September Call-Ups

I’ve seen a lot of September call-up talk in the last week or two, but I wanted to wait until closer to the end of the month before I did my “what would I do” post on the topic. Before I get in to that, let me share my biggest pet peeve with September call-ups.

Major league teams are allowed to expand their rosters from 25-men to 40-men in the month of September, with the players on the 40-man roster being the only players eligible to be called up to the majors. There are several advantages to this process. First of all, you can expand your pitching staff in an attempt to limit innings for certain players who may be exceeding their career totals. You can also get a look at a player who is tearing up the minors to see if he might be major league ready.

My pet peeve is that people rarely see the cost of September call-ups. Not every call-up has a benefit to the team. Some call-ups may actually do more harm than good. Take these two situations.

First we have Jeff Clement. I wrote about how there is no need to call Clement up, as he currently has 150 days of service time, and calling him up in September would not only put him over a year of service time, but would also make him free agent eligible after the 2014 season, rather than after the 2015 season if they keep him down and bring him up in 2010.

Then we have Pedro Alvarez. He’s been destroying the ball at AA, and he’s on the 40-man roster. However, it wouldn’t be beneficial to bring him up and start his arbitration clock. Alvarez is a Scott Boras client, which means he’s leaving for free agency the first chance he gets. That means the Pirates are better suited to delay his free agency by holding him down in the minors for a few weeks to start the season.

A major league season is usually 182 days, and a year of major league service time is 172 days. So let’s say the Pirates want to delay Alvarez’s service time (not that they’d do that intentionally or anything). They’d have to keep Alvarez down for about two weeks in order to delay his free agency date. However, if you bring him up for 30 days in September, that’s 30 days more you have to keep him down when it comes time to bring him to the majors.

If we assume Alvarez comes up in 2010, he would need to arrive after mid-April in order to delay free agency, and he would need to arrive in the first week of June to avoid Super Two status (which could cost a lot for a player like Alvarez). By calling him up in September, he would need to wait until mid-May 2010 to delay free agency, and the first week of July to avoid Super Two status. Basically it comes down to when you want that extra month? Do you want it in 2009, a meaningless year, with Alvarez having zero at-bats in AAA? Or do you want it in 2010, after Alvarez has some time at AAA under his belt?

Here is what I would do regarding each player on the 40-man roster:

Donald Veal – He will be able to return to the majors, where he can fulfill his Rule 5 requirements of spending at least 90 days in the majors, while being stashed in what should be a crowded bullpen.

Virgil Vasquez - It doesn’t hurt to bring him up. He’s mostly just depth, and can be used to make the occasional start, or pitch a few innings in the pen in order to cut some innings for some of the younger guys who are reaching their limit.

Pedro Alvarez - See above. No way I call him up.

Jonathan Meloan - I’d give him a shot. He’s not going to burn a year of service time, although it wouldn’t really matter if he did, as a relief pitcher isn’t vital to our long term success.

Jeff Clement - If he gets the call, I’d want it to be after September 14th. The Pirates have said they want him working with Perry Hill on defense at first base. It sounds like he’ll be up, which means they either lose a year of service time, or they would have to keep him down for a few extra weeks in 2010.

Argenis Diaz - I’d bring him up to provide some extra infield depth. With the way Ronny Cedeno is playing, Diaz probably won’t be anything more than a Luis Cruz type player for us in the future. No harm in giving him some work in the majors, including some time with Don Long to see if we can add some offense to that defense that Diaz brings to the table.

Robinzon Diaz - He’s been working at several positions in the minors, including first and third base. I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a super utility player next year, as he’s out of options. I say bring him up and let him continue that development.

Jeff Sues – Sues has had a rough season, and is already 20 innings over his 2008 totals. I think shutting him down would be much better than exposing him to major league pitching when he can’t even handle AAA pitching right now.

Ronald Uviedo – I don’t like the idea of a guy jumping from high A to the majors, especially when he’s only a few weeks returned from a shoulder injury.

Steven Lerud - I don’t think there would be a need for Lerud with Doumit, Jaramillo, and Diaz. Lerud is also struggling in AA this year, so I don’t think he’d help much.

Neil Walker – This is a rare case where I say start the arbitration clock. Walker is kind of stuck in no-man’s land. In the majors you’ve got Andy LaRoche, who has put up some solid defense this year, good enough to make his offense passable. In AA you have Pedro Alvarez, tearing it up, and very likely to take over at AAA to start the 2010 season. The Pirates can see if they have anything in Walker, or possibly showcase him for a trade to a team that may be willing to take a risk on him. This will be the only time they can give Walker a look.

Eric Hacker – Just like Vasquez, Hacker can provide some extra innings, and there’s no loss, as he’s pretty much just emergency starting depth.

Jose Tabata - Just like Alvarez, I don’t want his arbitration clock starting, even if he’s had success in AAA (and really it’s only been 89 at-bats).

Jeff Karstens and Jose Ascanio - Both could be activated from the DL in September with no roster move needed. Karstens will return, as his injury is very fishy. I’d bring Ascanio back if he’s able.

The Guys I Would Bring Up:

Donald Veal
Virgil Vasquez
Jonathan Meloan
Argenis Diaz
Robinzon Diaz
Neil Walker
Eric Hacker
Jeff Clement (only after the 14th)
Jeff Karstens (activate from DL)
Jose Ascanio (activate from DL)

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Watch 8/27/09

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  • SalemPirate

    Does a ML team have to immediately activate a MIL player once the minor's season is over? Could Clement practice on his own with Perry Hill for a week or so to beat the clock?

    If Hacker comes up, is there any reason to bring up Vasquez? I'd like to see what Hacker has to offer. VV I'm not impressed with.

    Walker and R Diaz are virtually competing for a utility job next year. There's not enough playing time for both.

    Let's see if Meloan shows anything for Sept. With the dearth of lefties in Pitt, Veal should be used at every opportunity.

    Your comments are well thought out, but I can't see any reason, other than Cedeno's injury being long term, to bring up Diaz the SS.

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