I didn’t think I’d be writing about service time or Super Two this year. The Pirates have had this issue the last three years with Starling Marte, Gerrit Cole, and Gregory Polanco. The top prospect is expected to debut later that summer, gets cut in Spring Training, and then there’s nothing but outrage for two months saying that the team won’t win unless the prospect comes up.
It looked like the discussion would be avoided this year, and for the most part it pretty much has. The only thing I’ve seen that is Pirates’ related is a silly radio rant that Tyler Glasnow should be in the majors right now, and shouldn’t have been cut after his one successful inning during Spring Training. This despite the fact that his fastball command and his changeup is still a work in progress. And this rant wasn’t something I felt the need to write about, because while it’s disturbing that a few people took the rant seriously and came to me with questions about why Glasnow was sent down, it’s not really a story. It’s another made up controversy in a Spring that has been extremely slow for Pirates’ news.
But then there’s the situation with the Cubs sending down Kris Bryant, and all of the outrage over that move being made for service time purposes, or Super Two purposes. And I can’t help but think about Gregory Polanco last year. The Pirates held him down, and people freaked out for months. People went crazy if you defended the move in any way. As an example, I argued that it would be foolish to call Polanco up early, and as a result I got the nickname “Tim Shilliams” on 93.7 by Colin Dunlap, and that led to the birth of the least creative Twitter parody account ever.
And then Polanco came up, was good for a week, started to struggle, was sent back down, and you stopped hearing anything about how the Pirates were evil for not calling him up. You never heard those same people talking about how keeping Polanco down opened the door for Josh Harrison to establish himself as a starter. You also don’t hear any mention of Polanco’s struggles now when people talk about Kris Bryant as a lock — just like they were talking about Polanco in the same way a year ago.
The argument for Bryant to come up is that he shouldn’t have to wait 14 days to be in the majors — which would buy the Cubs a full year of service time in his prime. He also wouldn’t be a risk to come up mid-season to avoid Super Two, although I don’t think the Cubs are worried about that as much as a small market team would be.
I feel these arguments are just the annual hot takes during Spring Training, where writers are too close to a situation to analyze the big picture and see that it doesn’t matter. Does anyone talk about how Evan Longoria came up a few weeks late with the Rays? Are we talking right now about how Gerrit Cole came up in mid-June with the Pirates in 2013? No, because their teams had successful years, even without them coming up on Opening Day.
So why are we acting like Bryant is a big issue? In a month he will probably be in the majors, and no one will care that he stayed down. A year from now, people will be talking about guys like Josh Bell and Tyler Glasnow, and ignoring how things played out for Bryant, Polanco, or anyone else before them. It seems the biggest argument in favor of bringing guys up now is because “I want to see him in the majors now!” And that’s not a real issue, especially when talking about 14 days of a 183 day season.
There are so many calls for a solution to fix this “problem”, but every solution I’ve seen ignores the real problem. Every solution involves forcing teams to bring up players early and pay them more through Super Two, with no extra benefit to the team. And that ignores the fact that teams work the system this way to gain an extra year of service time, and to save millions of dollars, because some teams just can’t afford to throw away millions on two months of performance, and some teams know that the extra year of service time is all they will get from certain players. Those are two big MLB problems, and service time issues are the symptoms.
For now, I’m dreading next Spring, when the Pirates will most likely have this conversation surrounding Josh Bell and Tyler Glasnow at the same time.
**We have less than 100 paperback books of the 2015 Prospect Guide remaining from the final shipment. I don’t anticipate ordering another shipment this year. That means once the current batch is gone, the paperback version will be sold out. You can order your copy of the book on the products page of the site.
**Who’s On Third? In The Pirates’ Farm System, It Could Be Anyone. I looked at how the Pirates have made a practice of drafting athletic players with good bats and moving them to difficult positions to fill such as third base and shortstop. A recent example is Jordan Luplow, who was drafted as an outfielder in the third round last year, and who will move to third base to get the bulk of the playing time in West Virginia this year.
**Connor Joe Will Likely Start The 2015 Season In Extended Spring Training. Joe is another guy drafted as an outfielder who will move to third, although he will be delayed going to West Virginia.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.