If I told you that a baseball team in Chicago was manipulating the service time of a stud prospect, what name would come to mind? What if I told you that this young star was represented by Scott Boras? Now what if I threw in the fact that this player could make a difference at a spot that could well use an upgrade?
Okay, so the headline may have belied any lingering mystery, but absent the name in that titular question I’m guessing everyone would have been saying “Kris Bryant.” But the White Sox have a developing situation of there own involving starting pitcher Carlos Rodon, the third overall pick in last year’s draft.
Because of an injury to staff ace Chris Sale, the team will need to fill a spot at the back end of the rotation, the battle for which is coming down to Rodon and the well-traveled Brad Penny. Neither is exactly lighting the world on fire, but it seems apparent that Alyssa Milano’s former flame has the upper hand at this point.
In his article on the topic, Paul Sullivan quoted several Sox players, including the two in question, and mentioned the requisite stats. But wedged between the standard baseball platitudes and praise was a little blurb about how the Sox are likely to settle the matter.
Chances are Rodon will start the season in Triple A so as not to incur service time, giving the Sox an extra year before he’s eligible for free agency. But Rodon’s teammates say they are impressed with his maturity.
Seems pretty much like Bryant’s situation, right? So why isn’t Scott Boras accusing Rick Hahn of “damaging the ethics and brand of Major League Baseball” and question the South Siders’ will to win? I can only imagine how Hawk would handle his team being accused of the latter travesty.
And what about bloggers and Twitterers? I have yet to have my fingers scalded by hot Rodon takes as I scroll through my timeline. And yes, believe it or not, I do have a nice group of friends in White Sox Twitter. So why aren’t we hearing more about the situation at The Cell?
I had initially titled this piece “Why Isn’t Scott Boras Whining About Carlos Rodon,” but I thought that sounded a little click-baity, so I went a little more demure. But the short answer, as I discussed on Twitter earlier, is simply that not as many people care; the Sox just don’t move the needle like the Cubs do.
And that’s not meant to be a dig against the boys down on 35th St, as I’m pretty sure all of their fans would agree with me on this one. Futhermore, outside of the occasional phenom like Stephen Strasburg, pitching prospects don’t have quite the cachet of elite hitters. Add to that the fact that Rodon has one fewer year in the pros, and you’ve got your answer.
Scott Boras might be abrasive and egomaniacal, but one thing he’s not is stupid. This issue is about far more than Kris Bryant, it’s about Boras being able to leverage a situation for himself and his current and future clients in years to come. While I have been accused of writing the preeminently stupid piece on the topic, I held that Tony Clark and the MLBPA were doing the same thing.
They want to create as much juice as possible so that they can get the changes they desire when it comes time to renegotiate the CBA. And I don’t fault them for that one bit. Nor do I fault the Cubs, Sox, Rays (Evan Longoria), or any other MLB team for exploiting the rules of game.
Despite the fact that it’s become a big deal of late, the manipulation of service time isn’t some new concept. And while some feel it’s an affront to moral sensibility, it’s not illegal in terms of the CBA either. Players become eligible for free agency after six years of MLB service (defined as 172 days of Major League service during a “championship season”), simple as that.
The aforementioned link from Viva El Redbirds is actually a pretty nice primer on the ins and outs of service time, if you’re so inclined to sully yourself by reading a Cardinals blog. And if you’re a true glutton for punishment, you can read through the entire CBA right here. I’d recommend using the index before you go diving in.
In trying to describe the vastly different publicity and reaction surrounding the similar situations of Kris Bryant and Carlos Rodon, the best example I can come up with is the difference in marketing a big-budget blockbuster and an art-house indie flick. Boras is throwing his efforts behind the picture that’s going to draw the most eyeballs.
At this point, it looks like the release dates for both will be pushed back to around mid-April, at which point they’re likely to enjoy long runs in their respective theaters. And if both live up to their potential, I think any delays will become little more than incidental footnotes, like the key grip at the end of the credits.