’s a good one – a handful of otherwise finished vets will receive a 45-day contract to show they still have something left.

  3. @Torgen: The value of a player goes up significantly in arbitration years. You can pay a player basically the minimum until then so it’s one less “cheap” year.

    @DasBoobs: Such a contract is in violation of the CBA as the minimum length of a major-league contract is a full season. On the surface it’s still that, but the players are “handshaking” a shorter agreement which hurts the players generally. It allows for management to illegally take advantage of veteran players who are desparate for work or who may need a certain amount of big-league time to qualify for a benefits package.

  4. Thanks Torgen, I made a change in the article.

  5. Super twos refers only to getting an extra year of arbitration, but holding them back does stop service time from accumulating, and the arbitration clock ticking, so the point holds true.

  6. @dasboob – 45 days is enough to protect against Super 2, provided the players weren’t called up the previous September.

  7. Interesting comment from Ensberg, but 45 days in the minor leagues would not be enough to prevent a player from becoming a super two. A player who reaches the majors and has uninterrupted service from May 15th on would go to arb four times.

    However, calling a player up 45 days into the season would delay his free agency until after the 2017 season (vs. 2016).

  8. Typically, Super Two lands between 125 – 140 days of service time over two years. This year there are 182 days of service time available to be had.

    So, yeah, the 45 days would only really delay free agency.

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