Since we don’t know when we’re going to die, there’s no point in putting money away for old age.

That’s lousy financial advice.

It’s also analogous to Wes’s reasoning for how the Reds should handle Nick Senzel’s service time. It’s unsound logic for the Reds, but it does assure Wes a membership in the Instant Gratification Generation.

All half-joking aside, yes, as Wes points out, there is a pile of uncertainty ahead in baseball’s labor relations. Billionaire owners and millionaire players may figure out a way to spoil 15 years of labor peace and blow the run-up to the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. On the other hand, maybe talk about inevitability of a strike is savvy posturing by players.

That said there is little doubt that the players union will push for significant changes in the way players are paid. Making it through service time to free agency is no longer the $100 million ticket it used to be. As a result, the MLBPA will demand a higher percentage of baseball’s cash bonanza end up in its members’ bank accounts.

Absent a successful lawsuit alleging collusion, likely proposals are shortening service time requirements from six to five years and significantly raising league-minimum salaries.

Neither would change how the Reds should approach Nick Senzel’s service time.

Wes proposes several thoughtful ideas for fixing service time rules, happily none of which amount to unilateral disarmament by the Reds. But even if the MLBPA does target the two-week issue at the heart of Senzel Spectacle, there’s a vanishingly small chance the fix would be applied retroactively.

Here’s why. Imagine what retroactive application of that rule would mean. Teams would lose superstar players a year earlier than planned. The next CBA goes into effect in the 2022 season. Retroactive application could cause a team to lose player(s) for the 2022 season.

Teams will never agree to that. The A in CBA stands for Agreement. It’s hard to imagine owners accepting that rule to begin with, let alone applied with such sudden devastating effect.

[I had Wes review this post before it published. He suggested a middle ground for retroactivity, where both sides agree to a cutoff point so players nearer to free agency wouldn’t be affected. Such a concept might make compromise and a bit of retroactivity more likely. By that time, Senzel would be well into his team control years and it wouldn’t be obvious which side of the cutoff he would fall.]

Retroactivity is ultimately a subject for negotiation, so it’s possible. But to win that ask, the two-week fix would have to be one of, if not the highest, priority demands for the players.

And that won’t be the case. Players have voiced loud frustration about not getting paid. But it hasn’t been focused on the two-week service time manipulation. In part, that’s because few players fall into that category.

Justin Verlander’s troubled tweet mentioned Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, not Nick Senzel. As Wes rightly notes, a few players, like Whit Merrifield, have complained about service time. But even those grumblings concern the “cheaper if we wait” delay. That’s about Super Two delays, not the issue for the Senzel case.

For Wes’s scenario of uncertainty to come into play: (1) the players union would have to be laser-like focused on the two-week service time manipulation, and (2) assuming they could get owners to agree on that, they would have to push for the reforms to be applied retroactively.

Given how few players are actually affected by the two-week delay, it’s hard to imagine either of those things happening. Service time hijinks will be on the list of MLBPA grievances, but unlikely at the top. The players will have higher priority items when it comes to getting free agents paid. A contract extension is more likely to make Senzel’s service time moot than retroactive CBA changes in 2022.

Scott Schebler and Matt Kemp are no Mike Olt, the Cubs third baseman who was little more than a placeholder for Kris Bryant in 2015. If you want to talk about uncertainty, how about the pure speculation that a 23-year-old Nick Senzel, who has played 44 games at the AAA level (none as a centerfielder) will be a better major league player on March 28 than Schebler or Kemp.

Additional pieces from Redleg Nation on how the Cincinnati Reds and Nick Senzel situation could/should play out in 2019 with regards to service time:

  1. You can’t predict baseball but you can start Nick Senzel on Reds Opening Day – Wes Jenkins, 2/19/19
  2. Nick Senzel should start on Opening Day – Jason Linden, 2/15/19
  3. The Reds shouldn’t blow the timing of Nick Senzel’s debut – Steve Mancuso, 2/14/19

29 Responses

  1. TurboBuckeye

    Good points, and I agree wholeheartedly. I also think any talk of “bad faith” on the part of owners and Service Time is silly. The players had an army of lawyers working for them and went into this CBA with eyes open.

    What’s interesting is that despite all the grousing, the player split of revenue from a percentage has remained in the mid-50s for several years. That is down from low 60s in the early part of the decade, but consistent with historical norms from the prior decade.

    • Doug Gray

      The players having their service time manipulated, largely, at no point were ever consulted for their opinion on this by the MLBPA. Nick Senzel, for example, is not a part of the MLBPA. His opinion on the matter doesn’t factor. Most of the young guys in the game that were – they didn’t get much say anyways because it’s the older, veteran players that get heard, not the guys making league minimum.

      And there’s a whole lot of contention on just how much of the revenue split players got. At no point has anyone ever said they’ve gotten more than 57%. Depend on who you ask today, the players get anywhere from 41% to 54%. Why such a large difference? That’s a great question. The teams try to tell you that the minor league pay, signing bonuses, and the like is a part of it. What they don’t tell you is how much revenue that’s generated purely because of baseball things that they don’t count as baseball revenue – such as their sale of MLB Advanced Media for $1.5B. Or the ownership stake in regional sports networks in lieu of larger by year pay for broadcast rights.

      • TurboBuckeye

        Doug, addressing both of your points:
        1. You’re right that minor leaguers aren’t part of the union yet still have their service time governed by it. Of course, it’s axiomatic that all union members were at one time minor leaguers (excluding the small percentage of foreign players, etc.). Yet despite all of these guys going through that, they’ve never once made it a bone of contention.
        I think there’s a good argument to be made that while players take zero financial risk once they reach the majors (guaranteed contracts, not on the hook for stadium costs, etc.), one could certainly say that they take risk while in the minors. The risk/reward is that they make it to the other size and make millions of dollars. Clearly, that’s a deal that they seem not to have had a problem with.
        2. Revenue split. You’re right, on the outside all we can do is guess. I’ve seen low 50s to low 60s (never seen 40s). But let’s be honest about this: the MLBPA receives audited financials of every team as well as the league’s financials. They really *do* have all the data. Yet, we’ve never once heard Tony Clark make a stink about the revenue percentage splits. That’s very telling.

        Looking forward, I think the best solution for everyone would be something like the NBA has where there’s a “baseball related income” pool of dollars and the sides agree to a split of that. With that would come a salary cap and a salary floor.
        Of course, NBA players generally don’t require years of developmental time nor do they have anywhere near the wash-out rate of baseball prospects. As such, I think the owners are certainly reasonable to expect exclusive control over players at a low dollar figure for a certain amount of time after he makes it to the majors. There’s a huge investment made in signing bonuses and operating the minors. And many of those signing bonuses turn out to be total losses. If I was an owner, I’d be willing to give up some of the existing years I’m entitled to as a trade off for a salary cap and fixed revenue split.

        Anywho, glad to see reasoned discussion on this. From where I sit, RLN has generally been “anti-owner” to a certain extent in much of its coverage. It’d be nice to see more opposing viewpoints. A series where a few people take opposing sides (Players vs. Owners) and negotiate the next CBA would be neat and sure to educate all.

  2. Stock

    Your last point is the point I made last week. Is Senzel better than Schebler or Puig. Versus RHP Puig is without a doubt better. I would think Schebler is his equal if not better too. The first 3 series for the Reds are against the Pirates and the Brewers who have zero LHSP. Senzel is not an upgrade over these two the first two weeks so keep him in Louisville. If Schebler gets off to a good start and shows he is fine in CF I keep Senzel in the minors even longer. The Cubs have three LHSP. Maybe you bring him up for that series in May. Let him play everyday in Louisville vs. a bench bat/platoon in Cincinnati.

    • Phil

      This is kind of what I was trying to say below as well. If you think the production would be roughly the same for the first 2 weeks, then delay calling him up.

      A counterpoint though; It’s not just that Senzel would be replacing Schebler in the starting lineup but that he would be replacing someone like Connor Joe on the roster. Without Senzel on the roster, Schebler is starting in the outfield and your best lefty bat on the bench is Derek Dietrich? With Senzel starting in center, Schebler and Kemp now form a pretty dangerous lefty-rightly combination off the bench.

      Now it still may be the correct decision to not call Senzel up immediately, but the starting lineup and bench options look much better with Senzel on the team.

      • Stock

        Your counterpoint has merit but my reply is that even with Senzel on the Reds on opening day you may have one lefty on the bench because Schebler should start over Senzel vs. RHSP.

        I think everyone agrees that unless a trade happens Casali and Kemp are two of the 4/5 bench players.

        I feel Dietrich needs to be on the bench also. People are under rating his bat.

        As I stated below, Connor Joe is the wild card here. If he can catch the Reds have to keep him because his bat plays at catcher.

  3. AllTheHype

    MLBPA has a laundry list of items they wish for.
    1. Expand rosters (thereby expanding MLB player base).
    2. Install DH in NL (increasing the number of high value MLB positions by 15)
    3. FIx the free agent market
    4. Fix the service time issue
    5. Give players a fixed % of revenue
    What’s in it for owners? As Steve mentioned, it’s an agreement. MLBPA is not getting any of these things unless they make some concessions to owners, like maybe a salary cap for starters? We’ll see how bad players want these things, and which ones are priority. Sure, players can strike. But that would make a bad situation worse and result in players not getting paid during the strike as well as further depressing salary offers from teams (due to damage to fan market + decreased interest in the product).
    Good luck MLBPA is all I can say. They might think they hold the cards, but really they don’t.

    • AllTheHype

      But a players strike damages current and future earnings power for players. So you can say “I’m holding the gun and I have the power to shoot myself in the foot”, but do you really want to?

    • AllTheHype

      Depends on if current players want to take a hit to set the table for future generations of players. I’m guessing not. Keep in mind owners have the narrative on their side. Players want to change status quo, not owners. In my opinion, fans will revolt against players, and in turn, the game itself. It would be ugly, much worse than ’94.
      Ultimately I think they will tweak things and come to an agreement without a strike. Like lower the 172 day requirement for a year of service. Maybe institute 4 years of arb for everyone instead of 3. Who knows, but I don’t think there will be wholesale changes.

  4. wkuchad

    “But even if the MLBPA does target the two-week issue at the heart of Senzel Spectacle, there’s a vanishingly small chance the fix would be applied retroactively. Here’s why. Imagine what retroactive application of that rule would mean. Teams would lose superstar players a year earlier than planned. The next CBA goes into effect in the 2022 season. Retroactive application could cause a team to lose player(s) for the 2022 season.”

    Curious, as we get closer to the deadline, will this cause high school and college players to stay in school an extra year or two until the new agreement is in place?

  5. Phil

    The projected opening day position players without Senzel:
    C – Barnhart
    1B – Votto
    2B – Gennett
    SS – Peraza
    3B – Suarez
    LF – Winker
    CF – Schebler
    RF – Puig
    Bench C – Casali
    Bench OF – Kemp
    Bench IF/Util – 2 of Connor Joe, Dietrich, Blandino, Farmer

    The projected opening day position players with Senzel:
    C – Barnhart
    1B – Votto
    2B – Gennett
    SS – Peraza
    3B – Suarez
    LF – Winker
    CF – Senzel
    RF – Puig
    Bench C – Casali
    Bench OF – Kemp, Schebler
    Bench IF/Util – 1 of Connor Joe, Dietrich, Blandino, Farmer

    If you think the second roster would win you even 1 more game in those first couple weeks than the first roster then you have to at least consider starting him on opening day. The Indians are almost 100% sure to make the playoffs because of how weak their division is and the Marlins are almost equally sure they will not make the playoffs due to how weak their roster is. For them you absolutely play the service time game with players like Senzel. For a team like the Reds though, where 1 game might be the difference between a wild card spot or not, you at least need to consider starting him opening day.

    • Stock

      I agree with you Phil but in the role of a part time player it is safe to say that Senzel will not provide a WAR of 1 in the first two weeks against RHSP.

      Connor Joe is really a wild card here. If he shows there is a chance he can catch he has to spend the entire season on the roster. The man can hit and if he can catch his bat will play closer to Realmuto than Barnhart. The big if though is can he catch.

      I think as is the bench pieces to open the season are Kemp, Casali, Dietrich and Connor Joe. When you bring Senzel up you either send down a RP or you decide Connor Joe can not catch and you can send him down. It is not like Connor Joe is not a capable bat off the bench. He will not hurt the Reds and if he can catch it may very well be the best move the Reds made all winter.

    • doctor

      and his play, from lack of OF experience, could cost the Reds a game or 2. For example, Red Sox tried it with Hanley Ramirez and determined since he was an athletic player playing SS/3B that he could easily transition to LF. It turned out to be a disaster.

      • Phil

        That’s really the first question, but one none of us really know the answer to yet.
        Is Senzel starting in center field an upgrade over the other in-house options?
        If so, how much of an upgrade and what is that worth over the first 2 weeks of the season?

    • Daytonian

      @Phil. Probabilities. Discount your win one game scenario by the probability that Senzel made the difference. The net gain is minimal compared to the number of games he will likely make a difference in his additional year on the roster.

    • sixpack2

      Senzel will be in AAA and Schebler will be in CF on opening day. Losing a year for two weeks does not make sense and Senzel , in those two weeks, would not play a better CF than Schebler anyhow.

  6. Wesley Jenkins

    For the record (in case anyone reads the comments for an official record), the selfish urgency of my argument was based less in social media instant gratification (I’ve deleted most of my social media minus Twitter) and more in the fear-the-world-will-end-before-I-hit-retirement-age type of instant gratification. You know, white walkers, winter is coming and the like.

  7. Stock

    I think this is being looked at the wrong way. How does Senzel fit into the lineup?

    Must starts vs. RHSP:

    Votto, Gennett, Winker, Puig

    Good options vs. RHSP:

    Schebler, Senzel, Suarez, Peraza

    Senzel is just not that much better than what the Reds have vs. RHSP.

    I would start him everytime a LHSP takes the mound. And he does provide a nice bat on the bench but the general rule has always been that the best prospects do not come to the majors until they can play everyday. I am not sure that he does. I know the talk is that he will get 500 AB. But that may just be management trying to build his trade value.

    I am not sure the Reds are done trading yet. They have so many pieces and a trade for Kluber/Bauer may still happen.

    • Phil

      You’ve mentioned a couple places “Senzel is just not that much better than what the Reds have vs RHSP.”
      Is there a place you can get minor league splits that would show how Senzel has hit against right-handed pitching?
      Since coming to the Reds, Schebler has hit 238/329/457 against righties. That’s a 104 wRC+ which is just above average.
      Unless there is a scouting report or splits out there that I haven’t seen that say otherwise, I’m not convinced Schebler would be a better hitter against right-handed pitching right now than Senzel.

  8. andybado

    I like this debate a lot. Steve, you have some great, well thought out points.

    I want to point out one incongruity that I see often in the argument to keep Senzel in AAA, though. This entire disagreement is based on the assumption that Senzel is one of the best 25 players in the Reds system and deserves a spot on the major league roster. And yet this article ends with a line that the Reds will most likely paraphrase if they send Senzel down: “If you want to talk about uncertainty, how about the pure speculation that a 23-year-old Nick Senzel… will be a better major league player on March 28 than Schebler or Kemp.”

    So are you arguing that Senzel shouldn’t be on the roster because he isn’t good enough and isn’t ready? He’s not getting any better or becoming more ready in the 2 weeks he would be in AAA. And if you truly think he needs more time, he should be getting 2 months in minors not 2 weeks.

    I don’t think anyone is advocating for that here. So let’s leave the party-line speak to the front office when the time comes.

  9. Jason Linden

    Projection systems generally think Senzel will be better than or equal to: Peraza, Gennett, Kemp, and Schebler with the bat. If he’s even average in center (a good bet, frankly, regardless of the position-change hand-wringing, then he projects to a higher WAR than all of those guys and gets close to Puig and Winker. The idea that he might not be one of the best 25 players on the team is over done. With as much certainty as we can ever predict with major league baseball – he is right now.

    • lost11found

      How accurate are the projections for MiLB guys going to MLB?

      We discuss those here like they are written in stone, when its more likely they are written in dull pencil.

  10. Amarillo

    Just do what I’m working on and develop the AI and machine learning that will take away everyone else’s (besides my) job.

  11. IndyRedsFan

    I haven’t previously posted on these articles, so here are my thoughts.

    1) I’m absolutely in the “keep him down for 2 weeks if you can” camp. (see point 2)
    This decision doesn’t harm him financially. Arbitration will assure he gets his money. The only thing this determines is where he plays in that extra year.

    2) A big part of this decision is how he plays this spring. If he hits 500 and catches everything in his zip code, they’ll keep him up. If he hits 250 and has a few mis-adventures in CF, then they send him down. In between….I’d still send him down.

    3) I was offended by Jason’s last paragraph in his article. Basically implying that those of us who believe he should be sent down for the 2 weeks are acting in bad faith and are less honest and less moral than he is.
    Quote ” 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”

    This is hogwash. The players have a union and their union approved of the deal….I don’t care if each player wasn’t consulted. If we want to talk about “acting in good faith” lets talk about players who take 20 million dollar salaries in years where their performance is detrimental to their teams. Or….how about talking about a union that sacrifices a living wage for minor leaguers, so that multi-million dollar salaried players don’t have to play under a pitch clock. (or some other minor issue that they get bent out of shape over)

    4) Finally, a point I was going to make…but Steve already made…is that this is going to be very low on the Union’s list of things to fix. Probably just above doing something about minor league salaries.

    • lost11found

      I have much the same thoughts as points 3 and 4 wrt Jason’s comments (and Chad’s in the podcast on this topic).

      His year 6 arbitration number will be quite large as he will be super 2 if he pans out as expected. So we shouldn’t feel bad for him.

      Its not ‘bad faith’ or ‘dishonest’ to play by the rules that 30 teams, 30 player reps, and the union negotiators have all agreed to (twice). Now if the union has been working harder for established players than the MiLB guys, that is something that has to be fixed within the union.

      • Doug Gray

        Others acting in bad faith doesn’t mean it’s not bad faith. Nick Senzel, for example, did not agree to these rules at all. He’s not a part of the union.

      • lost11found

        But that is the point Doug. It’s not bad faith. He is not part of the union, but when he inked his rookie deal it was his agents job (Boras?) to clarify how this would play out. So its not like the facts of the MiLB landscape were somehow hidden from view, or that anyone pulled the wool over his eyes.

        It may not be an arrangement that is to his near-term benefit, but we all deal with things in our work environment that have similar impacts. You just have to go into things with your eyes wide open. Part of that for him was the negotiation of his rookie contract.

        Its two parties working together for mutual benefit.

  12. misconcepcion

    The urgency to see Senzel’s major league debut is completely understandable, but why are so many people in such a rush to watch this lifelong infielder also play out his professional regular season debut as a centerfielder on the major league stage?

    The speed-bump in the CBA has its detriments and detractors, but in Senzel’s case, the timing seems to be impeccable. Let him work out his chops in the sticks, before treading the boards on Broadway…