Major League Service Time
Agents loooooooooooove for their clients to start earning it.
Players loooooooooooove to start earning it because their salaries go from $14,000 or so a year to allmost half a million dollars, minimum.
Teams haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate to start that service time clock because it means that arbitration and, after that, free agency, gets closer. So teams guard that service time, measuring it to the last iota, trying to wring as much cheap baseball out of players who are playing not only for their current salary but for that big payday down the road. If you can make the stick a little longer that has the carrot on it, the better it is for the teams.
So, teams try to hold players down in the minors even though they may be ready for their first shot at the majors IF that team feels there is an advantage to it. And, guess what? That REALLY ticks off these players and their agents and creates a stigma on the organization that does effect the system from top to bottom. It's a dangerous game, but here is one reason teams play it.
You hear all the time about that window of opportunity to win that teams have: certain players are approaching free agency, your team is getting old, the teams in your division are getting stronger. They all are factors in teams thinking that the window is closing on them.
For some teams, like the Indians, that window is closed but not yet nailed shut. It's possible it can be opened back up.
For current Indians veterans who are almost out the door to other places: Sizemore, Hafner and others, they may not be around when the window opens up again.
The next generation, the future cornerstones of this team, are still around for a few years: Carmona, Masterson, Choo, Astrocab, Chris Perez, etc. and they will certainly be here when we become competitive.
The guys with some ML experience under their belt are getting ready for their second season: Talbot, Herrmann, LaPorta, Brantley, Santana, Donald. They will be around for a while and, hopefully, will serve as the biggest part of veteran leadership during the Indians' next run.
But what about the hot prospects: Chisenhall, Kipnis, Phelps, Weglarz, Pomeranz, White, De la Cruz, etc.? Those guys are banging on the door and there are prospects a year behind them waiting for their chance to contribute.
So, do you rush the Chisenhall group to the majors? Teams will tell you no. The Indians won't compete this year. With luck, they could compete next year but certainly in 2013. By then some of our cornerstones will be approaching free agency but we still will have most of them around.
What the Indians will likely do is try to get some of our young guys up starting in August. Why? If they come up too early and stay the whole season they will be eligible for arbitration after their second full season in the majors (Super 2 status). That leads to higher salaries and, if these players make the team out of spring training and stay in the majors the whole year, one less productive year the Indians get out of them. So the delicate balance is to not bring a guy up too soon but, at the same time, bring him up IN TIME to start his on-the-job training that will make him ready WHEN we are competitive.
Why am I mentioning this now?
I think some of what you are seeing in these questionable FA signings the Indians have been making (Chad Durbin, Orlando Cabrera and even Austin Kearns) is an attempt by the Indians to limit service time. Cabrera limits Phelps' service time and also Kipnis' and the domino effect of Donald at 3B will keep Chiz in the minors longer. Kearns keeps our outfielders like Weglarz down on the farm and even Jordan Brown is affected by that, if you think, as I do, that he still has some potential. Durbin limits the service time our rookie relievers will get.
Our excess starting pitching will keep White and Pomeranz from logging service time although both still need some polish before we should start their service clocks.
So maybe these questionable signings have two purposes: First to give some more veteran leadership and, second, to limit service time. Hey, I think it's not a good plan as it perpetuates this organization's history of dissing prospects (Brandon Phillips, Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Giles and others) for more veteran alternatives (Ramon Vazquez, Paul Byrd and David Justice) but if it extends the number of years that window is open, the next time it opens up, the better it works for me.
So, there you have it. My attempt at spin on why the Indians have ventured into this joke of signing borderline FAs who won't help when the window re-opens again. Let's hope I am right because, if they really believe these guys were signed to help the team win this year, they all need to stop smoking what they are smoking.