Why Sending Nomar Mazara Down Makes Sense

Apr 10, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Texas Rangers right fielder Nomar Mazara runs the bases after he hit a solo home run during the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

It’s an unpopular opinion for sure – send Nomar Mazara to the minor leagues.

Why? He’s holding his own and you could even make a case that he’s the Rangers best player right now outside of Adrian Beltre. Sending him down would hurt the team.

You would be correct in those statements. He is their best player not named Beltre and sending him down might be a blow to the offense. Not that the offense is in any way special at the moment, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Sending Mazara back to AAA Round Rock would be strictly a business decision and a tough one to make. But I believe that it’s a decision that has to be made. When you make the move, it doesn’t really matter in terms of where are you in the season. It’s all about service time and Super Two money.

Before we get buried in the business side of baseball, let’s take a look at the basic reasons why Maz will eventually have to go down.

Yu Darvish, Josh Hamilton and Shin-Soo Choo are all on their way back from the DL – and all within the next few weeks. Darvish’s return will require DFA’ing someone from the 40-man roster and then optioning someone on the 25-man roster to make room. Choo and Hamilton will both require either optioning or DFA’ing a player from the 25-man roster. Those three moves mean that there are three players currently on the 25-man that will need to go somewhere.

Whoever the Rangers release from the 40-man for Darvish doesn’t even really matter, at least for this article – unless they DFA someone who is on the 40 and the 25.

Assuming they DFA someone not on the 25, who they take off the 25-man does matter. That one seems like AJ Griffin. The only reason Griffin makes sense is because he has options left and is the easiest move. If they decide on the previously mentioned route, Tony Barnette could be a guy.

I recently overheard two scouts talking about Barnette. Both agreed that he was nothing more than a middle reliever. I’m not a scout, so I have no idea if that is his ceiling or not. But, if that is indeed true and the Rangers feel the same way, he could be a prime candidate for a DFA once Darvish returns.

That transaction could send someone like Griffin or potentially even Colby Lewis to the ‘pen as the long man, though I think Lewis is a longshot to move to the bullpen.

Sending down someone for the impending returns of Hamilton and Choo is a bit more complicated, as both are outfield/DH type players.

The candidates to send down? Well, you could go back to a four-man bench and option a bullpen arm. Tom Wilhelmsen perhaps?

You’re more than likely going back to a four-man bench because you’re bringing back two position players. So assuming you option a bullpen arm, your position player candidates would be Ryan Rua, Delino DeShields, or Mazara. You aren’t sending down Hanser Alberto because he’s your utility infielder, so your options are one of aforementioned three players.

While it seems like Rua might make the most sense from a production standpoint, Rua brings versatility that neither DeShields or Mazara posses. You could conceivably platoon Rua and Mitch Moreland at first base – which they honestly should probably already be doing.

That leaves DeShields and Mazara. If you option DeShields, you have no true center fielder on your team. If you choose to slide Ian Desmond over, then you have no true backup center fielder, either. Do you want to roll with an outfield of Mazara in left, Desmond in center and Choo in right field with Hamilton as your 4th outfielder?

Not I.

Nomar Mazara makes the most sense even though it doesn’t. Does that make sense?!

Sending Maz down allows you to keep DeShields in center and Desmond in left. It allows Choo to come back and take over right-field. The move also allows Hamilton to be a fourth outfielder and possibly even platoon with Desmond – who has a .184 SLG against right-handed pitchers.

Ryan Rua could potentially spell Choo in the outfield from time to time while splitting time with Moreland as well. His bat has been pretty hot thus far into the season and he’s killing lefties to the tune of .417 BA and .833 OPS.

Sending Mazara down saves time & money

Now that we’ve established the potential roster scenarios we can discuss why, from a business standpoint, it makes sense to option Maz back to the minor leagues.

If Mazara stays up in the big leagues the rest of this year, it’s pretty safe to say he will start in left field next year when Desmond departs. That being said, Maz will have accrued .171 days of service time in 2016 even though he will have spent 176 days in the big leagues. A typical big league season is about 183 days, but a player cannot achieve more than 171 days of service time despite being in the big leagues longer than that. It’s a cap essentially.

What that means is that he would accumulate two full seasons of service time – each of .171 days –  and at that point become a Super Two player (We’ll get to that in a second, stay with me). This also means the likelihood of sending him down at some point after that is fairly minuscule, which means he will be hitting arbitration a year earlier than expected. It means the Rangers, barring signing Maz to an extension, would only have six years of control of the Dominican Native instead of what could amount to seven full seasons of control.

By sending Maz back down to the minor leagues for the minimum 10 days, he would then accrue just 166 days – which would fall five days short of the full season allotment. This means that after the standard six seasons, he would have a total of 5.166 years of service time. Falling short, by five days, of having six full seasons of service time.

The Rangers would get a seventh year of control because they have his rights for six full seasons. It’s important to know that we are talking about playing seasons, not calendar years or years in general.

It sucks for the player, but from a business standpoint, it makes a ton of sense. The Cubs did it with Kris Bryant last season.

How does all of this affect the Rangers checkbook? Assume that when Maz would normally hit his first year of arbitration, he gets a raise to $3 million. His second-year raise would be based on that figure and let’s say he gets $6 million. Well, his final year of arbitration would be based on that $6 million and then let’s say he gets another raise up to $12 million. It’s a ripple effect starting with the first year.

However, if becomes a Super Two player, his first year of arbitration starts a year earlier than normal. So instead of having three arbitration years, he would have four arbitration years and could make $3M, $6M, $12M, and then in the final year $15M or more. This is all assuming he doesn’t sign an extension to buy out his free agency years. But you get the idea that he starts getting paid sooner.

So what, right? Let the man get paid.

He would be a Super Two player at the end of the 2017 season. Going into 2018, the Rangers already have $100.5M committed to just five players. Of those five players, Yu Darvish is not one of them and neither is Derek Holland’s $11.5M team option. Add Holland on the payroll and now you’re at $112M and six players.

You’d love to re-sign Darvish, but the Darvish camp is asking for 5 years and $125 million. You didn’t send Maz back down during the 2016 season and now he’s expected to get $5M in arbitration in just his third season. So your payroll is now at $117M and seven players (including Maz). Can you afford to add in Darvish’s $25M AAV, have a payroll at $142M and just eight players?!

Before you scream, YES!, consider this:

Guys like Jake Diekman, Sam Dyson, Keone Kela, Rougned Odor, Ryan Rua, and Jurickson Profar are going to get significant raises. All of those – except for Profar – are first-year arbitration eligible. Profar will be in his third year of arbitration because he’s a Super Two player. Those six players alone could garner somewhere in the neighborhood of $10-$12M (very rough estimate).

So without Darvish, you’re at $129M and 13 players. Assuming the budget doesn’t increase over the $155M or so that JD has talked about, you have just $25M to sign 27 players.

Granted a lot of those remaining players will be pre-arbitration players and will probably make the league minimum, you still have to fill out the rest of your Opening Day roster, too.

That’s going to be tough.

I’m not saying you aren’t going to not re-sign Darvish over the $5M that you gave to Maz, but when you have a payroll that is that high already, saving $4.5M could come in very handy when trying to piece together a 25-man roster with limited payroll flexibility. Especially when you had a choice to save that money. And if Maz continues to perform like he is, that $5M estimate could be on the very conservative end of things.

I get wanting to keep Mazara up right now, I do. But as a business, Jon Daniels and company will be looking towards the future and whatever decision they make, I trust will be the right one.

After all, he is the Jedi.

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Billy Casey
Billy is a baseball fanatic and has been around the game since he was four years old. The first ever game he attended was in September of '89 and Pete Incaviglia denied him an autograph after he had a bad batting practice session. Billy has held a grudge since. Billy is also a baseball coach who is known to dance around the dugout like Ron Washington during big plays in the game.

5 comments

  • you do realize that demoting a well-performing player in order to manipulate service time is a guaranteed MLBPA grievance case, right?

    • sorry, i don’t want to be rude or anything, but i feel like there’s precedence set that says a team can’t just do that. if i’m wrong, please just disregard me.

    • Not really. The rules of service time are in the CBA. It was done last year by the Cubs. They can spin it any way they want. The minute he struggles, they can do it. Or they can do it during the ASB and he’d only miss six games.

  • Good analysis, Billy.

    In my estimation, there already is no true center fielder on this team. To me, DeShields is a left fielder playing center. He’s bordering on being a defensive liability in center. Yes, he’s fast, but he takes bad routes and has sub-par arm. His height can be an occasional problem as well for a center fielder. Desmond might give us a few white knuckle moments in the outfield right now, but he’s still learning the position, and is improving daily. DeShields would be my choice for optioning, mostly due to Rua’s versatility you mentioned. Choo and Hamilton have both played center field before, though ideally you wouldn’t want either to play center for any significant time.

    I agree with the business decision to move Maz back down to the minors for a very brief stint, just enough to maintain the extra year of control.

    I think the thing to keep in mind is that the likelihood of another lengthy DL stint is pretty high for this outfield corps, especially given the histories and ages of Choo and Hamilton.

    Also, if I’m JD, I back up the money truck for Darvish if he wants to stay here. I find a way to dump Fielder’s contract if possible. Someone might be desperate enough at the trade deadline for a big bat. When has a true ace ever come here willingly? Darvish had no choice. Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels were traded here. Kevin Brown got out of town as soon as he could. Kenny Rogers left but came back because he was familiar with the digs. It’s just a fact of life that aces don’t want to pitch in Texas and will go somewhere else. Nolan Ryan is the last ace that came to Texas willingly.

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