Friday, July 18, 2008

Service Time Shenanigans?

Yesterday Neyer wondered aloud why the Twins were keeping Francisco Liriano down on the farm despite 5.44 good reasons to call him up. Today Lirano's agent thinks he has an answer:
The agent for Francisco Liriano has reportedly gotten the players' union to agree to investigate whether the Twins have violated the collective bargaining agreement by keeping Liriano at Triple-A Rochester . . .

. . . One of the primary factors in the investigation is the possible adverse effect the delayed callup may have had on Liriano's service time. Liriano currently has two years and 45 days of Major League service time. To quality for arbitration, a player needs three years of service time. But the top 17 percent of players with between two and three years of service will also quality for arbitration as "Super Twos."
Bill Smith, the Twins GM, responded by saying that if they were interested in messin' with Liriano's service time, they wouldn't have had him on the big club back in April. Smith also cites other examples (e.g. Joe Mauer) when, according to Smith, they didn't pay attention to service time concerns when they very easily could have. "[W]e're trying to win baseball games, that's always been our goal," Smith said.

The "we're trying to win" thing would be way more compelling if they weren't running Livan Hernandez -- a guy who Gleeman points out has "more or less turned every hitter who's stepped to the plate against him into Morneau" -- out there every fifth day.

Still, if this thing ever got in front of an arbitrator, I think the Twins would prevail absent some bombshell document coming to light or someone turning stoolie or something. For starters, the Twins could point to their excellent play of late and say they don't want to mess with a good thing. The fact that it would be a better thing if they had Liriano instead of Hernandez would probably be overlooked because people tend not to see what hasn't happened as much as they see what has.

Second, though you and I may understand sunk costs, most folks don't, and the Twins, if pressed on their insistence on pitching Hernandez, might convince some arbitrator that they just have to keep running him out there in order to realize some kind of return on their $5M investment.

Are they messin' with Liriano's service time? I have no clue about that. If they aren't, however, it means that the only explanation for him being down in Rochester is that the Twins have no clue about anything.


Dre said...

Its absurd and killing my fantasy team.

You have to wonder what kind of relationship the Twins will have going forward with Liriano and his agent. Generally you don't want to call out the organization that will hopefully be paying you millions of dollars in the future. This can only lead to nasty arbitration hearings once Liriano becomes eligible.

All that in mind, there's no 1 single sane reason for keeping him in the minors at this point. If they want to win, they simply have to dump Livan to the bullpen or all together. Last year, AZ toiled with the same ideas but generally didn't have anyone that could step in.

studioscott said...

The Twins must be certain that they'll lose Liriano as soon as he has a chance to leave. Otherwise, why antagonize one of their best players like this?

Daniel said...

There's a couple of other arguments they could make:
1. Liriano was pretty awful in his stint with the big club earlier in the season and
2. This is arguably the Twins' highest valued asset, so they can justify "babying" him

Whether the Twins believe those things or not, they could use them in an arbitration case. My hunch is that they're hung up on the sunk cost of Hernandez and keep hoping he'll get better.

Scott said...

Livan's 9-6 on the year. Investigate that, Don Fehr. Tell the Twins to replace him with a minor leager. W-L record plus $5million = end of discussion.

Pete Toms said...

Isn't it a long time entrenched practice? The intentional delaying of the arb eligible years? I think we can all agree that it does happen ( we can disagree about specific cases, i.e. Liriano ) but whether or not it is kosher legally....and I guess philisophically.....I remember the Expos did it to Mark Grudz here years ago and he was super pissed about it...

Proponents or defenders of salary arb such as the late Doug Pappas like to point out that while salary arb is a bonanza for the players, in turn they play for a small fraction of their market value in their early years.

Richard Dansky said...

If they're trying to dump Hernandez (which, by all accounts, the Twins are), then yanking him from the rotation is just going to torpedo whatever residual "proven winner" value he has left. It makes sense to keep running him out there until you can get rid of him, if that's what the Twins are going after.

Dre said...

That might be the 1st time I've ever seen the word "value" contained in the same sentence as Livan Hernandez.