Sunday, January 31, 2010

Glen Perkins And Undeserved Demotions

Way back in May, when Jay decided to take a little getaway, he blindly handed me to the keys to the blog for the week. The Yankees were about to wrap a four game series against the Twins, having won the first three via walkoff. The series finale was a Monday night affair, one I was to attend. But before I could escape the office and get on the road, I had to author my first game preview.

In keeping with Fack Youk tradition, I had to choose a song to work into the preview. After looking at the pitching match up for the night, I decided to riff on the name of the Twins starting pitcher for the night and went with "Carl Perkins Cadillac" from the very awesome Drive-By Truckers.

Glen Perkins started for the Twins that night, and the Yankees touched him up pretty good. It marked the fifth straight start in which Perkins surrendered at least four earned runs. The next day, Perkins was placed on the DL with an elbow issue. He returned a month later, and continued to struggle through another nine starts and a relief appearance. He was disabled again, and instead of being activated at the end of the month when rosters expanded, the Twins optioned him to AAA, despite the fact the minor league season was essentially over.

Though Perkins struggled in 2009, it was still an unorthodox move, particularly for a club that was in a pennant race. Perkins thought so too, and filed a grievance against the Twins. Being optioned out, rather than kept on the DL, prevented Perkins from accruing Major League service time. Not only did he fail to earn a Big League salary in that time, but the lack of service time prevented him from attaining Super Two arbitration status. That in turn has a major impact upon Perkins' salary for this year and beyond.

Back when I wrote that preview, I noted how cool it must have been for Perkins, born and bred in St. Paul and a former member of the University of Minnesota baseball team, to be drafted by and playing for his hometown team. But as we saw in the 1990 Sports Illustrated article about Dave Righetti that we linked to Friday, sometimes living out a boyhood dream isn't all it's cracked up to be. There's now a rift between Perkins and his club, and there's a chance he won't be a Twin much longer. It appears Perkins won't have quite as happy a story as fellow hometown hero Joe Mauer.

In the bigger picture, Perkins' story is part of an interesting and possibly troubling trend around the game: teams questionably optioning out young, but established players in effort to keep them under club control longer. The Twins took a similar tact with Francisco Liriano in 2008, and the Royals treated Alex Gordon the same way last year. We've seen teams delay calling up prospects like Evan Longoria, David Price, and Matt Wieters in order to keep them from Super Two arbitration status. But in my eyes at least, there's a difference between a club doing that to a minor leaguer on the way up as opposed to doing it to established Major Leaguers like Perkins, Liriano, and Gordon.

The past decade has seen Major League clubs look to exploit market inefficiencies. Valuing young, cost controlled talent has been amongst the leading ways teams have looked to gain an edge. Holding back Longoria, Price, and Wieters and sending down Liriano, Perkins, and Gordon are all part of that process. If Dave Cameron is right and veteran players are the latest market inefficieny, it'll be interesting to see if this trend of demoting established young players continues.


  1. What happens if a team comes out and admits that they kept a player in the minors specifically because they wanted to keep that player from becoming a Super Two? It happens all the time and everyone knows it, sometimes even at the detriment of the team (there is a good case to be made that the 2007 Brewers would have made the playoffs had they had Ryan Braun on the roster from Day 1. This might be a moot point in his case because they bought out his arbitration years and a couple more besides, but 09 would have been his first year of arbitration as a Super Two and he made just 745K. speaking of which, holy crap that guy has a team friendly contract)

    Could the league force the team to call the guy up?

  2. I'm not sure there's anything that can be done for a player that's never been brought up. Whatever system is in place - be in for free agency/arbitration, the draft, compensation picks, luxury tax threshhold etc - teams will always look to find the loopholes. That's what we see happening with the likes of Braun, Longoria, Wieters, etc. Until these guys are called up they aren't part of the MLBPA, so they have no recourse through the union.

    I don't have a problem with that so much, but I do think it isn't quite on the level when established players like Liriano, Perkins, and Gordon are sent back down. In that case the player can file a grievance. But I don't think there's anything MLB could do, and it would be highly unlike the League to side with a player rather than a club.