With a new agreement in place for service time rules, if there’s a season in 2020, the Blue Jays are going to face an interesting situation with Nate Pearson.
Earlier today, the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the MLB office and the Player’s Association had come to an agreement in regards to service time. Essentially, if a player plays the entire season this year, regardless of how long it ends up being, they’ll earn a full year of service time. The two sides will have to continue to negotiate later on as this situation continues, but it’s a good start for now.
For the Blue Jays, it throws an interesting wrinkle into their 2020 plans, or at least I’m assuming it might. I’ve previously written about how the Blue Jays might actually have a small benefit to the delayed start to the season, because it could mean that Nate Pearson could be on the MLB roster all year without worrying about an innings limit, or even his service time. For those unfamiliar with the rules, in a regular MLB season if Pearson had started the year on the roster and stayed there all year (or on the IL), the Blue Jays would retain control of his contract for six years. If the start to his MLB season was delayed by a few weeks, they could hang on to him until the 2027 season.
That was always assumed to be the plan, just as it was last year with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (who got hurt in Spring Training and ended the debate early), even if it’s not a popular decision with the player’s union. That said, for the time being it’s not against the rules, so we’ve witnessed many other teams doing the same thing as well without repercussion. Even when Kris Bryant took the Chicago Cubs to task for the issue, he ultimately lost his case and the Cubs retained control of his contract for 2021.
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What complicates things for the Blue Jays is that now they’ll have their “excuse” taken away from them if and when baseball gets going again. Pearson was an easier argument to make for a delay than Vlad Jr., mostly because he’s a pitcher, and he’s only thrown 123.1 professional innings so far, after missing almost all of the 2018 season because of a broken arm.
The Blue Jays had a pretty easy argument that starting his season in Buffalo would allow them to build up his innings limit at a controlled and safe pace, but how are they are going to make that case now?
For the sake of a hypothetical scenario, let’s say the season starts in June sometime, and the schedule is reduced to 100 or so games. Even if Pearson took a regular turn in the rotation, he would only make roughly 20 starts, and likely wouldn’t throw a whole lot more than the 101.2 innings he did last season. Even if he averaged 6.0 innings per start, that would only have him at roughly 120 frames, which wouldn’t be an increase that should be viewed as a problem at all.
It’s obviously not something to start fighting about right now, especially until we know if and when the MLB season will begin at all this year. However, it’ll be a situation worth monitoring, as the Blue Jays really won’t have any excuses left for leaving him off the MLB roster, assuming he’s healthy when the season gets underway.