Looking at the All-Star team snubs and surprises

74 Comments

For all of the complaining people like to do about All-Star teams, the voting process and all of that, the fact is that All-Star squads of the past several years have been pretty good. Part of that is that the rosters are so big now that it’s hard to truly “snub” someone. Also operating here is the unspoken fact that a good many guys beg out because of injuries — or “injuries” and ultimately most of the guys who truly want to be there and deserve to be there are actually there.

Still, there are always some weird things and oddities with All-Star rosters so, in the wake of last night’s announcement of the rosters and the Final Vote guys, let’s look at a couple of them.

Most interesting thing: None of the specific players chosen or not chosen is the most interesting thing to me. No, the most interesting thing is what seems to be Ned Yost’s desire to actually win this game and manage it like a regular game. His selection of relievers Darren O’Day, Brad Boxberger and Kelvin Herrera, along with choosing Brock Holt, who is basically a utility guy, as his Red Sox representative makes his roster look more like an actual baseball team than an All-Star team. Mixing and matching, hard-throwing relievers and a super-sub give Yost flexibility to manage the heck out of the game, for better or for worse.

Biggest Snubs: Like I said above, there are no shockers or atrocities here. Brian Dozier not making it stinks — some people think he’s the best second baseman in the game — but with Jose Altuve and Jason Kipnis in the AL, it’s hard to add him. Bruce Bochy picked his guy Madison Bumgarner over Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Martinez and Johnny Cueto, even though all three of them are having better seasons than Bumgarner is, Cueto and Martinez by a decent margin. Justin Turner could be the NL equivalent of Brock Holt — someone who can play many positions — and is hitting the daylights out of the ball, but Bochy is looking at things differently than Yost, apparently.

The Final Vote: A-Rod and Joey Votto not even making the Final Vote thing is lame, but (a) A-Rod isn’t winning any final vote unless I’m 51% of the electorate; and (b) both of them are either old or fragile enough to where they could use some time off. The same excuse doesn’t hold for Carlos Correa, who may be one of the most exciting young players in baseball and plays short at a time when shortstop is a wasteland. He should be on there, but the remaining guys are more famous, so that’s how it goes. The NL has only one position player in the Final Vote — Troy Tulowitzki — which means that there’s a good chance that the NL All-Star team is going to have 14 pitchers. Wheeee!

The Upshot: This is the All-Star Game we have now. It’s geared toward not having ties, not running out of players, especially pitchers, and not showcasing the biggest names in the game for more than a couple of innings. Everyone gets a representative, almost everyone gets to play and it resembles baseball as we know it far less than anything else that happens during the season. In light of that we don’t have a lot of snubs — almost everyone gets to come! — but we likewise don’t get to truly see a clash of the Best vs. Best, and that’s a little sad.

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

Rob Tringali/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.