What are the Yankees going to do with Jeter, Rivera and Girardi?

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The New York Post says that the Yankees aren’t talking extension with Jeter, Rivera or Girardi.  This is not a surprise, really, as the Yankees have a pretty solid track record of not negotiating with their own free agents until their deals actually expire. Such an approach makes perfect sense for them, of course, because the one reason you try to lock up guys before they hit the market — to keep from having to fight off higher bidders — is not exactly a concern in New York.

Of course the Post does its damndest to try and make it an issue by slapping a quasi-inflammatory headline on the story and playing a breathless what-if game, but what else do you expect from the Post? The day they stop trying to make mountains out of molehills is the day I start worrying. But setting aside the timing and dramatics of it all, what do you do with these guys if you’re the Yankees?

I think you have to treat Girardi like a cog. Sure, if he manages another nice no-drama year and the Yankees make a good showing of it you offer him another year or two in the interests of consistency. But I’ve not seen anyone argue that the difference between success or failure in Yankeeland is whatever managerial genius Girardi possesses.  Is he really telling Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez anything they don’t already know about how to play baseball? He’s Ralph Houk to Joe Torre’s Casey Stengel, isn’t he? Some people may argue that having him as a lame duck manager is a distraction. I think that locking him up for multiple years would create a much larger distraction later when the team wants to fire him.

Rivera is a toughie.  He’s still awesome. He’s the best ever at what he does. He’s also 40, though, and while we all want to see him pitch forever, he won’t.  If he’s still dominant this year I think you’re obligated to give him a contract with some risk attached (i.e. multiple years), knowing that you may eat most of it, because how do you say no to a legend who’s still got it?  Likewise, if the wheels fall off in 2010 it’s not going to be too terribly hard to say “Look Mo, we love you, but this is probably it.”  The real hard thing is going to be if he falters this season but is still generally OK. Like, if he becomes Bobby Jenks or Chad Qualls or someone like that. Superficially he’ll still look like an elite closer, but in reality he won’t be worth that kind of commitment.  Such a dynamic could make for a very, very thorny fall and winter.

Jeter is kind of a no-brainer. He’s going to get a big fat contract that pays him just as much if not a little more than the $21 million he makes now over fewer years. Everyone will know the moment it’s signed that the back end of it is going to be ugly and no one will really care because he’s Derek Jeter.  If a situation presents itself in which he’s making $22-25 million and can’t hit his weight, he and the team will get creative and turn his money into some lifetime contract, he’ll retire and become the greatest ambassador the Yankees ever had.  The details aren’t important. What’s important is that both the Yankees and Jeter have zero desire to see the Captain in any other uniform, and no matter how it’s dealt with, it won’t happen.

Ultimately there will be an inverse relationship between the amount of ink that is spilled over these three guys’ contract status and how difficult the Yankees’ decisions with respect to these guys ultimately will be.  We’ll hear about Jeter’s contract all season, but that gets done quickly. There will likewise be tons of hand-wringing “lame duck” articles regarding Girardi, but his deal (or termination) will only take about ten minutes more consideration than Jeter’s thing.

It’s Rivera’s situation that I’m planning on watching the closest, because if things break just wrong, it could be royal pain for the Yankees and Rivera and a total field day for the Post.

Agent: Nick Senzel’s reassigment ‘egregious case of service time manipulation’

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Reds prospect Nick Senzel is ready for the majors. Although he battled injuries, the 23-year-old performed well with Triple-A Louisville last season, batting .310/.378/.509 with 20 extra-base hits, 25 RBI, 23 runs scored, and eight stolen bases in 193 plate appearances. Senzel has also performed well this spring, batting .308 across 39 at-bats.

The Reds, however, announced on Friday that Senzel was among a handful of players reassigned to minor league camp. Senzel was drafted as a third baseman, began playing second base last year, and had been playing in center field during spring training. The common thought is that the Reds, who have built a competitive roster, will keep Senzel at Triple-A to begin the season and call him up right after the club secures an extra year of contractual control.

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Senzel’s agent Joel Wolfe calls Senzel’s reassignment an “egregious case of service time manipulation.” The full quote:

I don’t believe I’ve ever made public statements on this issue in my career, but I feel compelled to do so in this case where it feels like a simply egregious case of service time manipulation.

We are well aware of the mandate from ownership for the Reds to win this year — and this seems to fly in the face of it. The NL Central was decided by one game last year. Every game matters. This is a shortsighted move that may be frugal now but could cost them dearly later.

Nick Senzel is not a young prospect. He’s a major league-ready impact-type player. He has done everything they’ve asked this spring, including working hard to become a major league center fielder.

Nick takes pride in wearing the Reds uniform. He appreciates how much support he’s received from Reds fans. He’s going to go to Triple-A and prove every day he belongs in MLB.

We have covered the service time manipulation issue pretty extensively here, so Wolfe’s statement doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Prior to an injury, the Blue Jays were going to undeservingly stuff Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. — baseball’s No. 1 prospect — at Triple-A for the first two weeks or so of the season. The White Sox were going to do the same with Eloy Jiménez before using their leverage to nudge him into inking an extension. The Braves toyed with Ronald Acuña Jr.’s playing time last year. Kris Bryant and Maikel Franco filed respective grievances against the Cubs and Phillies for service time manipulation several years ago.

Team executives don’t outright admit to gaming a prospect’s service time to gain that extra year of control because that’s how one loses a grievance. They dance around the topic by making a nebulous claim, typically about the player’s defense needing to be worked on at Triple-A. That’s what the Cubs said about Bryant, and it’s what the Jays said about Guerrero. It’s a subjective enough evaluation that it can’t be falsified. It’s why the grievances that have been filed over this have fizzled out and it’s why more and more teams have brazenly joined the service time manipulation bandwagon.

Senzel’s case is, admittedly, a bit more murky. Though he performed well this spring, Scott Schebler has outperformed him, batting .379 with five extra-base hits and 11 walks in roughly 40 trips to the plate. The starting spot in right field is taken by Yasiel Puig and left field is taken by Jesse Winker. Schebler has ostensibly earned the starting job in center. I can’t imagine Wolfe having a compelling case if he were to file a grievance on Senzel’s behalf.

That being said, it is important that agents (and the MLBPA) speak out about this when they can. Senzel’s case may not be open-and-shut, but bringing service time manipulation into the public consciousness will have a lasting impact ahead of the December 2021 expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement. Holding team executives publicly accountable may make them less willing to manipulate their players’ service time going forward, as it may sour what could otherwise be a terrific relationship between team and player. Service time manipulation is an important piece of the labor puzzle and those on the players’ side have to seize whatever they can to potentially gain leverage. Awareness leads to solidarity.