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  • Handling Gibson

    As they try to rebuild their shattered starting pitching corps, the Twins are relying on Kyle Gibson to become a fixture in the rotation. Whereas the rest of the organization’s top pitching prospects are widely considered to be at least a year or two away, Gibson is ready now.

    After being sidetracked by Tommy John surgery, he’s returned throwing harder than ever and – much like in his first big-league camp in 2011 – he is impressing coaches and onlookers with his poise and polish. He is a beacon of hope for the future that the Twins can present to fans now; a bridge to what they hope will be a revamped young rotation that returns them to relevance.

    Considering his importance to their short-term and long-term plans, Gibson will obviously need to be handled carefully. From a physical standpoint, the Twins are addressing that by limiting his inning total for this season. But what about from a financial standpoint? The decisions made this spring, and later in the summer, will have a considerable bearing on when he'll be in line for free agency.

    Once a prospect graduates to the majors his service clock kicks in. From that point, the team owns his rights for the equivalent of six full seasons. His clock pauses if he is sent to the minors (for reasons other than injury rehab) but he must spend at least 20 days there for the stint to be counted against MLB service.

    In other words, if Gibson was sent to the minors for 15 days this season – either at the outset of the campaign or at some point during – he would still have an opportunity to accrue a full year of major-league service. If that stint were to extend to 20 or more days, the time logged in the minors would be subtracted from his service time and he’d be unable to accrue a full year. In essence, this would push his service clock back by a full year. He won’t be able to rack up six full seasons of MLB service over the next six years, thus extending the Twins’ control over him by another season.

    It is for this reason that we often hear about teams wanting to hold down top prospects for the first three or four weeks of the season, even after they’ve been deemed ready for action. The Rays are known for it. Many believe the Twins should do it with Aaron Hicks. It’s a perfectly logical business decision.

    But there’s more complexity to this dynamic than just business, especially as it pertains to Gibson.

    One the one hand, if the Twins bring him north out of camp, let him pitch his allotted 130-140 innings and then shelf him, he will accrue a full year of service time while pitching only a partial season for a team that’s probably going to be near the bottom of the standings. That’s hardly ideal.

    On the other hand, the Twins would eat away a good chunk of his limited innings by sending him to Triple-A for even three weeks, which would be tough to stomach if the coaching staff truly believes he’s ready for the majors. Sending him to the minors in August before shutting him down would stop his service clock but would probably raise the ire of his agent and the players’ association unless his performance merited the demotion.

    In addition, one can argue that the Twins have a responsibility to put their best team on the field, even if it’s widely believed that this is a lost season. It’s one thing if you can assemble five respectable starters to hold down the fort until Gibson’s postponed arrival date, but if other hurlers like Scott Diamond or Mike Pelfrey need to start the year on the DL, you’re reaching pretty far down to grab a replacement.

    We also have to look at this from the player’s perspective. Gibson, who did everything he could after being drafted to put himself on the fast track to the majors, had his timeline pushed back dramatically by the Tommy John procedure. He’s already 25 and up to this point he hasn’t really made any money in his career outside of his signing bonus.

    A baseball player’s opportunity to earn is finite, and Gibson is already looking at being 32 before he has a chance to hit that big free agent payday. To have that milestone pushed back further – despite his proving himself in spring training – so that the Twins can save a little money down the line would be understandably frustrating and could create bad blood. Fans may recall the situations that developed when the agents of Francisco Liriano and Glen Perkins accused the Twins of employing a similar clock-delaying strategy in years past, and in those cases the club actually had solid ground because of the players’ performances.

    Keeping Gibson happy is probably more essential than anything to keeping him in a Twins uniform long-term, and if the team does right by him they shouldn’t have any trouble retaining him for as long as they like. If the young hurler pans out, then by the time he’s approaching that distant free agent eligibility date the Twins will surely approach him about an extension that buys out his remaining arbitration years and his first few years of free agency (think Scott Baker). At that point, all these concerns about the hypothetical end of his service clock will become irrelevant. The only thing that changes is that the Twins might have to pay him a little more, a little sooner.

    In this era of Target Field and increased financial flexibility, that shouldn’t be an issue. Personally, I’d rather have this organization form a rep as one that rewards players based on merit, not based on the approach that protects their financial interests. Given the questions raised over the past offseason about free agents’ desire to sign here, I think the Twins need to be very conscious of how they’re viewed by players and agents around the league.

    If Gibson shows signs this spring that he could use a bit more seasoning in Triple-A (which would hardly be shocking) then it would be wise to send him to Rochester for development, and the delayed clock is an added benefit.

    But if he does enough to convince coaches he’s ready to pitch in the majors, give him a spot in the starting rotation and allow him to begin establishing himself as a big-league ballplayer. The rest, as they say, will take care of itself.
    This article was originally published in blog: Handling Gibson started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 44 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      As I've said in several forum threads here at Twins Daily, the Twins typically don't pay attention to the service time as much as others. The Rays have already said that Wil Myers won't come up until early May. Last year, the Nationals had Bryce Harper spend a month in AAA before making his debut. They did the same with Strasburg.

      The Twins had no problem bringing up Joe Mauer in 2004 from AA and having him on the roster the full season. Last year, Chris Parmelee and Liam Hendriks both began the season with the Twins. So, although we can all acknowledge the business benefit of gaining that extra year or team control, the Twins have plenty of track record of bringing players up to start the season rather than wisely waiting a month. in the minors.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      The Twins had no problem bringing up Joe Mauer in 2004 from AA and having him on the roster the full season. Last year, Chris Parmelee and Liam Hendriks both began the season with the Twins. So, although we can all acknowledge the business benefit of gaining that extra year or team control, the Twins have plenty of track record of bringing players up to start the season rather than wisely waiting a month. in the minors.
      And has it ever demonstrably hurt them?
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      I think we've looked at all angles of this question for so long that it is easy to forget that chances are the decision won't be a tough one when opening day approaches - external events may move a close decision to a near-obvious one, one direction or the other. I'm kind of done speculating for now.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I appreciate the article. I think it is probably best for all sorts of reasons to keep him in Rochester for about 6 weeks and have him on an innings limit there that is fairly severe. 50ish innings there and then 100 with the Twins. This would mean that he pitches from April through September which is worthwhile in his case considering the fact that I believe 2010 is the last time he pitched a full season.

      There is no reason to hate upon the idea that having Gibson end his season in September as opposed to August is better going into 2014. This is not a vacuum. September 2013 SHOULD be the time when we are guaranteed to see much of the Twins future: Hendriks, Gibson, Hermsen (maybe), Herrmann, Hicks, Benson, Arcia, Dozier, perhaps even Santana, and perhaps a few relievers like Guerra, Oliveros, Watts, Pugh, and Hauser. I like seeing the future in September as opposed to shutting a guy like Gibson down and then ending the season in lackluster fashion.

      The service time issue is not central to my argument here. The future is central, and if there is an innings limit, I would like to see Gibson end the season starting with the Twins in September.
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      I think you have some flawed logic in this article in several places.

      First, you claim there is a moral obligation to "...put their best team on the field...". But if this were true, or at least if the Twins FO believed it to be true then the offseason would have gone much differently.

      Second, and this is really my larger point, you blame the Twins for potentially hurting Gibson's earning potential when all the Twins are doing is abiding by the rules as set forth in the CBA. The Twins, and any other team exploiting the loophole to acquire a 7th season of control, are not doing anything illegal. If abiding by the rules is morally wrong then the rules themselves are the problem. Since those rules are decided upon by the players association, as well as MLB obviously, the real moral failing here seems to be with the players themselves for allowing themselves to be "exploited" for a seventh year. Since this pay structure has been in place for quite a while and the players have had chances to make changes but have not, I think it is only logical to conclude there is no ethical problems with this particular rule. The Twins are within their rights, both legally and ethically, to hold a prospect in the minors for 20 days to obtain the 7th year of control.

      Third, I think you overestimate how much a free agent cares about how a team handles the promotion of it's minor leaguers. Money, metropolitan area and competitiveness are much more likely to determine how a free agent responds to a contract offer. I would be surprised if an average player even knows how a majority of teams handle their minor league promotions.
    1. Twins Twerp's Avatar
      Twins Twerp -
      Don't talk about morals when a guy ALREADY signed a 1.8 million dollar signing bonus. I know it is a business and that was his market value yada yada yada, but he made more with one signing than I will make in a whole career of teaching. So I think that the Twins not having him on the 25 man roster for until May has nothing to with morals and everything to do with looking towards the future.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Twins Twerp View Post
      Don't talk about morals when a guy ALREADY signed a 1.8 million dollar signing bonus. I know it is a business and that was his market value yada yada yada, but he made more with one signing than I will make in a whole career of teaching. So I think that the Twins not having him on the 25 man roster for until May has nothing to with morals and everything to do with looking towards the future.
      I don't understand this thinking. Why is morality tied to the number on a paycheck? Just because Gibson makes a lot of money, it's impossible for a multi-billion dollar enterprise to exploit his services?

      I'm not against the Twins making the most of the rules allowed them by the CBA, I only disagree with how you reached that point.
    1. Gene Larkin Fan Club's Avatar
      Gene Larkin Fan Club -
      I've been a teacher for 16 years and I certainly wish we made more money, but this has nothing to do with morality. This is an economic issue. It has everything to do with what the player is worth and treating him fairly (economically, not morally). If I could get 40,000 people to pay $20 a pop to watch me teach an Economics lesson, I'd get a $1.8 million signing bonus, too.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      It astounds me people are so worried about how much money the pohlads make, by keeping a player cheap longer, but get mad at players wanting money, astounds me. He will be 31 or 32 when they lose control....that is an age many of you say is too old to even sign a guy....the best players should be up here. His innings should be used here, not in Rochester. They have more money than they are willing to spend. Bring him up.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Seeing as he's 25, I don't think the service time should be as large of a concern. Calling him up now will mean he's younger when it comes to talking about an extension. As silly as it may seem, I find it much more likely that the Twins would be interested in extending a 29-year-old until he's say 34 than they would a 30-year-old until he's 35. It's only a year difference, but the perception of an under 30 pitcher generates positive reactions, while the perception of a pitcher over 35 generates pretty negative reactions.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      I think it is probably best for all sorts of reasons to keep him in Rochester for about 6 weeks and have him on an innings limit there that is fairly severe. 50ish innings there and then 100 with the Twins. This would mean that he pitches from April through September which is worthwhile in his case considering the fact that I believe 2010 is the last time he pitched a full season.
      Why not just have him pitch those first 50 innings in the majors is he appears ready? Also, if we unpack this theory a little bit we find that the math doesn't really make sense -- you're saying he should join the Twins after six weeks and then pitch 100 innings through the end of September, which would probably mean averaging under five frames per start. They're just not going to do that. The goal this year is to build up his strength to the point where he's throwing ~100/pitches per game and hopefully completing six or seven innings regularly.

      Quote Originally Posted by Oxtung View Post
      First, you claim there is a moral obligation to "...put their best team on the field...". But if this were true, or at least if the Twins FO believed it to be true then the offseason would have gone much differently.
      Have you seen me heartily endorsing their offseason approach?

      In any event, this is a different matter. We're talking about choosing the best players out of the ones they already have available.

      Quote Originally Posted by Oxtung View Post
      Second, and this is really my larger point, you blame the Twins for potentially hurting Gibson's earning potential when all the Twins are doing is abiding by the rules as set forth in the CBA. The Twins, and any other team exploiting the loophole to acquire a 7th season of control, are not doing anything illegal. If abiding by the rules is morally wrong then the rules themselves are the problem. Since those rules are decided upon by the players association, as well as MLB obviously, the real moral failing here seems to be with the players themselves for allowing themselves to be "exploited" for a seventh year. Since this pay structure has been in place for quite a while and the players have had chances to make changes but have not, I think it is only logical to conclude there is no ethical problems with this particular rule. The Twins are within their rights, both legally and ethically, to hold a prospect in the minors for 20 days to obtain the 7th year of control.
      I'm not "blaming" the Twins -- they haven't done anything yet. I'm pointing out that there's an additional layer to this thing. The team certainly wouldn't be doing anything illegal by exploiting that loophole but it would have the potential to be rather upsetting for Gibson, especially if he pitches really well this spring (which, frankly, I fully expect him to). And as I said in the article, in my mind keeping Gibson a happy organizational soldier will be more important to his long-term future here than the service clock timeline, which can be handled in many different ways.

      Quote Originally Posted by Oxtung View Post
      Third, I think you overestimate how much a free agent cares about how a team handles the promotion of it's minor leaguers. Money, metropolitan area and competitiveness are much more likely to determine how a free agent responds to a contract offer. I would be surprised if an average player even knows how a majority of teams handle their minor league promotions.
      Do I think this specific instance will have a major impact on the desire of free agents to sign here? No. I do think that the Twins need to be conscious of how their actions are viewed, though. Right after hacking $30 million off their payroll in two years, they're going to bury good prospects who can help them now for the sake of saving a few million bucks several years down the line? I don't think that will go unnoticed if it continues to become a trend. If I'm a free agent looking to sign an incentive-laden deal, I'd probably have a hard time believing the Twins would be inclined to let me reach all of my incentives, or activate my expensive option, or build around me with quality players, if they're routinely exercising that type of penny-pinching.
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      Gibson's earnings shouldn't really be the issue here. (I will note that while he'll be under team control for the next 6 seasons, some of those are arbitration years, correct? I think we know what that looks like in MLB, where the arbitration rules are MASSIVELY slanted towards the players)

      If Gibson can pitch at the MLB level, here's expected to be a core member of the rotation next season. The question for this season has to be about what will be best for his long-term development. Service time should be a secondary issue.

      I would like to see Gibson's innings limit rationed out over the course of the full season. I think that would help him get used to the longer grind of a full season and prepare him to be a full-time member of the rotation. I don't want to see him in the bullpen; that's not his future role and he's never pitched there before.

      He looks like he's ready now. Put him on the roster, put him in the rotation (5th slot, IMHO, skip him a few times over the course of the season, and let him keep pitching into Sept). The twins are going to have him for the prime years of his career, now that he seems to be recovered (mostly) from the injury. Let's see if he can stay healthy.
    1. edavis0308's Avatar
      edavis0308 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      As I've said in several forum threads here at Twins Daily, the Twins typically don't pay attention to the service time as much as others. The Rays have already said that Wil Myers won't come up until early May. Last year, the Nationals had Bryce Harper spend a month in AAA before making his debut. They did the same with Strasburg.

      The Twins had no problem bringing up Joe Mauer in 2004 from AA and having him on the roster the full season. Last year, Chris Parmelee and Liam Hendriks both began the season with the Twins. So, although we can all acknowledge the business benefit of gaining that extra year or team control, the Twins have plenty of track record of bringing players up to start the season rather than wisely waiting a month. in the minors.
      So.. we are comparing Liam Hendriks and Chris Parmelee to players such as Harper, Strasburg, Price, Longoria....?
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      I've stayed out of this debate, but IMO if Gibson earns a spot in the rotation, he belongs in the rotation. If he's on an innings limit (has there been any sort of announcement about that?), then deal with that as the season progresses. The extra year of team control isn't worth giving a second thought, the Twins can afford to have him pitch for them as long as they wish.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      Given the fact that Pelfrey is also coming back from an injury and Diamond was injured in the off-season--this whole discussion may be irrelevant. If Gibson pitches well in spring training and wins a spot--he should be on the 25 man roster. Only if there are 5 starters that are healthy and pitching well--should he be sent to Rochester. Since it is likely the Twins will not be in a pennant race, shutting him down in August doesnt matter--let him pitch his 140-150 innings and then shut him down.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      And has it ever demonstrably hurt them?
      I think you can make a case that it did with Mauer. He was called up and hurt his knee almost immediately at which point he hit the 60 day DL and acrewed service time for all of 2004 without playing much of it. Had he had that injury in AAA, Mauer wouldn't have needed to be reupped after the 2009 season but after the 2010, which would have saved the franchize a lot of money... The flip side is whether leaving in AAA in 2004 would have "burned" Mauer enough that he would have said good bye. I'm not sure anyone knows the answer to it. But there's no question that decision cost the Twins a ton of cash.

      The issue with service time is simply a business decision, and I have a tough time seeing where it would hurt them unless the player is obviously ready. There definitey have been cases in the past (such as Bartlett and Cuddyer) where a player was kept down when they appeared to be a clear upgrade over what was in place. Those teams were competitive as well, which soured a lot of fans. In Gibson's case, a good spring does not mean he's ready, and while I tend to agree that he's probably one of the best five pitchers now, he's on what is likely a last place team. You can look at his AAA numbers and see room for improvement, and asking that he pitch in limited innings out of Rochester during the beginning of the season is not unreasonable.

      In that, I kind of see this both ways. The Twins should be a pretty consistent competitor from 2015 to 2020. The downside is that everyone is going to get pretty expensive come 2018-2020. Having that extra year of control on a few of these guys might allow them to control some costs better or perhaps trade someone for something of value at a position of need.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by jmlease1 View Post
      Gibson's earnings shouldn't really be the issue here. (I will note that while he'll be under team control for the next 6 seasons, some of those are arbitration years, correct? I think we know what that looks like in MLB, where the arbitration rules are MASSIVELY slanted towards the players)
      I think it's more about security. The sooner Gibson starts his clock, the sooner he'll be in line for that potential big multi-year deal that will set him up for life. This is of extreme importance to a baseball player, because careers can take a sudden turn for the worse at any time, especially for pitchers.

      Quote Originally Posted by jmlease1 View Post
      If Gibson can pitch at the MLB level, here's expected to be a core member of the rotation next season. The question for this season has to be about what will be best for his long-term development. Service time should be a secondary issue.
      Completely agree.

      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      I think you can make a case that it did with Mauer. He was called up and hurt his knee almost immediately at which point he hit the 60 day DL and acrewed service time for all of 2004 without playing much of it. Had he had that injury in AAA, Mauer wouldn't have needed to be reupped after the 2009 season but after the 2010, which would have saved the franchize a lot of money... The flip side is whether leaving in AAA in 2004 would have "burned" Mauer enough that he would have said good bye. I'm not sure anyone knows the answer to it. But there's no question that decision cost the Twins a ton of cash.
      Mauer's mega-deal was the second contract extension he signed in his career. The Twins gave him one in 2007 that bought out his final years of arb and his first year of free agency. The timing of the 2010 extension was pretty unfortunate but wasn't really dictated by his service clock... it was dictated by the Twins' previous decisions and by circumstance. Had they not signed him to that first cost-certainty contract, his final year of team control would have been 2009, and if they'd waited to extend him until before that season... well, he probably would have cost a lot less. To be clear, this isn't intended as a criticism because it's all viewed in hindsight.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Mauer's mega-deal was the second contract extension he signed in his career. The Twins gave him one in 2007 that bought out his final years of arb and his first year of free agency. The timing of the 2010 extension was pretty unfortunate but wasn't really dictated by his service clock... it was dictated by the Twins' previous decisions and by circumstance. Had they not signed him to that first cost-certainty contract, his final year of team control would have been 2009, and if they'd waited to extend him until before that season... well, he probably would have cost a lot less. To be clear, this isn't intended as a criticism because it's all viewed in hindsight.
      I don't see your statement as criticism, as yes, this is all hindsight. I'm just suggesting that an extra year of service time for Mauer could have very realisticly pushed all of those items back one year, thus saving the team a bit of cash. Given TF opening up, I don't think Mauer's contract has really hamstrung the team, nor do I see that happening over the next 3-4 years either as they are going to have mostly pre-arb guys playing for them...

      Now with a rash of guys who will be hitting arb come 2017-2020, there may be good reason to attempt to cost control some of them, especially at a time when the season is considered lost. If the Twins are smart, they'll do what the Indians did in the 90s and lock up the young promising ones through their arb years and into FA by a year or two. Having that extra year will definitely help them with those terms.
    1. Dave T's Avatar
      Dave T -
      Exactly. The best players should be up here. Get over it.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      I think that if the Twins want to be extra careful with his arm and limit his innings, he should stay an extra month or so down to EST or play with the Miracle. April in Rochester (as in the Twin Cities) can be a pain.

      If it is a medical decision I get it keeping him away. If it not, I don't get it. The best 25 should be in the majors.
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