Michael Pineda Making the Mariners Rotation?

The momentum working through the media is that the Mariners are handing the fifth starter job to prospect Michael Pineda unless he bombs over the remainder of Spring Training. The reasons for doing revolve around Pineda being the team’s best option for that spot, the team not wanting to hurt their relationship with Pineda down the line, and the team not wanting blowback from the union or other players.

A year of Major League service time takes 172 days on the roster to achieve and no player can earn more than one full service year per season. That means if a player such as Michael Pineda spends 171 days on the Major League roster in any season from 2011 through 2016 and 172 or more in the other five seasons, he will end the 2016 season with 5 years and 171 days of service time, making him not a free agent until after the following year.

The 2011 season is 181 days long. In order to ensure that Michael Pineda does not earn a full service year this season, the Mariners need only to send him to Triple-A for ten calendar days. They could call him up on 11 April and keep him the rest of the season and he would not fulfill his first year of service. Coincidentally, 11 April is the Mariners’ tenth game of the season so if they wanted to game the system to the fullest, all they would forsake on the field is one single Major League start from Pineda.

It appears that they may not go that route. There are several possible reasons why, but I find none of them satisfactory. Is it fair in the strictest sense? No, not really, but it’s the rules agreed to by the clubs and the players’ union and it’s not like the whole concept of club control in the first place is exactly fair. Why draw the line on this one tiny issue?

Would it anger Michael Pineda to have his potential 2017 season shortchanged? Probably, but the Mariners would have seven years to make it up to him. If he turns into the sort of player where this move pays off for the Mariners, there’s nothing stopping them from paying better than expected dollar in his arbitration seasons.

I do not like the idea of using loopholes –and I think this is a loophole—to go against the spirit of the agreement. The problem is that this is not a public institution- it’s a private one and the other 29 teams are willing and have shown eager to exploit that loophole to their benefit. If the Mariners management team thinks it’s beneath them or unfair to manipulate service time, then they should lobby for to remedy it in the next round of CBA discussions.

There are likely other factors or a depth to the stated reasons that we as lay fans do not know. Maybe Pineda is a person who would be irrevocably angry with the team for sending him down this season. Perhaps the player’s union has already contacted the Mariners and served them notice they would file a grievance in the case. These are things we do not know, but I am not going to cede judgment solely because there are possible reasons to exonerate the decision that the team chooses not to share. One start from Luke French or David Pauley over Pineda is not going to sink the team’s 2011 chances.

Do not get me wrong, I applaud almost all attempts at being altruistic. But I can separate my morality from my critical analysis, and keeping Michael Pineda with the team on Opening Day is not a move wholly supported by any of the reasons so far stated by the team.




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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


42 Responses to “Michael Pineda Making the Mariners Rotation?”

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  1. PiratesBreak500 says:

    Maybe they’re hoping he’ll sell tickets? While I doubt one start is worth the one year of service time, from the PR standpoint it might be a much easier sell knowing he’s with the team. Plus, they can always send him down at some point later this or next season for 2 weeks to delay the clock. Great article.

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    • ThundaPC says:

      I’m pretty torn on this issue, but the reasoning certainly isn’t ticket sales. Michael Pineda, while promising, doesn’t have Strasburg-level hype to move tickets. In addition, Mariners don’t have a home game until April 8th so the one game he misses would be on the road.

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  2. Dan says:

    I don’t really see an issue here. If Pineda comes in and dominates over the next 2 years they’ll probably go ahead and sign him to a contract that covers that seventh year at least as an option year (if not guaranteed with options to follow). If he struggles then they can just send him down with legitimate cause and save the service time anyway.

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    • Josh says:

      If Pineda dominates for two years, they may want to buy him out. But if they hold him back this year, they’ll be buying him out through age 29 instead of age 28. Nothing prevents them from delaying his clock AND buying out an extra year.

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  3. kick me in the GO NATS says:

    he will be sent down the second he goes into a slump.

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    • manuscript says:

      kick me is probably overstating it here, but with a pitcher so young and a team so destined for the basement of the nl west, the mariners can’t be expected to keep pineda up if he gets battered around by major league bats for a few consecutive starts. he’s more valuable in the long run only if he’s productive and healthy and if further development in AAA is what they deem best then they should feel vindicated in thumbing their noses at the players’ association. let’s revisit this conversation in 6 years and see how successful and healthy pineda has managed to be, pretty likely it will be seen as mostly irrelevant.

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      • Bill says:

        Ouch. Not only will the M’s be last in the AL West, but they will be last in the NL west, as well. They can’t sink much lower.

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  4. maqman says:

    They are in the AL West Manuscript.

    Even if they start him with the big club he will be on a restricted innings workload so when he’s reached his limit they can send him down and still limit his accrued service time. They can’t be expected to keep him on the 25-man poster if he’s not available to pitch.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      Typically when a club is restricting a pitchers innings, they don’t demote him at the end. He’ll be clear to throw into September before hitting that wall so he would just remain a bystander on the roster. The behavior you suggest is something the Player’s Union would file a grievance over and they would probably win something out of it.

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  5. Kevin Wilson says:

    5th starters often don’t make the club for a week or two in favor of an extra reliever. It’s standard practice, so I’m not sure why he or the MLBPA would be so up in arms? Did they make a stink over Longoria?

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    • Captain says:

      yea this isnt a new concept. i dont understand why it would be an issue specifically with Pineda. unless they call him up immediately after 10 days like you said

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  6. dscott says:

    Didn’t know guys in pro sports honor their contracts for the entire time anyway. They will renigotiate a deal before his contract expires. Service time = overrated and over talked about.

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  7. Josh says:

    Pineda would have to stay down for 20 days, not 10. If a player is optioned for fewer than 20 days before he is recalled, the option is voided and the player is given service time credit for however many days he was gone. So French would need to make 3 starts.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      But Pineda wouldn’t require an option thus that rule does not apply. A good example is Evan Longoria who was called up on April 12.

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      • Josh says:

        Pineda is already on the 40 man roster, so he has to be optioned. Longoria was not on the 40 man, so he didn’t need an option.

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  8. Paul says:

    Agreed with others that this is just a complete non-story. I’ve never heard this rationale that he shouldn’t be sent down because it might make him mad. The guy just turned 22 and has proved nothing. The media reports being referred to must be the product of some fertile imaginations. If a rookie who has never pitched in MLB actually says he would hold it against the team to send him down for more work in the PCL, I’d have some serious concerns about him based on that. Have never read anything about him being a malcontent, so I’m going to assume that this speculation is just nonsense.

    Of course this is all beside the point that again, he just turned 22. While very good, it’s not like he’s the top pitching prospect in the game. He threw very few innings in AAA and got knocked around a little. And two years ago he threw just 44 innings in A ball due to a sore elbow. The major league team is thoroughly craptastic. WHAT is the rush? Why do routine issues like this get spun into high drama in Seattle. Get over yourselves.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      I’ve never heard this rationale that he shouldn’t be sent down because it might make him mad. The guy just turned 22 and has proved nothing.

      This is BS reasoning.

      The best guy gets the job. Regardless of race. Regardless of age. Isn’t that what we claim?

      The “proved nothing” line is what i take issue with. what is he supposed to prove? Other than he’s ready for the majors? Isn;’t that what he’s doing in Spring Training?

      People always seem to have this patient and insightful personality when talking about someone else’s life.

      Let us “win the job” at our work, our pretisious job, that comes with a MAJOR pay raise, and then our boss gives it to somebody else just because we’re young and we’ll have future chances. I’m sure we’d all be very patient and under-standing.

      MLB is not a social service. If they want to keep him in the minors and have him work on stuff, or to delay his free agency, that is good business sense. If they keep him down because he’s young and hasn’t proven anything, even though he’s their best option … then that’s just crap … crap none of us would stand for in our own life.

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      • Paul says:

        So you are arguing that a 9 inning Spring Training sample should count more than the several starts he made in the PCL last year?

        Let’s work on your “regular job” analogy. By this logic every cum laude graduate of Harvard should automatically enter small businesses of under 1000 employees (since they are likely to be the only one in an org. that size) as a senior exec. Or maybe they get there because of the great copy and collate job they did over the summer.

        Cannot tell you how many lawyers come out of top law schools and when you read their first basic analysis it’s almost childish. It’s totally expected, because they are babies in a world of adults. They need time to develop. Just like pitchers.

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      • a seattle fan says:

        Paul, your analogy about Harvard is absolute garbage. It is perhaps the least insightful comment I have ever seen on this site.

        Pineda graduated from Harvard in 2008, and he’s been running ever larger companies for the past three years, and running them well (OK, he was on sick leave for a few months in 2009, but he’s been dominating his sector the rest of the time — besides the last couple starts in AAA because he was tired, which inflated his ERA a bit).

        Meanwhile, the other candidate for the job is Luke French, who has already worked with that sized company, and he wasn’t really anything special. In fact, he’s part of the reason this job is available right now!

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      • philosofool says:

        Wrong.

        I wouldn’t pay you to mow my lawn for $40 an hour if you were the best guy in the world at mowing my lawn. Being the best isn’t the same thing as being the most worth it. You pay the guy who gives you the best deal for the work you want. You should never pay someone more than their labor is worth, and that’s what you do when you bring Michael Pineda up and burn a year of service time.

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  9. SKob says:

    I’m confused about this article… and the topic. I thought a prospect needed to be in the minors for like 2 months? I don’t know the rule on this, but top propects seemingly never get called up in April. Longoria got called up when Aybar hit the DL and replacing a DL player was one instance the minor leaguer does not accrue after so many days. Why was David Price in the minors until May? I’m having a hard time coming up with other players, but is it just gamesmanship to keep players down for 2 months? The team just making it look good?

    Also on this topic, isn’t Toronto in the same situation with Drabek? Hasn’t he been proclaimed to be in the rotation with a spot to lose as well? Is there a difference between these two players service time eligibilty I’m not aware of? Why is there no fuss over that decision if they are in the same boat?

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    • Super 2 says:

      Teams holding prospects down longer are likely to be both concerned about the prospects actual ability to perform in MLB and also trying to game the Super Two status

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    • a seattle fan says:

      2 weeks = extra year of team control (Pineda free agency: after 2016 or 2017)
      2 months = extra year before arbitration eligibility (Pineda arbitration eligibility: before 2014 or 2015)

      I believe David Price and Buster Posey had September call-ups the previous year, and their clubs waited into late May and early June, because they need that one month’s service time back (plus the two weeks) to push back free agency.

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  10. bpdelia says:

    I don’t usually do this, but the spelling and grammatical errors in this piece were so bad and so glaring that they distracted me from the writing. Seriously, something this sloppy has no right being posted. You have to do better than that. The piece itself is fine but his might be the worst example of awful (or should I say no?) editing I’ve seen on this site. Please fix it because it not only seriously detracts from the post but it’s jarring and slightly embarrassing.

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  11. Choo says:

    If the M’s say they want Pineda in Tacoma to refine his change and other secondary offerings or conserve innings or extend his stamina, whatever, how can anyone even argue with that decision? He is a 22-year old SP with a TOTAL of 183.2 IP between high A and AAA and ranks as one of the most valuable assets in the minor leagues. The M’s have every right to be cautious with Pineda regardless of ulterior timetable based motives.

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  12. Brad Johnson says:

    Call me cynical, but with CBA negotiations already underway, perhaps the M’s (and other teams) have been instructed by the office of the commissioner to play nice this year in terms of service years. No reason to incite another semi-riot like with Posey last year while the union is sitting at the bargaining table.

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  13. CircleChange11 says:

    My overall feeling about MiLB pitchers is …

    [1] They are accumulating wear and tear on their arm whether in MiLB or MLB.
    [2] If they have the talent and skills to perform well enough at the ML level, pitch them there.

    Planning for their next contract 4-6 down the road is assuming far too much.

    My view has changed on this completely (even as a coach of pitchers). They cannot be “babied into longevity”, even with excellent mechanics. Gradual progression is ideal, but really hasn’t been shown to be any more effective than treating the pitcher as if he were a plow horse. Pitch him.

    Personally, as a team owner, if a pitcher has “major league quality pitches”, I don;t want them thrown in the minor leagues. Pitchers don;t have an endless supply of pitches, and we have no idea whether he will improve or not.

    I’d have him down for the minimum amount of time and then get started pitching in the ML.

    I wonder if the rate for TJ surgery is greatest in the Majors or minors? There seem to be a whole lot of MiLBers having major arm injuries, even though “saving their arm” seems to be a frequent reason given for keeping them in AA or AAA.

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    • bpdelia says:

      agreed. it blows me away that so many teams treat pitchers the way they do with virtually no data to support this method. show me the data that says an extra year in aa or aaa increases longevity or decreases injury. in my mind the minute a pitcher demonstrates his stuff worthy and is one of the best 12 men on your 40 man roster he should be pitching in the majors.
      even if you have a pitcher with an innings limit of 140 ip but major league talent why would you waste that 140 in aa and aaa ? i want to use every inning of quality performance where it can have themost benefit in wins for the ml organization

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      • Brad Johnson says:

        What you guys are leaving out is the ability to let the pitcher develop his stuff. If you throw him in at the major league level where the games actually matter, he won’t spend time polishing his third pitch from below average to average or he won’t work on learning about how best to use pitch sequencing given his repertoire. He’ll just be out there doing his best to keep his head above water.

        A developing pitcher can gain something from toiling with a weaker lineup.

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      • a seattle fan says:

        The Mariners once had a pitcher who was one of their 12 best pitchers, but many believed he should have time to work on his stuff in the minor leagues.

        Three years later, after that short-sighted decision led to a constant yo-yoing between the rotation and bullpen, minors and majors, Brandon Morrow and the promise he had was exiled to Canada.

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      • joser says:

        Much of that “yo-yoing” was demanded by Morrow himself, as he tried to manage his diabetes and determine what he was capable of doing on the mound as a result (for quite a while he didn’t believe he was able to go much beyond one inning, and so saw the closer role as his quickest route to the majors and his highest-value employment once there).

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    • David says:

      Which team do you own?

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  14. Brian says:

    Mariner executive management (I use that term loosely) are idiots (I use this term directly). If there is a right or wrong decision on any issue, trades, drafts, you name it, they will make the wrong decision both for the franchise and the player. I say this after attending over 600 games in Seattle.

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    • Jack Zduriencik says:

      Some Mariner fans (I use that term loosely) don’t seem to realize that it takes awhile to reassemble a franchise left in shambles by it’s previous general management (I use this term directly).

      I’d like to think that moves I’ve made in my tenure have greatly improved the state of this ballclub. Of course, if you have any specific examples–not just broad generalizations– of my missteps, please, let me know. Your 600 games attended surely trumps my 30 years of baseball experience.

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      • philosofool says:

        Morrow for League is the one black mark on your record. Otherwise, you have made mores that lie between fine and outstanding. You’re pretty good at your job.

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  15. kampfer says:

    the Mariners is going to dwell the basement anyways, why bother using Pineda for a few extra starts? Although i added him based on pure speculation, i don’t think he is gonna be the 5th starter but if he is, it will be a win-win between all fantasy owners who added him and Pineda himself

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  16. Paul Thomas says:

    Correction: Given the way the A’s have behaved with respect to Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson, it would be more accurate to say that there are at most 28 teams that are willing to manipulate service time to get extra control years, and at least one other team willing to shoot itself in the foot, service-time wise, for no obvious reason or gain.

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  17. SKob says:

    The difference with the Mariners and the A’s is that there is little to no shot to compete for this year. Service time is about keeping good players inexpensive for as long as possible so that you can use your budget in other areas to make the team better. How can anyone argue that it shouldn’t matter if he starts the season on the team or in the minors? An extra year at a cheaper salary is exactly what will give teams who aren’t willing to spend 150 mil a chance at winning. Every Mariner fan should be begging to keep this kid in the minors with the hope the team is competitive next year after Pineda, Smoak and Ackley get there game together. A few years down the road, with Felix still under a descent contract, and extra money to spare from pushing off the contract increases due to their younger players, this team could be competitive again.

    Comparing this team to the A’s, who seemingly find themselves within a stones throw from the playoffs every year, is an insult to the A’s. They are always competitive and they are also adept at moving their increasingly expensive young talent for more great young talent. It’s hard to be great this way, but they are always competitive.

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  18. The Fool says:

    Pineda AL rookie of the year. Milton AL MVP. Felix another Cy Young. The M’s are coming for you.

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