Do you know what I’m tired of? People acting in bad faith. Other people applauding the bad-faith actors for finding a way to manipulate the system in a manner that clearly wasn’t intended. Why do so many people seem to believe that the spirit of a policy is irrelevant?

Nick Senzel should be on the Opening Day roster. When asked about manipulating service time with regards to Senzel on Thursday, Dick Williams said, “I anticipate putting the best team out there that we can.”

I don’t want to hear service time arguments and here’s why:

  1. The owners have broken free agency. “But wait!” you say. “No one should sign players to ridiculously long contracts.” Yet, we ignore the fact that the draft is all about locking players up for 10+ years between the minors and majors. In order to even get a foothold in professional baseball, you have to sign a 10+ year long contract wherein you are only allowed to negotiate with one of the 30 possible employers. Before, you could expect a big pay day at the end. Now you can’t. If you are pro-free market, you should have a problem with this. If you are pro-labor, you should have a problem with this. But if you’re pro-monopoly, you’re probably okay with it.
  2. It’s bad for baseball. The best league is a league where all the best players play. I did the math on this a couple of years ago for The Hardball Times. And it is abundantly clear that players have had their major league debuts delayed since free agency began. In recent years, it’s gotten even worse.
  3. It’s a bad faith move. I get how the world works. I get that there are always people trying to take advantage of the system. But I’m over applauding them for doing so. If my children did something this disingenuous, I would be disappointed in them and we would need to have a talk about it. Why then, am I expected to encourage it in adults?

So that’s it. Steve made his points yesterday that keeping Senzel down for a few weeks made sense. His facts are right, but I disagree with the application. I was raised to believe that people should act honestly and in good faith. I may have to accept that there is dishonesty and bad faith behind the actions of many people. But I don’t have to like it and I don’t have to approve of it. My values can’t be bought for the price of a few wins in seven years. Nick Senzel should start the season on the roster. Not because it’s the best business move, but because it’s the honest move.

103 Responses

  1. Tom

    I think there’s another option – negotiation. Explain the reality to Nick and his lovely agent, Boras and see if there is a third way that’s a win-win. Maybe that’s a long term deal that secures Nick’s future but doesn’t hamstring a team in the MLB second smallest market.

  2. WVRedlegs

    I am going with Steve’s assessment yesterday. No he should not be!

  3. matthew hendley

    This argument is on point. No argument. HOWEVER, it is right now what it is. Tony Clark failed the MLBPA this last go round. This will something that can and probably must be addressed then. Until then though, one must act in the best long term interests of the club. Otherwise we will have a prisoners dilemma scenario with no other prisoners cooperating.

  4. Jim H.

    One thing to consider in all this is the relationship with the player. I talked casually about this very issue with a top prospect from another team, and the personal side needs to be considered. Yes, you can save a little here or there, but the person is affected by it. It COULD make it difficult later to sign them long term. You do the right thing on the front, maybe you get a hometown discount later. It’s on the minds of guys like Senzel as they move through systems.

    Building the relationship with trust and loyalty is never a bad thing. So in principle, I agree with this article. I also understand it’s a business and doing what’s best for the bottom line makes a lot of sense. But the Cubs are finding out with Bryant how relationships work. Just something to think about.

    • wkuchad

      After his arbitration years, Nick will be making his decision to resign with the Reds based on his experiences over the previous six years, not based on two weeks in the minors that happened over six years in the past.

      • Big Ed

        It is not just “two weeks,” though. For one thing, it is probably a $40,000 difference in AAA money and MLB money for those 18 days. Why get off on the wrong foot with a guy? But in year 7, it is the difference between free agency money and whatever he gets in arbitration that year.

        And it doesn’t help Senzel develop. The Reds open March 28; the Bats open April 4, so he gets to play a week or so of fumble-bum games, then a week of AAA games in comfy Toledo and Colorado Springs.

    • Joey

      We already played that game with him last year. Kept him down, he got hurt, didn’t play. If the Reds do it again this year, doubt he ever extends or resigns with us.

      • Colt Holt

        If he is a superstar, The reds have there work cut out with keeping him regardless of when he gets called up. Until there is truly competitive balance, where all teams have the same total payroll, it is unlikely the best players choose to play for the reds. If there was balance and no team was more likely to afford a $40 million player, that would solve a lot of these problems.

  5. J

    I’m generally a big fan of acting in good faith, but when 28-year-old baseball players are insisting with straight faces “my services are worth $15 million per season — plus a whole bunch of benefits almost no other workers would ever receive no matter how hard they work,” I have a hard time worrying about the “bad-faith” of a team manipulating service time while claiming not to be. To me this is like saying one mafia guy needs to negotiate in good faith with another mafia guy because it’s better for society when everyone acts in good faith.

    • greenmtred

      And billionaire owners insist, with straight faces, that they’re losing money and can’t afford to field a competitive line-up. I agree that the money in sports is out of whack, but it’s a result, in part of supply and demand. Without the players, there’s no game and no money. And, yes, if everyone acted in good faith, everything, not just baseball, would be much better.

  6. Tampa Red

    Well written, obviously heartfelt, but totally disagree. The Reds didn’t create the system, 29 other teams do the same thing, and they shouldn’t put themselves at a long-term competitive disadvantage to satisfy your sense of good faith.

    • wkuchad

      Completely agree with this. The Reds aren’t manipulating anything.

      • Rich H

        They would be, 100%, manipulating his service time.

    • Hotto4Votto

      Well put Tampa.

      Honestly there is very little in the world of big business or in a capitalist society in general that does operate in “good faith” towards its employees, consumers, environment, or the betterment of the society it operates in. Baseball is a business and operates as such, and this seems an odd place to draw a line in the sand when discussing good faith.

      • JB WV

        The sad truth, Hotto. But a think baseball is a good place to draw at least an imaginary line for good faith. Nobody but an accountant and his family would care if he missed a couple paychecks to start the year. But we care about Senzel and his ability to play well and stick around for the long term. And the Reds have done it before. Barry Larkin should have been traded, from a business standpoint, before the end of his career. Maybe would have received a decent prospect or two. But nobody in Red’s Country wanted to see him go. And he retired a Red never playing for another team. I liked it then and I especially like it now. Some sports decisions are visceral. They’re not always savvy or considered to be in the short-term interests of the team, but sometimes help galvanize the fan base. I was 15 when the Reds traded Tony Perez. I was a kid and I cried. For years I held a grudge against management, and I still think of that trade with angst. If Senzel earns the right to play with the big club out of ST then let him. It might pay off more in the short and long term.

      • Reaganspad

        And sometimes you pay Ryan Madsen Millions of dollars for one season, he doesn’t throw one pitch for you, rehabs with you all year and the signs elsewhere the next time he has a chance to sign a contract

        I always thought if there was one guy who should show some good faith it would be him

        And that was for a lot more than 2 weeks

        Senzel gets what is going on. We have already paid him more than most people will see in a lifetime

        It’s 2 weeks and we can justify that it would be ok for him to catch a few fly balls in AAA before bringing his show to porkopulous.

        He is not at 3rd base, was not MiL player of the year, and while he is not injury prone, he did not play 145 games last year.

        2 weeks….

  7. Rut

    This is a business, and the Reds need to run their business “better” than the competition, for all the small market reasons that we all know and love.

    Quite frankly, it would be a horrible business decision to NOT keep Senzel in AAA until late April.

    I also do not think your use of “Bad Faith” here meets any legal definition of the term, and tossing that out there might not be the best way to make your point.

    I wish many of the financial aspects of baseball were not as they are — but the team can’t ignore the reality that they exist. And it’s not like Nick would give the Reds any deal for year 7 if the Reds were foolish enough to do as Jason suggests.

    Until this reality changes, the Reds must keep operating under the rules as they are, not as we would want them to be. So that means no Senzel until late April or the Reds have made a potentially huge mistake.

    • greenmtred

      “Bad faith” was probably a general concept–sort of like “honor”–before it was a legal concept. It’s hard, though, to discount the arguments of everybody who says, in effect, that everyone else is doing it so the Reds need to, as well. It seems pragmatic, and probably is, but is not a recipe for correcting a bad situation. I do wonder about the effect on the player’s attitude when it’s time for him to consider signing another contract, but that would hinge on many things.

  8. Klugo

    I couldn’t disagree more. He’s hardly played CF . Playing 11 real games would do him well. Besides, the Reds didn’t make the rules. If the Reds don’t apply it, others will. Not using it does nothing except put us at a disadvantage.

    • Streamer88

      I suspect this is a separate issue. If he needs seasoning in CF and they want to do that away from the ESPN Lowlight reels for baseball reasons then the argument is moot.

  9. Stock

    Reasons Senzel should start in the minors:

    1. Two weeks in 2019 is worth far less than 26 weeks in 2025.
    2. A prospect should never be brought up to sit on the bench.
    2A. A prospect should not be brought up until he is clearly an upgrade for someone in the starting line-up.
    3. LF should be manned by Winker and Kemp in 2019. Senzel’s OF appearance should take time from Schebler and Puig in 2019.
    4. If there is a RHP starting, Puig, Gennett, Winker have to be in the starting line-up. They crush RHP.
    5. Until proven otherwise it should be assumed Schebler has a better bat then Senzel vs. RHP. It without a doubt is not a guarantee Senzel is better vs. RHP.
    6. The Reds first three series in 2019 are vs. the Pirates and the Brewers. The Pirates have ZERO LHP in their rotation. The Brewers have ZERO LHP in their rotation.
    7. Senzel has hit the DL twice in his career with Vertigo. Why should we enhance his chances with a third bout of Vertigo by playing him in the OF where there are walls to shake you enough to send him to the DL?

    Everyone is in such a hurry to promote Senzel. I don’t see that for 2019 he is an upgrade over Puig, Gennett, Suarez or Votto. He is not catching. He is not playing SS. That leaves LF and CF. Is he an upgrade over Winker? Winker should without a doubt be in there before Senzel vs. RHP. And again I see Kemp getting any AB in LF when Winker is not playing.

    This leaves Schebler vs. Senzel. Before he was hurt in July, Schebler was on a six week run where his OPS was .903. I am not saying Schebler is better than Senzel. But I am saying that vs. RHP the difference is not worth bringing Senzel up in April.

    I would keep him in the minors until May 13 (series vs. Cubs who have three LHP in their rotation). As that time approaches determine if he is ready.

    You do not bring up a highly valued prospect to be the short side of a platoon.

    • andybado

      @Stock, re: should Senzel play over Schebler?

      Yes. Yes, he should. He absolutely, 100%, should.

      Also, in your scenario, why would bring up Senzel after May 13 just to platoon with Schebler? If you are keeping him in the minors at the beginning of the year “to be the short side of a platoon,” why would he suddenly get more playing time on May 13? This isn’t about playing time or hitting RHP, it’s about service time. Convoluting your reasoning is just distracting from that main point.

    • GoReds

      Hmmm…logic! Agree with everything you said Stock, except the vertigo part. You had me on the first 6 points which had nothing to do with the fact that there is a system in place in which the terms were set by the MLBPA and the owners. Jason Linden’s “feelings” on the matter are non-sense. Now know what articles to avoid in the future.

      • DHud

        Nick Senzel is one of the Cincinatti Reds’ 8 best baseball players right now.

        How’s that for logic?

      • DHud

        At the very least, unequivocally, without a doubt, one of the best 25.

      • LWBlogger2

        Even though I disagree with Jason’s opinion stated in this piece, if you’re implying that you should avoid his pieces in the future, I’d tell you that you’d likely miss some really good writing. Along with the good writing are often some excellent pieces. Maybe that’s not what you’re saying but that’s kind of what I heard and I think that if you like baseball and the Reds, Jason’s articles are worth the read.

  10. Scott C

    In a free market every business looks out after their own interests. There are always rules in any market. I see no problem in a team looking out for its own interest according to the rules set forth. Nor do I see any problem with a player trying to make as much money as they can and securing their future according to the rules. Do I look back with nostalgia when a fan knew he could enjoy watching a player throughout his career play for his favorite team? Sure but the rules changed and the deal Marvin Miller got for the players is the envy of every other players union.
    Sorry Jason, but I disagree with you. As a Cincinnati Reds fan I want to look after my best interests and right now that is hopefully getting to watch Nick play another season in a Reds uniform.

    • CaptainHook

      Right. The owners are operating within the confines of the CBA, there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, as a small market team, we desperately need ownership to be savvy about this stuff.

      If you have a problem with it, the time and place to deal with it is the next time the CBA is negotiated (or earlier, if the owners want a concession). But I wouldn’t hold my breath since the MLBPA has typically put veterans first, which is part of the reason the system is set up this way. Let’s see if next time around they prioritize the interests of young players and, god forbid, the minor leaguers who are the real victims in all of this.

      • andybado

        Is the smart/savvy move really to risk alienating your best prospect and potentially create a rift between management and the future face of the franchise? Nope. The smart move is to do whatever you can to make your best prospect, the most valuable asset in the entire organization, as happy and content as possible as a Cincinnati Red.

        If Senzel hadn’t been injured last year, he would have seen playing time in the majors last year, and we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Playing the service time game now with Senzel could easily come across as using those injuries against him, and delaying him even farther from the timeline that he was on pre-injury.

        A couple more points to support putting Senzel on the opening day roster:
        – Dude is turning 24 in June. We aren’t talking about a super-young prospect like Vlad Jr. Senzel is one of the older prospects on top 100 lists.
        – If Senzel is good (not even great but good), the Reds will already be getting all of his prime years (25-29) at a steep discount to his actual value. Even as a small market team, we don’t need to be ripping off our most valuable asset any more than 6 years of the pre-arb/arb system already allow.

        In sum, the smart move here is to keep your most valuable asset happy in Cincinnati. We want our good players to want to stay here. We want guys like Votto and Larkin who make their careers here. And we also hope that guys like Puig might actually stick around because they like it here. The Reds are never going to be a major free agent destination. The smart move is to keep your good players happy so that when free agency or an extension opportunity comes (and they have a choice), they choose to come back.

    • Jason Linden

      MLB is not a free market. They have an anti-trust exemption. If it was a free market, the draft would not exist. If you are fine doing away with those things, then okay.

      • CaptainHook

        The NFL and NBA don’t have anti-trust exemptions but they still have drafts, so I don’t get your point.

        Also, I did not say it is a free market, I said the owners are operating within the CBA and the system the MLBPA agreed to. Do you disagree? Do you disagree that MLBPA has typically prioritized veterans overs young players and minor leaguers?

      • Scott C

        I am sorry, I was not trying to say baseball was a free market system, I understand the anti trust exemption. The point I was making was that even in a free market system there are rules that limit companies or businesses from doing certain things or putting down a minimum wage. If you are looking for a market without any rules that in my understanding is a laissez faire system and I can not think of a successful one. And I’m not arguing here, just clarifying what I said. I understand your position, just don’t agree with it.

  11. scotly50

    You play this game because you love it and then you have an opportunity to look out for your family and your future, so you have to see what’s right for you to do, and I think that’s a discussion that’s going to have to be had with my agents.”

    “I would like to be part of this team’s future, I would like the feeling to be mutual, but that is just something that we are going to have to see. The main goal is just to get ready for the season and make sure I am ready to go out there and pitch.”

    Jacob DeGrom

    • Sliotar

      “A potential workload reduction is a tactic deGrom’s agent at CAA, Jeff Berry, outlined in a recent memo to players that sought to address the historically slow free-agent markets the past two winters. Among the arguments that have been made against long-term deals for pitchers over 30 is the amount of wear and tear on their arms.”

      “DeGrom could be angling for a contract that pays him in the neighborhood of $150 million for five seasons. ”

      Cue up the “players only love you when they’re playing” lyric from “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac.

      If they aren’t careful, the players will have already lost the public PR battle before the CBA even ends in 2021.

      • scotly50

        It is always the case . The players are always vilified. They are “Greedy” for asking for a larger piece of the pie. But they are forced. If the teams were made to reveal their financial positions, the negotiations would be more on-the-level, at least in the public eye.

  12. redsfan06

    The player should be unhappy with the system. But if he is realistic, he will not hold it against the team he is part of. There are an awful lot of things that can happen in the course of 6 years for the team to expect a quid pro quo down the line for not waiting 2 weeks.

    • KDJ

      Don’t underestimate the power of spite.

  13. Sliotar

    “I was raised to believe that people should act honestly and in good faith.”

    Expecting that to extend to billion-dollar MLB franchises in 2019, and front office people with $1 million+ salaries, jobs they could lose without finding every competitive edge….is (very) wishful thinking, IMO.

    Actually, the team could do this….but, why hamstring the small budget, tiny TV deal (and dependent on revenue-sharing) Reds worse than they are?

    Other teams are manipulating service time…the Twins just did it last season with Byron Buxton. 29 other teams won’t stop doing this, even if the Reds so with Senzel.

    Baseball is broken for at least 3 more seasons. It is up to the players’ union to start preparing “rainy day funds” now for a strike, to show they are serious about forcing change.

    Otherwise, they are relying on the owners’, who have massive leverage in this CBA and are flexing it….to willingly give the players significant changes…just because it’s acting in good faith.

    I won’t hold my breath on that happening.

  14. Phil

    I’m assuming the starting outfield for most of the season will have Winker in left, Senzel in center and Puig in right. Kemp will likely pinch hit and play left field in place of Winker against left-handed pitching. Schebler I think looks like a great 4th or 5th outfielder as he can play all 3 outfield positions and is above average at the plate vs left and right handed pitching.
    If during Spring Training Nick Senzel looks clearly better than Scott Schebler both in center field and at the plate, then I may agree with starting him on opening day. It may be “acting in bad faith” to hold him back if the replacement for those 2 weeks was a clearly inferior player.
    If Schebler looks good in spring training though, there are other perks to delaying Senzel’s call up other than the service time:
    1) More time for Senzel to learn a defensive position he’s never played before.
    2) Additional looks at Schebler in center field. If/when Scooter leaves, via trade or free agency, and Senzel moves back to second can Schebler handle center time?

  15. The Duke

    No, they should definitely get the extra year.

  16. BK

    First, I like that Jason and Steve took opposing views on this subject … loved it!

    One point I’d like to make is that I think “good faith” is a little in the eye of the beholder in this particular argument. Team CEOs or the Team Presidents that represent them have a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of their franchise. The Players Association has a fiduciary responsibility to represent the players. Where does the CBA imply that teams should not manage their rosters in order to elicit the greatest value for their franchise.

    Roster management or service manipulation? The term “service manipulation” is used widely by baseball writers. The term “Manipulation” certainly implies nefarious intent. Collective bargaining sets the conditions for how contracts are managed in baseball. So is there anything in the CBA that supports the assertion that a franchise is acting in bad faith by holding a player down for 11 or so days? Article XXII–Management Rights (page 105 of the current CBA) seems to imply teams have broad latitude in managing their teams. Of particular note, this one sentence article directly follows Article XXI–Credited Major League Service.

    I’m not sure we’re seeing either side operate in “bad faith” with one another, but as a fan, I want to see the best available players on the roster from game 1.

  17. Big Ed

    I’m with Jason. Bad faith is not just a concept, but applies legally here. A team is required to act in good faith with its players, and naked service time manipulation is in bad faith. I will concede that it would be hard to prove in a grievance. Let’s assume that Senzel hits the cover off the ball all springs, plays a very good centerfield, and otherwise is the clear-cut choice to start as Opening Day centerfielder. If in their heart of hearts, the Reds know that BUT FOR the service time ramifications, they would have him on the opening day roster, then that is bad faith. The Reds would have to lie to win the grievance. It is BS; they owe their employees better than that.

    In my opinion, changing the losing culture in the here and now is more important than what happens to the 2025 roster. Mission One for the Reds ought to be winning baseball games now, and not in 2025. Not playing your best players sends entirely the wrong signal – that management doesn’t truly care about winning, and that it isn’t a big deal if the players don’t, either. I can see deciding not to take on a contract like Dallas Keuchel wants, but there is no reason now not to field whoever their best 9 guys are.

    If the Reds want “control” over Nick Senzel in 2025, then they should just pay him in 2025.

    • andybado

      The legal point could be the most important one of the argument for not manipulating service time, and it’s one I had never heard before.

      The culture piece is incredibly important always but especially for this team right now. The Reds are hopefully in the infancy of a cultural shift. And choosing to play Senzel on opening day is another step toward a good and winning culture.

      It’s called “manipulating service time” for a reason! Nobody likes being manipulated, and I see no reason why Senzel would be any different. If my bosses did this to me, I’d be pissed, hold a bit of a grudge, and then have a lot less loyalty and sense of obligation at the end of my contract. Most everybody would (especially if they are a Boras client).

    • BK

      So exactly what provision of the CBA does Nick Senzel grieve if the Reds send him down? You can’t file a grievance just because you are happy with the contract you work under.

  18. Eric L Wormus

    I seem to be the only one who agrees with Jason here, but I’d encourage people to look at it a different way. The front offices certainly are acting in bad faith keeping all these top prospects in the minors for a few weeks, but what should bother us more than that is that the front offices are acting in bad faith to us, the fans.

    The whole premise of the CBA is that the owners want to win. So players give away their younger years at a lower salary than they deserve with the understanding that when they hit free agency there will be a large number of teams actively bidding for their services in the hopes of winning. What has happened is ownership now values wins/$$$$ spent over wins period. They’d rather win 78 games at an $80 million payroll than 85 games at a $100 million payroll. That is bad for the game and bad for us fans.

    We all get that baseball is a business. As a fan I want owners (and players) putting winning first and business second. How many people who are OK with the Reds keeping Senzel down for 2-3 weeks would be OK with Alex Wood and Tanner Roark telling the Reds they aren’t going to throw more than 150 innings because they don’t want to risk injury before their free agency year? How many would be OK with Puig telling David Bell, “Hey man, I haven’t played CF regularly since 2014. I’m a free agent next year. I’m not going to risk hurting myself and reducing my value. If you need a CFer, sorry, #puignotyourman”?

    When baseball becomes business first and winning second, it’s the fans that lose.

    • Steve Mancuso

      As a fan, I’d rather have 162 games of Nick Senzel in his prime compared to 13 games when he’s wet behind the ears. As I said in my post, delaying the debut is a baseball decision, not a financial one. You could argue that the delay makes the player’s arbitration years more expensive for the club.

      • Eric Wormus

        But what are the odds the Reds are actually competitive in, what, 2025? They’ve made the moves they made this off-season to open their “competitive window.” Is that really something we think is going to last 6 years? They’ve set themselves up to win 80+ games this year, give me the best 25 all year and see what happens.

      • Steve Mancuso

        It’s impossible to make the case that a 2.5 WAR player (Senzel’s projection over a full season) that misses less than 1/10 of his games and would be replaced in the lineup by Scott Schebler and Matt Kemp, would make the difference of even one game.

      • Michael Smith


        Steve would you recommend keeping him down for 11 days if the they did not pick up an additional year of service? If the answer is yes then I might buy that it’s a baseball decision but we all know it’s likely a financial one.

      • Shchi Cossack

        Michael, but it is a baseball decision, not a financial decision. The Reds are not saving a dime by keeping Senzel in AAA for a couple weeks and Senzel is not losing a dime by playing in AAA for a couple weeks. Senzel will begin arbitration as a super-2 player and receive 4 arbitration awards rather than 3 arbitration awards. The only impact will be to baseball by having Senzel wearing the Wishbone C for an additional year and earning a market value salary in his final trip through arbitration.

  19. VaRedsFan

    I don’t see it as being dishonest, disingenuous or acting in bad-faith. It’s business. Not a charitable mission or the education system with loftier goals. Professional Sports in a business. The labor union and management reached an agreement. Both parties then pursue their best interests and business objectives under the rules they mutually agreed to. If one party feels they are getting a bad deal they will make that a negotiating point the next time. If the Reds didn’t operate in their best interests they will be putting the team at a competitive disadvantage. They should use every bit of leverage they have while they have it. When he becomes a free agent I don’t see Boras advising Senzel to give anything to Cincinnati that he doesn’t have to.

    • VaRedsFan

      I have been using the name VaRedsFan for a long time on this site. Are you new to the site? You seem to have adopted the name I have been using.

      Can a site moderator weigh in on this?

      • Doug Gray

        Definitely not new, but only the second time they’ve used that name. They’ve used two others in the past that *seem* to be originals. If you could (not the original VaRedsFan), either go back to using one of your past user names, or create a different one. Thanks.

      • Something else

        Will do – sorry about that.

    • greenmtred

      It is perhaps not what you meant, but your comment seems to exempt disingenous, dishonest decisions if they are made for business reasons. I’m agnostic, sort of, about the Senzel decision, but I am not agnostic about ethics applying to business decisions.

  20. bmblue

    I can’t even believe we’re having this conversation. His agent is Boras. He isn’t taking a hometown discount. The Reds giving up an entire year of what could be a generational player in his prime for 2 weeks of his rookie season is GROSS MALPRACTICE. Take it up with the players union.

  21. Jason Linden

    I find it very interesting that almost no one in this post is acknowledging that MLB owners are not operating as part of the free market. They have literally used monopoly status to manipulate labor costs. There is no competition for labor, which is supposed to be part of the free market system. I don’t get what people are so willing to ignore that.

    • Reaganspad

      I’m sorry but what is the average ML players salary? Retirement? Benefits and healthcare plan?

      Not exact in need of Cesar Chavez here to take care of the exploitation of the laborers

    • old-school

      Its professional baseball.
      The minimum salary for a baseball player is $555,000.
      The average salary for an MLB player is $4.75 million per year.
      No one feels sorry for Russell Martin or Pablo Sandoval or Homer Bailey.
      Who else gets guaranteed contracts- for long periods of time for tens of millions of dollars … matter what?
      That may have something to do with it.

      There are examples of individual players being treated very unfairly and that’s a problem. But, the players union is dominated by veterans who advocate for the over 30 crowd. Perhaps the union could better advocate for all of its members. That would be acting in good faith. The players union is also 50% to blame for creating a system dominated by competitive imbalance in the AL, where only 4-5 teams can win. If only 5 teams are going for it and 10 aren’t, well that’s a problem if you want a robust and deep and competitive free agent market.

      I love Nick Senzel- but he did just get a $6.2 million signing bonus summer 2016. He will get $555,000 more this year and is free to follow in the footsteps of Jay Bruce and Eugenio Suarez and lock down a well paid career whenever he chooses. He will be ok for a few years.

      • Old-school

        The owners have risk after the contract. Players don’t. Homer gets his $125 million no matter what. The owners also invest in the region and community and contribute to regional economies far beyond the balance sheet

    • CaptainHook

      I find it interesting that you have not acknowledged that there is a CBA, and that this is enabled by the CBA, and that the players agreed to the CBA.

    • bmblue

      People keep using this “only 30 employers” argument… there are FAR LESS than 30 options for me in my line of work. I can probably do what I do at 3 or 4 companies in the entire United States, tops. My industry aint the only one. It is not that anti competitive. Don’t get me started on the guaranteed-money-for-10-years-no-matter-your-performance concept.

      • Doug Gray

        Can Jason use the “there’s only one employer” argument? Because Nick Senzel, at absolute best, has zero ability to negotiate for the amount of money he wants, or the employer he has in his chosen field for the first nine years of his career. If the Reds keep him down for two weeks this year, it’ll be ten years. That would be from the time he was drafted (2016) through his team control (2024 if he’s up moving forward, or 2025 if they keep him down for a few weeks or more). You certainly may have limited options in your field – but I doubt very much it works this same way for you.

      • TurboBuckeye

        I don’t think you’re going to get very far portraying Senzel as a victim here. As mentioned above, he’s already a multi-millionaire based on his signing bonus. And let’s remember that the Reds took 100% of the risk of that signing bonus. If he hand’t panned out (most prospects don’t–you should know that better than anyone) whether due to injury or performance, the Reds would have had a total loss on that money.
        Of course the teams are going to expect a solid number of years of exclusive control on their investment.

    • BK

      Players are free to play overseas; they choose not to because the money and competition is better in MLB.

      Other professional sports have tried to start competing leagues to rival the established league–remember the USFL? The fact is it takes mountains of money to run elite professional sports to the level that fans expect.

      The anti-trust exemption allows MLB to execute a baseball at a level that is unrivaled around the world. Why, because baseball is a game that needs agreed to rules to optimally execute. The anti-trust exemption does not suppress salaries. Salaries are established through a process similar to many other industries — collective bargaining. The anti-trust exemption is a red herring.

    • Tampa Red

      So basically you want the Reds to punish themselves for doing what ALL of the teams do? C’mon man, you’re advocating for the Reds to put themselves at a self-imposed competitive disadvantage. That’s not gonna happen, nor should it.

      • Doug Gray

        He wants the Reds to do the right thing, not the crappy thing that other people do.

      • TurboBuckeye

        “The right thing” is very subjective. It would be nice if players “did the right thing” and signed for hometown discounts or relieved the clubs of their onerous contracts when they horribly underperformed them (Chris Davis, Homer Bailey, plus tons more). Let’s not make the players out as victims here. They understand it’s a business as well. When Senzel’s FA comes around rest assured he will sign based on the highest big and not sentimentality. They almost always do.

      • Tampa Red

        Oh come on Doug, “crappy behavior?” Could you and Jason be any more dramatic?! Playing professional baseball is not exactly indentured servitude.

        I mean, put it any way you want to put it, but what you guys are advocating would put the Reds at a CLEAR competitive disadvantage. It’s just silly talk and, barring a change in the rules, should NEVER happen.

      • Doug Gray

        We simply aren’t going to agree on this. Jason and myself feel that purposefully manipulating the service time is indeed crappy behavior, regardless of how other teams do it (which is also crappy). It’s not indentured servitude by any means, and I don’t think that Jason or myself made any such comparison (I know I certainly didn’t).

        What we are advocating is treating people the way in which we would hope to be treated. If I saw someone drop $20 on the street, if I kept it it would put me at a clear competitive advantage versus giving it back to them. But I’d give it back to them because that’s the right thing to do. I can’t speak for how someone else would act in that situation. But I do know that if someone said they’d keep it when they had the chance to give it back to that person (versus just randomly finding a $20 bill on the ground), then I’d say they were doing a crappy thing.

        Put yourself in the shoes of a baseball player. If a team purposefully kept you in the minor leagues in order to keep you from reaching free agency sooner even though they felt you were one of the best players on the big league team, would you feel like they were acting crappy? I’d bet that you would. And if you don’t feel that way, I’m going to need you to explain to me why you wouldn’t.

      • Tampa Red

        Doug, you can’t compare finding $20 on the street to a big league contract. Come on now.

        I’m not a player, I’m a fan. And as a fan. I want my team to compete at the level EVERY other team is competing at. If Nick Senzel is as good as we all think he’s going to be, then in his last year of team control in 2025, he’ll likely make $15-20 million. Furthermore, there’s a very good likelihood that he’ll be offered the opportunity for a lucrative contract extension before then. No one should feel sorry for him.

        The players agreed to all of this the last go around. And they’ll have the opportunity to renegotiate that the next time around. Until then, I expect the Reds to do the right thing, and play by the same rules that all of the other teams are playing by.

      • Matt Hendley

        They didnt agree to it last go round, they agreed to it more then 2 go arounds before (CBA negotiations) they knew of the problem, did not adress it. Perhaps did not even try to adress it. Senzel not on the roster for 2-3 weeks with this roster is not going to be a huge isssue. Him being a FA a year early, is a big issue. Keep him down, by April 30th he is playing in the bigs anyway.

      • BK

        Doug, I think a more accurate analogy is that the MLBPA has agreed that rapidly rising prospects can provide their teams an extra $20 (by remaining in the minors for 11 days) in exchange for better pay for long-term veterans. The players and the owners have agreed to a contract that effectively provides a percentage of revenues to the players and they have an audit process in place to monitor the percentage since it is not firmly established. The villain in this story is the MLBPA. It’s really difficult to understand why so many believe any franchise should unilaterally operate under a different set of rules than was negotiated and that would place it at a disadvantage to other franchises. Bottom-line: I agree the young players get hosed (and hosing people is wrong) in this transaction, but the villain is MLBPA.

      • greenmtred

        “Right thing” is often subjective, yes. I would say that if you have to lie (by commission or ommission), to accomplish it, it’s not the “right thing.”

  22. Mike Adams

    Actions and words are the only clues we have to why people do what they do–the motivation in their heart.
    I agree with Jason if Senzel obviously proves he is the best player to be on the opening day roster and is ready to play center, and they send him down.
    If the Reds sincerely conclude and can point to objective evidence from spring training that Senzel is not quite ready but those days in the minors will get him ready then immoral motivation is not the basis for their decision.
    In any case I can’t wait to see how all this shakes out!

  23. daytonnati

    I think the Reds learned from the Homer Bailey deal and the Mike Leake decision. It is what it is. They will be very cautious going forward. Less sentimental and more ruthless.

    • CaptainHook

      Apparently, learning a lesson from the Homer Bailey deal would be bad faith and greedy.

  24. T Bone

    I’m a fan. I’m going to a game on April 9th. I want to see the best team that the Reds can possibly field, and that includes Senzel. I don’t care about saving the Castellinis money 6 years from now. Every day he’s not hitting against MLB pitching is delaying his development.

    • bmblue

      Has nothing to do with money. My guess is in 2024 you will wish you could take it back.

    • TurboBuckeye

      Thanks for posting that…learned some things!

  25. Show Triple Slash

    For reasons of culture – particularly in light of the last four years – and avoiding negative vibes and the kind of message it would send not just with Senzel but other players as well (who want to win now, every time they step on the field), I don’t want to see the Reds send him down for 2 weeks or more unless dictated by performance in spring training. I concede those are intangibles, and the counter-arguments are not without force, but, in my humble opinion, those outweigh the advantages of manipulating service time. I would still to this day be uneasy about the Kris Bryant situation if I were a Cubs fan.

  26. Daytonian

    @Jason. Sorry. Your position is malpractice. The rules are the rules until they’re changed. I’ll wait to see your column if the Reds follow your advice and lose Senzel for a full season that really counts.

  27. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I won’t go that far, to say he should start. However, I will say, the less Senzel plays with the big club this year, his value declines for us. He needs to be playing with the big club, playing a lot, playing in key situations, etc.

    I’ve said before, prospects serve two purposes: 1) as future talent for the big club, and 2) tradebait. If you hold onto prospects forever in the minor league system because they are so good, then you defeat both of these.

    It’s not too hard. Either play Senzel this year or trade him.

  28. Tseramid

    What if the rules of the CBA are changed between now and 2025? Isn’t it possible that all of this might be moot because of the next labor negotiation in 2021? With the service time manipulation being such a big deal in the press right now, is it possible that next collective bargaining agreement will redefine team control?

    • TurboBuckeye

      It probably will and it probably should. But it almost certainly would not be retroactive.

  29. Steve D

    With the way free agency is going it might be in the players best interest to get rid of free agency.
    If your the players why not agree to team control through your entire career with an arbitrator deciding salary every single year. This would avoid the service time fiasco. And would pay players at the front end of their career what their worth. It seems players going to arbitration are making more than free agents.
    I would also say that teams have to sign players to contracts in four year increments or lose retaining that player. Meaning once they commit to that player they are obligated to pay the arbitration amounts through the four year period. If they fail to sign the player to the four year period the player becomes a free agent.
    I think a system like this would benefit the players more than the current system and would probably be agreed to by the owners at the next collective bargaining agreement.

  30. Rich H

    Jason, I’m glad you wrote this article. I also appreciate Steve’s article, and his commonly shared viewpoint. But I agree with Jason and Doug for a few reasons.

    First, to get it out of the way, I believe that bringing Nick Senzel up (assuming of course that he’s clearly one of the best 25 options the Reds have, which I think everyone expects) is the morally right thing to do. However someone feels about the signing bonus or salary of MLB players is an entirely separate matter from this issue. Keeping him down two weeks to gain an extra year of control is essentially the same thing as giving a salesperson a sales incentive, then preventing them from reaching that goal for the last two weeks of the sales term so that you don’t have to give them their bonus. Maybe that salesperson makes more than you do, or a firefighter or policeman or someone serving in the armed forces does. Maybe that salesperson’s salary shouldn’t be as high as it is. I think that those are relevant conversations. But they are different conversations, and it doesn’t make it right for an employer to treat an employee like that.

    Beyond that, there are lawsuits against MLB clubs, alleging their service time manipulation is in fact acting in bad faith, legally, and on the face of it I’m inclined to agree with them. My opinion doesn’t mean much, but there is absolutely the potential for a substantial, direct cost to the Reds if judges feel that way and penalties are handed out for doing it. There is also no way to know whether a new CBA rectifies this manipulation, but it’s very possible it does, and renders keeping Senzel down two weeks now moot.

    There’s no way to know how much keeping him down for two weeks would affect Senzel’s opinion of the team, or other players’ opinion of the team, and their willingness to sign here, but there is the possibility of a labor relations cost. Of a public relations cost. I know my opinion of the Reds management would be lowered. And it seems to me that if a team has done so much this offseason to try and become relevant, to engender real feelings of progress and positive momentum publicly and in the clubhouse, those opportunity costs are just too high to start off the season with a sour taste in the mouths of players and many fans.

    Definitely too long, didn’t read territory, but if you did, thanks again Jason.


    Fascinating stuff! Kind of surprised no one has mentioned Mr. DeGrom’s little ‘work slowdown’ threat for the upcoming season. All in an effort to capitalize on his outstanding 2018 season. Make no mistake about it…players/owners press to the fullest extent possible, any advantage they have or imagine they have. And then some! Certainly there are some notable exceptions. (Eugenio Suarez’ club friendly extension comes to mind) But that is not the norm.

    Getting back to the DeGrom story. Upon reading that blurb, my mind flashed to late season 2018 after yet another horrendous Homer Bailey start. In the ensuing next 48 hours or so, Jim Riggleman announced Homey would be banished to the bullpen. Soon an intrepid reporter was seen asking a sullen looking Homer if he thought he could be successful as a reliever? “No”, was the immediate reply. He further added something to the effect that, ‘We’ll have to see about that.’

    Sure enough, he not only did not go to the pen, he did indeed pass go, did collect his full salary and went straight to the DL instead. The rest, as they say, is history. Homey concluded his abbreviated 2018 season along with his even more abbreviated previous 3 seasons of a grand total of 125 innings of more or less, vacation.

    We would all like to imagine the owners and players alike, are participating in this grand game as joyful, hard working philanthropists. Not so much. But, when egregiousness rears it’s ugly head, we blanch. As others have alluded to…I want BC to do his best to field a contender EVERY year! I want the players to hustle ?% of the time!
    Things simply are not what they used to be…owners tank, players get paid, get lazy, etc. And maybe an impending strike before the next CBA. Would such be the final straw? Hope not…but it doesn’t look good. I hope we get to enjoy the next couple of seasons at least!

    Debbie Downer

  32. doofus

    If Senzel has a great ST he plays with the big club on opening day. If he does not have a great ST he’s in L’ville for a few weeks. The decision is on him as to where he is opening day.

    The two columns on this issue are like watching a circling firing squad. Why have we spent a million written words going around in circles?

    • Doug Gray

      I’ve got some bad news, doofus….. We have one more writer chiming in with his thoughts on this in the next few days.

      • TurboBuckeye

        I like how you feel free to call other posters a “doofus” but delete comments that criticize the article as childish (which is what I did).

        Way to go.

      • Doug Gray

        The user I replied to literally used the username doofus. Way to go.

        Also, I definitely didn’t delete any comments.

      • Doug Gray

        I looked up the comment. It was still in the trash.

        I’m not restoring it. But be less abrasive while disagreeing and your opinion will probably stick around. Personal insults aren’t allowed.

      • TurboBuckeye

        I appreciate your reply but the authors often are abrasive in the comments to readers. And my comment wasn’t a personal insult—it was a comment on the article that it was childish. There’s a difference, but I appreciate it if you disagree with that.

      • doofus


        Ouch! I think the juxtaposition of the two columns were fine. I should have been clear, I think all our “comments” on the two columns constituted a “Circular” firing squad.