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Marlins To Sign Yimi Garcia

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By Jeff Todd | December 12, 2019 at 1:00pm CDT1:00pm: Garcia’s deal is a Major League contract, per SiriusXM’s Craig Mish (Twitter link).
11:30am: The Marlins have a deal with free agent righty Yimi Garcia, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via Twitter). He had been non-tendered by the Dodgers. Details of the agreement aren’t known.
Garcia, 29, certainly fulfills the Marlins’ stated desire for relievers that can put the ball in the zone. He has allowed just 30 walks in 159 2/3 career innings at the game’s highest level. Garcia has also averaged more than a strikeout per frame, with 166 over that same span.
The trouble for Garcia — and the likely reason he was non-tendered by the Dodgers despite a modest $1.1MM projected tab — is that he has yet to figure out how to keep the ball in the yard. Garcia has coughed up 22 long balls in his past 84 2/3 innings. But he rates excellently in terms of fastball spin, curveball spin, hard-hit rate and opponents’ exit velocity despite yielding an exorbitant number of homers (15 in 62 1/3 innings this past season). He’d be controllable via arbitration through 2021 if he can right the ship in a reunion with former Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly.

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Reds’ Contract With Nick Castellanos Includes Annual Deferrals

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By Jeff Todd | January 29, 2020 at 11:48am CDTThe deal recently struck between Nick Castellanos and the Reds will include some notable deferrals, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). The annual payouts won’t be pushed too far into the future, but will come on a delayed schedule that should assist the team with managing its payroll.
Here’s the full structure of the four-year, $64MM contract, per the report and previously reported information
2020: $16MM salary with $10MM payable during season and $2MM payments on January 15, 2021, February 1, 2021 & January 15, 2022
2021: $14MM salary with $10MM payable during season and $2MM payments on January 15, 2022 & January 15, 2023
2022: $16MM salary with $12MM payable during season and $2MM payments on January 15, 2023 & January 15, 2024
2023: $16MM salary with $12MM payable during season and $2MM payments on January 15, 2024 & January 15, 2025
2024: $20MM mutual option ($2MM buyout)
Add it all up, and this is the full guaranteed payout schedule for Castellanos:
2020: $10MM salary
2021: $10MM salary + $2MM (1/15/21) + $2MM (2/1/21)
2022: $12MM salary + $4MM (1/15/22)
2023: $12MM salary + $4MM (1/15/23)
2024: $2MM buyout (or $20MM salary) + $4MM (1/15/24)
2025: $2MM (1/15/25)
It should be noted: once earned, a given season’s salaries will still be paid by the team even if Castellanos opts out. He has two opportunities to do so, after each of the first two seasons of the contract. Should he opt out, Castellanos would sacrifice the ability to earn additional money under the contract but not the right to receive the deferred payment for what he had already earned.
This deferral schedule is a bit complicated, but doesn’t wildly alter the value of the contract. By comparison, some other contracts — for instance, Max Scherzer’s agreement with the Nationals — have pushed the earnings much further into the future and required rather more significant adjustments to assess the true cost of the signing.

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Kris Bryant Loses Grievance Against Cubs

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By Jeff Todd | January 29, 2020 at 9:06am CDTThe MLB arbitration panel has finally issued a ruling on the grievance brought by Cubs star Kris Bryant against the organization, per Jeff Passan of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Bryant will not be granted an additional year of service time, the panel ruled. He will remain under team control via arbitration through the 2021 season.
Bryant had claimed the Chicago organization manipulated the timing of his initial promotion in order to delay his qualification for free agency. It was an argument with some obvious real-world merit, but one that faced major legal hurdles to success.
The expectation around the game all along was that Bryant would fail, but that couldn’t be known until the decision was formally reached. Now, the Cubs and Bryant have clarity regarding his future … as do other teams with potential interest in trading for the 28-year-old third baseman/outfielder.
It remains difficult to fathom the big-market Cubs parting with a classy, homegrown star who remains a high-quality performer. But there has been persistent chatter surrounding the possibility as the organization looks for creative means of improving. The Cubs reputedly have minimal financial wiggle room owing to a self-imposed pincer of payroll limitations and prior payroll commitments (some underperforming).
We’ll have to see whether talks gain traction over the next two weeks. No doubt teams with interest have already done quite a bit of groundwork with the Cubs, but it was largely hypothetical until this process was completed. There’s still some unmet demand at third base, leaving a potential window to a pre-spring strike.
This ruling also has clear implications for the broader issue of service-time manipulation. While there’s always going to be some grey area as to a player’s readiness for the majors, it’s an open secret around the game that teams slow the promotions of top prospects to delay their eventual free agency.
MLB rules require at least six full years of service to hit the open market. A player is deemed to have accumulated a service year with 172 days of time spent on the active roster. It’s simple math from there: If a team carries a player on the active roster out of Spring Training, that player (presuming no future demotions) can play six full seasons before reaching free agency. If a team instead waits a couple weeks and promotes the player once there’s less than 172 days left on the MLB calendar, that player can not only suit up for the vast majority of that initial campaign, but would remain under control for six full seasons thereafter.
That’s precisely what happened in Bryant’s case, which presented just about the most compelling possible factual scenario to challenge a team’s decision. As the 2015 season approached, Bryant was widely heralded as a top young talent and had dominated the competition in the upper minors. There was a clear roster opening. He had a monster showing in Cactus League action. The Cubs kept him down to open the year and promoted him on the exact day he could first be called up without reaching a full year of service. As of today, Bryant has 4.171 years of MLB service and will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season.
The Cubs did have a smidgen of evidence to call upon to raise some plausible deniability. They had spoken of Bryant’s need to improve his glovework, though that was rather a thin reed. President of baseball ops Theo Epstein noted he had never introduced a player to the majors at the start of a season, though it was never really clear whether and why he actually held an honest philosophical belief of that sort. (You could also flip that argument on its head to an extent.) The best cover came from the fact that infielders Mike Olt and Tommy La Stella both happened to suffer injuries early in the season, which gave the team a good explanation for the suspicious timing of the promotion.
So, was this simply a case of maximizing the utility of a player within the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement? Or was it improper manipulation of those rules? That depends upon how one interprets the CBA and applies it to the facts at hand. It is not accurate to say that the agreement specifically permits manipulation of this kind; neither does it expressly prohibit the consideration of service time in making promotion decisions or provide a clear standard in this realm. As covered in depth at Fangraphs by Sheryl Ring, every contract has an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. There was an argument here that the Cubs ran afoul of that legal doctrine even if they did not clearly break an express provision of the written contract. Of course, there’s also a wide degree of interpretation and a multitude of factors that go into any decision, so even here there was arguably room for some doubt.
The fair dealing doctrine obviously sets a rather malleable standard — one that relies heavily upon precedent and prior industry dealings, and thereby bleeds into the factual realm. As a practical matter, finding a violation is likely to require a compelling factual situation. Bryant had that from a circumstantial perspective, but perhaps he lacked a smoking gun such as a statement from a top team official acknowledging that service-time manipulation drove the decision. (No such statement is known publicly. Neither is it known what level of discovery of documents or witnesses was permitted, if any.)
Now that the Bryant decision is in place, any future such grievances have a clear reference point. It’s difficult to imagine circumstances that would more clearly point to service-time manipulation. Winning a grievance action, then, will presumably require more — some kind of direct evidence of intent from the organization, perhaps — unless a future player can convince a panel to revisit the underlying legal reasoning.

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