Did the Tigers pay a lot for Price? Sure, but don’t get hung up on it

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Obviously the Tigers paid a lot for David Price. Drew Smyly is a really good pitcher who is either ignored or underrated outside of Detroit. Austin Jackson is having a down year, but he’s a legit starting center fielder who can hit in an age where such things are valuable commodities. Finally, the prospect they threw in — 18-year-old shortstop Willy Adames — is supposed to be a good one and is already the youngest player at his level in the minors.

Some people in Tiger Land are a tad worried about all of this. One of them is Lynn Henning:

For that boost in a rotation’s firepower, the Tigers lost an effective, back-end starter in Drew Smyly, as well as center fielder Austin Jackson, who in past weeks has been playing the brand of baseball he has often delivered and all but promised to make a permanent part of his daily routine.

Most costly, the Tigers lost 18-year-old shortstop Willy Adames, who was destined to be their top prospect in 2015 and who represents a potential coup for the Rays.

He is particularly concerned about Adames. And yes, it may hurt to see him blossom one day.

But who cares?

The Tigers are the ultimate win-now team. By the time Adames is ready to contribute to the Tigers — assuming he can get past either Eugenio Suarez or Jose Iglesias on the depth chart — the Tigers core will be lining up for the early bird special at some family restaurant in Florida. Brad Ausmus will be transforming from baseball’s most handsome manager to a dashing-but-graying Cary Grant figure. The owner, Mike Illitch, may be in the great pizza place in the sky. You don’t worry too much about tomorrow when everything that matters is today.

While Henning doesn’t play the “John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander” card, you have to assume it’s on his mind. And on the mind of Tigers fans. It has been for 27 years. But what everyone conveniently forgets about the Smoltz-Alexander trade was that it actually worked for the Tigers.

The Tigers wanted one thing and one thing only from that trade back in 1987: they wanted to win the AL East. And, despite trailing the Blue Jays by a game and a half on the day of that deal, they beat ‘em out thanks to Alexander, who went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA after coming over, including a must-win game against the Jays in game 160.  The Tigers wanted to make the playoffs. They traded off the promise of a prospect (though a not particularly well thought of prospect) in order to do it. Sure, they would have been better off with Smoltz for the next 20 years, but they were trading for 1987, and to a team like the 1987 Tigers — veteran-laden, in win-now mode — 1987 was all that mattered.

The same goes for the Cabrera-Scherzer-Verlander Tigers of 2014. David Price gives them what they think they need to win the World Series. If they do it, well, awesome. But even if they don’t, they are making a move that gives them a better chance to do so than keeping Willy Adames on the West Michigan Whitecaps does.

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.