Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why it Might Make Sense to Leave Flash Jordan in AAA (for two months)

Rizz hinted to Chico Harlan yesterday that Jordan Zimmermann might be on his way back to Syracuse to start the season. I can understand fans wanting to see Flash Jordan on day one, but there are good reasons to want to hold him back.

First and foremost, there's the arbitration clock. The minute Zimmermann is put on the big squad, the clock starts ticking: three years to arbitration, six years to free agency. He turns 23 on May 23, so, assuming he sticks (and if he doesn't, this is all kind of moot), then he'll be hitting free agency for his age 28-29 season, right in his prime.

However, under the arcane rules of arbitration, if the Nationals wait until around May 23 or so to bring him up his arb and free agent eligibility will be pushed back a full year. So for the price of about 11 starts, maybe 65 innings, we get a full additional year of team control later on. Think of it as a trade with your future self. Would you trade 11 starts at age 22 for 30 at age 28-29? Methinks I would.

Some might say, "hey, it's just money! Who are you, Uncle Teddy's accountant?" But the reality is that even if the team ups payroll to $120 million a year, there's still a limit on how much to spend. I'm all for more spending, but not dumb spending, and it's dumb to spend in effect several million dollars to get 10-11 stars from a 22-year-old.

Second, there's the issue of his innings jump and injury risk. Last year he threw 134 innings. If we start him in the rotation from day one, he's going to be on track to throw over 160-170, assuming he pitches well. That's a dangerously large jump. But if you hold him back a bit you can bring him up around the time his arb date would push back and keep his innings jump to a less risky 20 innings or so.

Add in the fact that Jordan Zimmermann could be the Cy Young award winner, and we'd still be nowhere near sniffing the playoffs, and the value of 10-11 starts this spring is even less.

Rizz is thinking long term. The temptation would be to make a splash in the short-term and screw the long-term. But that's how we got in the situation we're in now. I'm glad that we now have a GM who, even though he's operating with no job security on an interim basis, is thinking about the long-term health of the team, not just tomorrow's headline.

21 comments:

GM-Carson said...

Julian Tavarez wears beer goggles.

Link: http://morehardball.blogspot.com/2009/03/julian-tavarez-wears-beer-goggles.html

Chris Needham said...

"However, under the arcane rules of arbitration, if the Nationals wait until around May 23 or so to bring him up his arb and free agent eligibility will be pushed back a full year. So for the price of about 11 starts, maybe 65 innings, we get a full additional year of team control later on. Think of it as a trade with your future self. Would you trade 11 starts at age 22 for 30 at age 28-29? Methinks I would."

That paragraph is wrong.

You're confusing arbitration, free agency and Super-2 status.

Steven said...

I'm not sure what you're disagreeing with, Chris.

If he's up from opening day 2009 and stays up for the following 3 years uninterrupted, he's arb eligible for 2012, 3 years of service time fulfilled.

If we call him up after a couple weeks in April let's say, and he stays up, then he'll likely qualify for super-2 and be arb eligible again in 2012, even though he has slightly less then 3 years of service time.

If however we wait till the last week of May or the first week of June, he won't have enough to qualify for either super-2 or have 3 years of service time, pushing back his arb eligibilty to 2013.

What part of that do you believe is inaccurate?

Steven said...

Here's the relevant passage from the MLBPA website, for those interested:

Q: When does a player become eligible for salary arbitration?
A: A player with three or more years of service, but less than six years, may file for salary arbitration. In addition, a player can be classified as a "Super Two" and be eligible for arbitration with less than three years of service. A player with at least two but less than three years of Major League service shall be eligible for salary arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and he ranks in the top 17 percent in total service in the class of Players who have at least two but less than three years of Major League service, however accumulated, but with at least 86 days of service accumulated during the immediately preceding season.

Harper said...

One of my favorite topics. I'm not in favor of holding one back just to keep them from hitting free agency sooner unless it's a meaningless end of the year call-up for a going nowhere team.

A million things can change between now and the time Zimmermann hits free agency. If he's ready now, play him now. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

Steven said...

Harper--I can understand that position too, and in my sometimes lawyerly way I did stop just short of fully endorsing this particular move.

I think there are good reasons to hold him back (which is not to say that there aren't good reasons to play him that may outweigh the reasons to hold him), and I praised him for thinking ahead (which doesn't necessarily mean I agree with his judgment call, just that I'm glad he's at least trying to look over the horizon a bit, which too often wasn't happening with he last guy).

Steven said...

Although I should say that if I stopped pussyfooting and took a position I would come down on the side of waiting.

Chris Needham said...

Whether you call him up 3 weeks into the season or into June, if he sticks, it's not going to matter for how many years you have him.

It'll only matter for his Super-2 status.

Sean Hogan said...

Yeah, if I'm not mistaken a Super Two is still under team control for 6 years, they just have 4 years of arbitration...so it would push his arbitration forward but wouldn't push his free agency forward.

Roberto said...

Add in the fact that Jordan Zimmermann could be the Cy Young award winner, and we'd still be nowhere near sniffing the playoffs, and the value of 10-11 starts this spring is even less.

Now I'm confused (not really but you get my drift): a few days ago, you described how the Nats might win 82 games. While not a likely scenario, it wasn't beyond the realm of reasonable possibility, either. Well, 82 wins does let you sniff the playoffs.

Let's say that Zimmermann pitched well enough to be a contender for ROY (never mind Cy Young), wouldn't that make the aroma even stronger?

Just asking.

Steve Shoup said...

Guys Steven was right...If we bring Zimm up in late April early May than then 2009 doesn't count he gets paid the ML minimum and he will get the same in 2010 and 2011. He would then qualify as for Super 2 status meaning 2012-2015 he would be arbitration eligible. It does extend an additional year of control just one that we'd have to pay arbitration rates. This is what happened with Ryan Howard, the Phils brought him up in early May 2005. Now if the team waits till late May early June Zimmermann still won't be a free agent until after the 2015 season and the team will only have to pay for 3 arbitration years. Now one thing is with the whole 17% of players for Super Two I don't think there is a quantified date, since its based on other players.

Bob L. Head said...

Steven --

I think you should have to come up with a new name for your blog periodically, while still retaining the initials FJB. A name that represents something about the current state of the Nats, or baseball in general, or anything else remotely funny or interesting. Kind of like Needham does with his tag line.

I'll start for you: Today, FJB stands for Flash Jordan's Blog.

Steve Shoup said...

Another reason that i believe the Nats should send Zimm to the minors is he might not be ready. Sure he's been great this spring but 3 points. 1. 12 innings is way too small of a sample size to say that he's ready. 2. He's hasn't had to go through a lineup twice, which as we know is when the wheels can come off the wagon (see Tim Redding). 3. Look at the quality of hitters he's facing, with a number of hitters gone for the WBC we are seeing even more than usual bad ST lineups. He's facing a number of 18, 19, and 20 some of whom won't even play full season baseball this year. Remember Zimmermann didn't dominate AA last year, though he was really good, he didn't have a Lincecum type year. What is the problem with having him pitch 2 months in the minors to protect his arm and refine his off speed pitches. Last year the Nats made Zimmermann pitch 15-20 changeups a game even if the pitch was off that day. You can't do that in the majors and he will need all 5 of his pitches to face the Phillies and Mets lineups. Zimmermann has the potential to be a very good pitcher in this league for a long time, lets not force the issue. There seems to be no upside to starting him in the major's this year.

NY Stat Guy said...

Even more interesting are the rumors that Shawn Hill was released today. Where does that leave JZ?

Steve Shoup said...

NYSTATGUY: Who is reporting that rumor, I don't see it on the Post, MLB, Mlbtraderumors, or rotoworld, so where are you getting that rumor??

Steven said...

@Chris--What you're saying is correct, but it doesn't contradict what I wrote.

To push back is FA date, he needs to stay down for basically one day. To push back his arb date, he needs to stay down till the end of May. I didn't specifically tease out this distinction, but it is now noted for the official record.

This is a distinction of course that is purely academic. You're not giong to call him up the day after Opening Day, and if you wait 5-6 times through the rotation to call him up then you're CERTAINLY going to wait till you've pushed him out of the super-2 window, or else at that point you're spending some number of million dollars to get 4-5 starts from a 22 year old. And you're undercutting your own leverage in future negotiations on a long-term deal.

The only circumstance that this would probably come up is in the case of a rash of injuries where the team's hand would be forced. Otherwise, the choice is to either start him on Opening day or wait till the last week of May.

@Roberto--did you see how many "IFs" there were on that list? It ain't happening brother. It was a fun mind exercise, but it ain't happening.

NY Stat Guy said...

I heard that from people I know within the organization. They will only have to pay him 30 days instead of $750K. He pitched 1 inning on Monday so they can state he is healthy and release him and not have to worry about an injury settlement.

Steven said...

I would be shocked if this was the case. Truly shocked and dismayed. Not Crow-level dismay, but nearly.

An Briosca Mor said...

Apparently the Hill rumor is true.

Rich said...

Wow! NY Stats Guy, you DO have some inside connections.

I'm gonna miss Hill...

Thomas said...

I was in the keep ZNN in the bigs camp, but willing to be convinced otherwise.

With this news, barring a resigning of Hill under a new contract, which seems highly unlikely, I don't see how they don't keep him.