With Roansy Contreras finally being recalled to start a game on Wednesday for the first time since July 7th, it’s prudent to look at where his service time projection now sits.
Much to my absolute surprise, I had the pleasure of joining Dan Zangrilli on the Pirates Pregame Show, where we discussed the following already, but if you didn’t have the chance to check it out, I’ll cover those bases again here.
Of course, the story was, is, and has been that the Pittsburgh Pirates wanted to give Contreras a break, limit his innings, then slowly build him back up before he could rejoin the team and start another major league game.
As I touched on in my midseason recap, I didn’t think that was the case then, and I’m still not buying it now. Sending down one of your best performing pitchers in the middle of a season in which you’re desperate for pitchers who are performing well screams of service time manipulation, especially with where Contreras was sitting at the time.
Contreras was recalled in an emergency, as he was the only healthy pitcher on the 40-man roster at a time when the team needed pitching. He was eventually sent back down and not recalled until a point where he would not have been able to exceed a full year of service, whether he went back down or not, so the team already had gained that much. However, if he hadn’t gone back down, he was projecting to be Super Two eligible after 2024—as long as he was never optioned again, which is the outcome everyone would hope for. Well, everyone except the front office, apparently.
A midseason break was perfect cover, as many would buy the explanation of having to give him a breather. To a point, it’s not unreasonable, given his innings over the last few years and the current prevailing theory around development of young arms.
A midseason stint on the injured list, followed by a rehab assignment where he made the same amount of buildup starts would have achieved the same stated goal—it’s the unstated one that would not have been served, of course.
Instead, they chose to pay him almost $130,000 less, withhold more of his service time, while in the process likely pushed back his arbitration by a year — saving the team and costing Contreras millions of dollars in the process.
As an employee, is this treatment you would like to receive from your employer?
It’s not a surprise that Contreras sounded less than enthused about the decision when speaking after his start:
“[T]he biggest thing I’ve learned is that there’s always going to be moves and decisions that you may not understand or that just kind of throw you off.”
He’s right—it is hard to understand, unless you look at it from a business perspective, that is.
Outside of a smoking gun email or Derek Shelton or Ben Cherington slipping up and saying something stupid while actually answering questions about development goals for Contreras, a player will never be able to prove their careers are being messed with for the team’s financial savings. The Kris Bryant saga and the 42-page finding to his grievance showed us that. Without cold hard evidence, all other “proof” is largely circumstantial, which is exactly the current case for Contreras.
So, where does his service fall now that he’s back up?
Last season, Contreras accrued .001 day of service, or maybe .005. To be honest, I’m not 100% sure which is correct, and I could go into the rules and why either may be the case, but that would be a waste of digital ink. So, let’s go with .005, just to be safe.
He accrued .057 days before his extended leave, and his recall on Wednesday will result in another .050 days—assuming no more options, of course. In total, that’s .107 days this season.
Tack on another .005 from 2021, and Contreras will go into 2023 with .112 days of service.
Of course, we have no idea where the Super Two cutoff will fall until whatever offseason Contreras finishes with more than 2.000 years of service but less than 3.000. Of course, if all goes well, one would hope that’s after 2024, but you never can tell. The same games appeared to have been played with Tyler Glasnow, but he eventually had to be sent back down and ended up a Super Two player anyway.
Historically, the lowest cutoff has been 2.115, during the 2019-20 offseason. That was significantly lower than any other mark up until that time, which ranged from 2.123 in 2017-18 to several marks at and above 2.130 in surrounding offseasons.
However, this past offseason was 2.116, another low total historically.
These are the best we have to go off of right now, but one has to wonder how the incentives in the new CBA will affect this cutoff. Will teams starting more top players earlier skew it any lower? It’s hard to say, but the Pirates seem to be gambling that trends hold and 2.112 will be low enough to potentially cost Contreras another year of arbitration while likely saving them millions in the process.
Pirates Payroll Updates
—Austin Brice was selected again, this time to replace Yerry De Los Santos, who will now be done for a season that has less than 60 days remaining. With a $950,000 prorated salary for Brice, payroll went up $234,203, at least for a little while…De Los Santos finishes the year with .136 days of service and no option used.
—Recent waiver claim Kevin Padlo was recalled to take the spot of Ke’Bryan Hayes, who went on the 10-day IL with back issues. Payroll went up $164,181, and with being optioned four times already, Padlo should be at five if and when he goes back down.
—It was announced that Rodolfo Castro would be suspended one game for the cell phone incident heard round the world. If the suspension stands upon appeal, Castro will lose out on and payroll will go down $3,874.
—The aforementioned recall of Roansy Contreras raised payroll by $162,335, but that will be offset once Austin Brice’s designation shakes out.
—Finally, payroll went down $160,962 when Jose Godoy was optioned and replaced by Tyler Heineman, who came off the IL.
—Payroll stands at $60,991,490 for the Labor Relations Department, while it’s $74,025,740 for CBT purposes.