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Super 2 & Service Time Manipulation—an MLB Problem


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There’s a lot of talk here each year when certain prospects are held in the minors, even when they appear ready, for reasons other than baseball. So figured we could discuss here (sorry in advance for the dissertation). Owners/teams manipulate the system in place to save money or gain extra year(s) of control of said player. Last year it was Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (among others), and this year the most egregious example seems to be Keston Hiura. He would likely be their 3rd/4th best hitter already, on a team fighting for a playoff spot. But they’re a “small market” team and seem to be more concerned with keeping him an extra year than putting out their best team. He’s definitely not the only one, though. Casey Mize would be, at worst, the Tigers SP2 today, if not their ace. But there’s no reason to push him, as they have nothing to play for. 

And here’s the problem (forget about treating these guys poorly for a moment)—as baseball is “dying,” we continue to keep our young stars in the minor leagues. Imagine Zion Williamson being kept in a minor league system for 2 years to “grow as a player” since the Pelicans will likely not be competing for a championship yet. Imagine Saquon Barkley and Baker Mayfield in a minor league system for 2-3 years so we can watch the “grizzled vets” play. There are all these talks of pace of play, LOOGYs, etc., but in my opinion THIS is the single largest factor hurting the sport. They’re not putting the best, young players in front of their fans. Why?

1) Many fans have been programmed by talking heads, and even argue in support of billionaire owners/management playing these games. Go to twitter and you’ll find many arguing that continually running out Travis Shaw/Jesus Aguilar is smart and Keston can wait. 

2) From a brief discussion had yesterday, I reminded a poster that MLB and the players’ union has no reason to change this. The union bargains for the players once they reach the majors. They don’t protect the minor league players, and of course the players in MLB don’t want to bargain to get players up quicker; they’ll be taking their jobs. Here’s a quote from Adam Eaton defending the system in place:

“If you do, complacency sets in,” Eaton says. “I think it’s difficult, yes, and it’s easy for me to say that because of where I am, but I wouldn’t be where I am without that … If I financially am supported down there and financially can make a living and not have to get to the big leagues, I think I’m a little more comfortable. I think that I might not work as hard because I know I’m getting a decent paycheck every two weeks, and may not push myself nearly as hard.”

“I don’t disagree with [the notion] that they’re being exploited, but I think it’s for the betterment of everybody,” he adds. “I know it sounds crazy … I think there’s a middle ground … There’s ground to be made up, but I think it still should be rough.”

https://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/sports/article/21074129/minor-league-baseball-players-live-below-minimum-wage-to-chase-their-dreams

3) MiLB players will likely have to unionize on their own. They hadn’t previously, but their was once less money in MLB and almost no money in MiLB, but that’s simply not the case anymore. But unfortunately you’re talking about a lot of “kids,” 18-22, who are much more fearful about upsetting the status quo.

“It’s worth pointing out, too, that MLB’s proactive approach to the lawsuit shows that it’s not just minor league players who are scared: MLB is concerned that the minor league players will discover that together, like their Major League cousins, there is power in a union, and Broshuis knows it: “These players are young, and they’re chasing a dream. They’re very reluctant to upset the status quo. A big part of it is just fear. Major League owners are sort of seen as this ever-powerful, omnipotent group that can’t be touched, so there’s this huge discrepancy in bargaining power that could be equalized in collective bargaining, but that very discrepancy in bargaining power discourages the players from collective bargaining and from forming a union that could lead to collective bargaining.”

https://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2018/6/5/17251534/mlb-draft-minor-league-baseball-union-phpa

Unionizing would likely bring higher pay/better conditions for the MiLB players, but I’m not sure it gets them up quicker. So what’s the ultimate solution? What could be done to fill stadiums with young players that fans are excited to go see? Do you see this ultimately killing the sport that we here (baseball geeks) ultimately love?

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So minor league players will get "complacent" with a livable wage and a lack of service time manipulation, and therefore won't pursue the dream they've likely had some they were kids of fame and fortune in the majors? Yeah I call BS on that one Eaton. 

A minor league Union would make sense but the obstacles against them seem insurmountable. Literally everyone but the fans would fight them tooth and nail. 

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6 minutes ago, Baur10 said:

So minor league players will get "complacent" with a livable wage and a lack of service time manipulation, and therefore won't pursue the dream they've likely had some they were kids of fame and fortune in the majors? Yeah I call BS on that one Eaton. 

A minor league Union would make sense but the obstacles against them seem insurmountable. Literally everyone but the fans would fight them tooth and nail. 

Yeah Eaton’s quote is gross on many levels. If that were the case, one could argue he should be paid much less to “keep him hungry.” Maybe he’d have less injuries. 

Agreed on the minor league union. The one scenario I could see is if you got a bunch of “AAAA” 26-27 year-olds who know their time has passed, have lived the lifestyle and know the issues, and aren’t part of the MLB union and therefore not fighting against their own best interests. Seems they could get the ball rolling on collective bargaining. 

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i would support unionizing by the MiLB, it's probably a best option.

tho i'm not certain i buy that all MLB players would be against fixing the problem that we have now. adam eaton started his first MLB game in 2012, was super 2 even a thing in 2012? when did the super 2 business begin anyway? 

i don't buy that players like kris bryant, ronald acuna, vlad, etc. (young guys) are going to forget what they were subjected to and go with the flow, arguing against making things better for MiLB players. maybe there's not enough of the young guys at this point in the MLB to make a difference, but it's just a matter of time.

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3 minutes ago, Backdoor Slider said:

Yeah Eaton’s quote is gross on many levels. If that were the case, one could argue he should be paid much less to “keep him hungry.” Maybe he’d have less injuries. 

Agreed on the minor league union. The one scenario I could see is if you got a bunch of “AAAA” 26-27 year-olds who know their time has passed, have lived the lifestyle and know the issues, and aren’t part of the MLB union and therefore not fighting against their own best interests. Seems they could get the ball rolling on collective bargaining. 

The problem is 26-27 AAAA types are expendable to teams. That's why they're paid so little as is. You could probably find kids who would play minor league baseball for nothing. 

Minor League Players: Hey we're going to unionize

Major League Teams: Cool. You're fired.

It's only a small percentage of minor league players that actually matter to teams and I can't blame those ones for not wanting to rock the boat when they know they've almost made it.

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If Owners were forced to pay minor leaguers more, they would just cut entire minor league affiliates. A lot of these guys are viewed as Org depth. Expendable.  Loosen the draft and IFA pool bonus systems is probably more realistic. 

You could also shorten the length to when players become rule 5 eligible, but expand the rosters beyond 40 men. (to make up for the fact teams would start losing talent to Rule 5)

 

 

EDIT: 

OR: Just trash the entire system. When you draft a player or sign an amature, you control them for X years. That is it, no service time. Make rules about what age a player signs gets X years at what controlled salary.

Done, easy, and it will encourage top talents to come up way earlier so they get the most out their investments.

Edited by Slatykamora
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19 minutes ago, osb_tensor said:

i would support unionizing by the MiLB, it's probably a best option.

tho i'm not certain i buy that all MLB players would be against fixing the problem that we have now. adam eaton started his first MLB game in 2012, was super 2 even a thing in 2012? when did the super 2 business begin anyway? 

i don't buy that players like kris bryant, ronald acuna, vlad, etc. (young guys) are going to forget what they were subjected to and go with the flow, arguing against making things better for MiLB players. maybe there's not enough of the young guys at this point in the MLB to make a difference, but it's just a matter of time.

You’re talking about a few, young, elite talents. How many of them are there v. the rest of the union? For example, take Milwaukee. Which of the union members want 1) a cut of the entire financial pie being sliced away more from them so they can give it to the younger kids in the minors, and 2) want the younger players up quicker to potentially take their jobs? 

As an aside, I’m a teacher (thus why I’m able to spend so much time on a summer weekday writing this) in a union. About 10 years ago we were facing cuts to staff and to save jobs, someone suggested coming to the table with a small pay cut. Our union leader’s response: “You young teachers have the rest of your career to make money. I’m fighting for those close to retirement.” I don’t bring that up as a discussion point, but as an analogy. I think the same applies here. Travis Shaw, Jesus Aguilar, Eric Thames, Ben Gamel, and the vast majority of that team (if not literally all) don’t want to lose a cut of their money AND potentially their job (and this is just one team, one example). It’s not in their best interest. 

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Just now, Slatykamora said:

If Owners were forced to pay minor leaguers more, they would just cut entire minor league affiliates. A lot of these guys are viewed as Org depth. Expendable.  Loosen the draft and IFA pool bonus systems is probably more realistic. 

You could also shorten the length to when players become rule 5 eligible, but expand the rosters beyond 40 men. (to make up for the fact teams would start losing talent to Rule 5)

This is a great solution. I was thinking something similar. If the 40 man roster is expanded, you get more guys making money, & more talent readily available. 

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7 minutes ago, Backdoor Slider said:

You’re talking about a few, young, elite talents. How many of them are there v. the rest of the union? For example, take Milwaukee. Which of the union members want 1) a cut of the entire financial pie being sliced away more from them so they can give it to the younger kids in the minors, and 2) want the younger players up quicker to potentially take their jobs? 

don't disagree entirely, money talks, i certainly understand the discussion, but how many of those same players for milwaukee will be happy sitting at home during the playoffs? are they willing to forgo winning to keep the talent at a level below them?

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44 minutes ago, Backdoor Slider said:

Yeah Eaton’s quote is gross on many levels. If that were the case, one could argue he should be paid much less to “keep him hungry.” Maybe he’d have less injuries. 

Agreed on the minor league union. The one scenario I could see is if you got a bunch of “AAAA” 26-27 year-olds who know their time has passed, have lived the lifestyle and know the issues, and aren’t part of the MLB union and therefore not fighting against their own best interests. Seems they could get the ball rolling on collective bargaining. 

 

The downside there being those guys have the least leverage and least media presence to rally support as mentioned above. I think it's the stars that might be able to move the needle. I'd argue even though nothing really came if it, the most this topic was being discussed in the general public/media was when Kris Bryant was raising hell, and exposure helps. Then again getting multiple teenage star players to bite the hand that about to feed them very very well is probably a longshot too. 

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It's simple, grown men working a full time job should not be forced to sleep 4 or more to a room because they can't afford anything else. There's disgusting stories of players having to buy and return a TV time and time again because they couldn't afford to keep one. Even worse is the game day food spreads which are often things like PBJ or bologna sandwiches. How about investing a little into your players and getting them dieticians and proper nutritional food. The cost to do this would probably be cheaper then some of the annual payouts some of these journeyman MLB players get. 

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2 hours ago, Tryptamine said:

It's simple, grown men working a full time job should not be forced to sleep 4 or more to a room because they can't afford anything else. There's disgusting stories of players having to buy and return a TV time and time again because they couldn't afford to keep one. Even worse is the game day food spreads which are often things like PBJ or bologna sandwiches. How about investing a little into your players and getting them dieticians and proper nutritional food. The cost to do this would probably be cheaper then some of the annual payouts some of these journeyman MLB players get. 

 

Not sure if every farm system is the same...or if you get paid more $$ the higher up you go through the ranks. 

A friend of mine played minor league ball 20 years ago just outside Syracuse, NY. He made $1000 per game if on active roster and $500 a game if on the DL. Also, a 3 meal allowance per day. 105 game season. You do the math. After 8 seasons and some good investments...he's a multi millionaire at 45. 

Maybe things have gotten worse since then.

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19 minutes ago, bluntbros said:

Not sure if every farm system is the same...or if you get paid more $$ the higher up you go through the ranks. 

A friend of mine played minor league ball 20 years ago just outside Syracuse, NY. He made $1000 per game if on active roster and $500 a game if on the DL. Also, a 3 meal allowance per day. 105 game season. You do the math. After 8 seasons and some good investments...he's a multi millionaire at 45. 

Maybe things have gotten worse since then.

According to MLB, the average salary for minor league players in 2017 ranged from $10,000 a month for Class AAA, right below the majors, to $1,100 per month in short-season or rookie leagues. Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, equaling $15,080 a year for a 40-hour work week.

Generally, players are not paid during spring training, or during the instructional leagues at spring training league facilities after the minor league season ends.

 

https://www.post-gazette.com/sports/pirates/2018/07/09/minor-league-wages-lawsuit-mlb-pirates-altoona-curve/stories/201807050008

might be a paywall, not sure, i was looking at the google cache'd page.

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There is a very simple way to kill the service time manipulation... Include minor league service as part of the service time calculation. Teams will have no incentive to artificially hold players back.

Additionally, international players need to enter the MLB through the draft, much like the NBA does. Different rules may apply towards older interbational veterans, but that can be worked out, if needed.

For example: Teams control players for 7 years after being drafted, minors and majors combined. If you are Clint Frazier and it takes 7 years, you are a free agent after your rookie year... If you are Kris Bryant and you are in the majors after only 2 years in the minors, your team gets you for 5 years in the majors... Teams would actually be incented to play you at the MLB level if you are ready -- it would also get teams to value more advanced MLB ready talent more in the draft as they can get more MLB service out of you before your free agency.

Include minor league play in service time. Do it. Do it.

Do it.

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3 hours ago, Tryptamine said:

It's simple, grown men working a full time job should not be forced to sleep 4 or more to a room because they can't afford anything else. There's disgusting stories of players having to buy and return a TV time and time again because they couldn't afford to keep one. Even worse is the game day food spreads which are often things like PBJ or bologna sandwiches. How about investing a little into your players and getting them dieticians and proper nutritional food. The cost to do this would probably be cheaper then some of the annual payouts some of these journeyman MLB players get. 

I wonder how many of these guys would blossom into MLB caliber players if they had better nutrition and training? It's quite possible the allegedly cash strapped teams are being penny wise and pound foolish.

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5 hours ago, Backdoor Slider said:

Unionizing would likely bring higher pay/better conditions for the MiLB players, but I’m not sure it gets them up quicker. So what’s the ultimate solution? What could be done to fill stadiums with young players that fans are excited to go see? Do you see this ultimately killing the sport that we here (baseball geeks) ultimately love?

Getting to the show faster could be negotiated. Be it service time changing or some means I'm not thinking of, the incentive to keep players down could be eliminated. At least in theory and on paper. The devil is always in the details.

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15 minutes ago, AnonymousRob said:

I wonder how many of these guys would blossom into MLB caliber players if they had better nutrition and training? It's quite possible the allegedly cash strapped teams are being penny wise and pound foolish.

According to his suspension last year, Michael Chavis had non problem getting MLB caliber *eh hem* nutrition.

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4 hours ago, Backdoor Slider said:

He’s definitely not the only one, though. Casey Mize would be, at worst, the Tigers SP2 today, if not their ace. But there’s no reason to push him, as they have nothing to play for. 

And here’s the problem (forget about treating these guys poorly for a moment)—as baseball is “dying,” we continue to keep our young stars in the minor leagues. Imagine Zion Williamson being kept in a minor league system for 2 years to “grow as a player” since the Pelicans will likely not be competing for a championship yet. Imagine Saquon Barkley and Baker Mayfield in a minor league system for 2-3 years so we can watch the “grizzled vets” play. There are all these talks of pace of play, LOOGYs, etc., but in my opinion THIS is the single largest factor hurting the sport. They’re not putting the best, young players in front of their fans. Why?

 

I'm quoting the parts I'm commenting on since it's quite a long post.

First, Casey Mize would be the Tigers' SP 2 today but is in the minors for service time manipulation? Are you kidding me? Correct me if I'm wrong, but only three 1st rounders have debuted from the 2016 draft class and only three more have debuted from the 2017 class. Obviously, none have from 2018. If you think a guy with 9 AA starts is better than Boyd and Turnbull right now then you're a biased Tigers fan or using him as a weak anecdote to expand your argument. Zimermann is there because of his salary and Norris is probably better than Mize right now too. Mize has a ton of potential but he has....9 AA starts.

Regardless, the motive makes sense. Top players are getting manipulated. Lets say there's 3-5 cases of obvious manipulation each year. With counting 17 leagues each with 25 players on each roster that's about 425 minor league players. The instances of manipulation would make up just about 1% of all minor leaguers. It sucks, but definitely not a big enough concern to start a union over.

Zion, Saquon, and Baker aren't in a minors affiliate because basketball and football players can hold their own against veterans in their prime. Baseball players can't; it takes time for them to develop. Sure, Mize might be able to dominate if he debuted today but he also very well could end up like Carlos Rodon. Rodon was given the fast track in order to become an impact starter and then never really became that impactful. Major league coaches are probably leagues better than those in their minor affiliate, but if someone could use development, why not let them development.

Also, as we all know, baseball has marketing issues. The general public does not care about baseball. I'd say most general individuals that follow sports but not baseball specifically would barely be able to name Mike Trout. Non sports fans would have no idea who he is. Compare this to names like Lebron, Curry, or your local football team's QB. Everyone  knows who they are. Throwing some unprepared guys into the bigs won't help marketing as people don't even know who Trout is.

 

I'm going to be honest, I don't know what the solution is, but a union doesn't seem feasible. I wish Hiura was up right now and that Yordan was at the beginning of the season, but there's not much that can be done. A union would fight for the tiny minority of MiLB players that are manipulated and would potentially get rid of the jobs for those still holding on to their dream.

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23 minutes ago, StevieStats said:

There is a very simple way to kill the service time manipulation... Include minor league service as part of the service time calculation. Teams will have no incentive to artificially hold players back.

Additionally, international players need to enter the MLB through the draft, much like the NBA does. Different rules may apply towards older interbational veterans, but that can be worked out, if needed.

For example: Teams control players for 7 years after being drafted, minors and majors combined. If you are Clint Frazier and it takes 7 years, you are a free agent after your rookie year... If you are Kris Bryant and you are in the majors after only 2 years in the minors, your team gets you for 5 years in the majors... Teams would actually be incented to play you at the MLB level if you are ready -- it would also get teams to value more advanced MLB ready talent more in the draft as they can get more MLB service out of you before your free agency.

Include minor league play in service time. Do it. Do it.

Do it.

I like this idea but this completely screws over high school prospects and guys that aren't elite coming out of the draft. Frazier took longer than Bryant since he was a high schooler and I have no idea where you're getting that it took 7 years for him to debut? He was drafted in June of 2013 and debuted in July of 2017, which is four years. Believe it or not, Frazier debuted at a younger age than Bryant even though their debut was 2 years apart and that they were drafted in the same year. Almost all players aren't good enough to have only one year in the minors, and this hurts way more organizational players than it helps.

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Just now, Maxcd99 said:

I like this idea but this completely screws over high school prospects and guys that aren't elite coming out of the draft. Frazier took longer than Bryant since he was a high schooler and I have no idea where you're getting that it took 7 years for him to debut? He was drafted in June of 2013 and debuted in July of 2017, which is four years. Believe it or not, Frazier debuted at a younger age than Bryant even though their debut was 2 years apart and that they were drafted in the same year. Almost all players aren't good enough to have only one year in the minors, and this hurts way more organizational players than it helps.

You would obviously have a different set years of control between college guys and high schoolers. Think that would go w/o saying

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23 minutes ago, Maxcd99 said:

Regardless, the motive makes sense. Top players are getting manipulated. Lets say there's 3-5 cases of obvious manipulation each year. With counting 17 leagues each with 25 players on each roster that's about 425 minor league players. The instances of manipulation would make up just about 1% of all minor leaguers. It sucks, but definitely not a big enough concern to start a union over.

 

First off, there are many more reasons players might want a union, many of them outlined in this thread.  But even restricting the discussion to service time manipulation, I'm pretty sure most players would say their interests are served by ending the practice -- some out of self interest on behalf of their future self ("maybe I'll some day get to the point where my production at the minor league level demands a call-up"), some out of solidarity with their teammates, and some simply because it's the right thing to do.   Sure, maybe a few of the older career minor league guys would prioritize some other changes instead that benefit them (e.g. higher wages) and wouldn't care so much about the next generation, but I bet you could get well more than half of them supporting service time reform as part of a comprehensive deal.

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26 minutes ago, Maxcd99 said:

Zion, Saquon, and Baker aren't in a minors affiliate because basketball and football players can hold their own against veterans in their prime. Baseball players can't; it takes time for them to develop. 

 

Why can't elite baseball prospects hold their own against veterans?  As a general idea, I don't necessarily disagree. But do we truly know that? Or not really, because of the system.

 

In other words, let the players and their performance dictate that, not the service time rules.

 

You might be right that a very small percentage of players are impacted, but again we don't truly know because of the system/rules. But even still, if it's only 1% or less, it only takes a case like Hiura once a year to lose fans and/or lose potential fans. So that small percent of players could potentially make a big impact on the sport overall. (Not to mention a team like Milwaukee potentially missing the playoffs and/or window to win WS)

 

And again, maybe more and more young players could actually succeed sooner in the MLB, but we wouldn't know due to the current system.

 

P.S. Kyler Murray case might have turned out differently, that situation can't be great for MLB (sure does help NFL though).

.

Edited by Members_Only_76
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     As a fan of a team in a small market (small salary anyway) in a division with Red Sox and Yankees.  I have to live with the fact that we  will likely never make the playoffs.  EVERY off season, I sit and watch those 2 giants sign and sign and sign free agents.  Every trade deadline, I see these same teams bolster their lineups with all stars, yet they still have great farm systems and the best prospects somehow.  Granted that every year is not  the same, and there have been some leaner years for both the Red Sox and Yankees in terms of success.  This is something that Tampa, Toronto and Baltimore fans know all too well.  I'm all for any advantage we have that helps us in the slightest.  This includes waiting a few weeks for super 2.  last year people were banging down the door for Vladdy.  Why? So he can be a Red Sox a year earlier? No thanks.

 

Not saying I'm right, and I'm certain people will disagree.  Perhaps my reasoning is flawed and I'm unaware of something.  But that's MY take.

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29 minutes ago, Members_Only_76 said:

 

Why can't elite baseball prospects hold their own against veterans?  As a general idea, I don't necessarily disagree. But do we truly know that? Or not really, because of the system.

 

In other words, let the players and their performance dictate that, not the service time rules.

 

You might be right that a very small percentage of players are impacted, but again we don't truly know because of the system/rules. But even still, if it's only 1% or less, it only takes a case like Hiura once a year to lose fans and/or lose potential fans. So that small percent of players could potentially make a big impact on the sport overall. (Not to mention a team like Milwaukee potentially missing the playoffs and/or window to win WS)

 

And again, maybe more and more young players could actually succeed sooner in the MLB, but we wouldn't know due to the current system.

 

P.S. Kyler Murray case might have turned out differently, that situation can't be great for MLB (sure does help NFL though).

.

100%. And this is where I feel @Maxcd99 falls into the trap. We’re told they need the minors and aren’t ready to compete. Says who? I remember when 23-24 was the norm. Bryce, Trout, Correa, Acuna, Albies, Soto, and many, many more are showing us that some of these guys are ready at 19, 20 years old. 

I like @StevieStats idea. It’s what the other sports do. Contract and time starts once drafted. But @Maxcd99 brings up a good point about HS v. college. So I think you could go two ways. Either, like the NBA, you take the younger guy and know it takes an extra year or two to develop, too bad, or maybe it’s 7 years for HS players, 5 years for college players. Whatever the number, make it so there’s zero benefit to keeping a guy down, except to develop skills.

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1 hour ago, Maxcd99 said:

I'm quoting the parts I'm commenting on since it's quite a long post.

First, Casey Mize would be the Tigers' SP 2 today but is in the minors for service time manipulation? Are you kidding me? Correct me if I'm wrong, but only three 1st rounders have debuted from the 2016 draft class and only three more have debuted from the 2017 class. Obviously, none have from 2018. If you think a guy with 9 AA starts is better than Boyd and Turnbull right now then you're a biased Tigers fan or using him as a weak anecdote to expand your argument. Zimermann is there because of his salary and Norris is probably better than Mize right now too. Mize has a ton of potential but he has....9 AA starts.

If I polled 100 baseball scouts, I’d bet zero would agree with this. It’s crazy and again, goes back to this idea that for some reason you think some guys drafted out of college aren’t ready to compete at the highest level. 

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