Delayed promotions protect White Sox from Super Two

Earlier in the year, Scot Gregor of the Daily Herald called us "conspiracy theorists" for having the totally wackadoo idea that the White Sox might delay Dayan Viciedo's service time until immediate service time concerns elapsed around Independence Day.

The White Sox blew right past that date, as you might have heard. It took until Carlos Quentin's shoulder sprain in the last week of August for the sputtering Sox offense to find room in the lineup for the Cuban Tank.

But don't ditch those tinfoil hats yet! July didn't come and go without a much-anticipated promotion that seemed to take service time into account -- it just happened to involve somebody besides Viciedo.

MLB Trade Rumors posted the list of the players who earned Super Two status this year. The 2011 Super Twos needed 2.146 years of service time to qualify, and no White Sox made that list. But thankfully, Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLBTR followed up with a list of near-misses, which involves the White Sox to a rather significant degree.

The top 10 players closest to the cutoff date:

Gerardo Parra, Diamondbacks, 2.145
Angel Sanchez, Astros, 2.144
Darnell McDonald, Red Sox, 2.143
Ramon Troncoso, Dodgers, 2.143
Scott Mathieson, Philllies, 2.142
Alfredo Simon, Orioles, 2.142
Brian Burres, Pirates, 2.141
Alejandro De Aza, White Sox, 2.139
Chris Dickerson, Yankees, 2.138
Tony Sipp, Indians, 2.138

Yes indeed, Alejandro De Aza was called up one week after his Super Two eligibility had elapsed, and there are reasons to believe it wasn't pure coincidence.

(And make sure to see Larry's counterpoint below, as he thinks avoiding Super Two wasn't a priority in De Aza's case.)

The cutoff line of 2.146 years wasn't randomly selected this week -- sports agency CAA had projected that exact number on April 8. If CAA knew about it, the White Sox probably had to know about it, and if the White Sox knew about it, they would probably incorporate it into some of their plans.

De Aza could have -- and should have -- been called up weeks before the Sox finally made the move on July 27. A brief timeline...

  • Through May: De Aza hits .288/333/.441 in Charlotte (OBP is unofficial, but close), while Alex Rios hits .201/.253/.306 and Juan Pierre hits .265/.327/.305.
  • June: De Aza begins a tear that basically lasts the rest of the season. He hits .354/.403/.558 during the month at Charlotte. Rios is still spinning his wheels (.219/.271/.323) and Pierre is going backwards (.262/.320/.306).
  • July 6: I write my first post stumping for De Aza to be considered, as his defensive capabilities and handedness make make him a seamless fit, whereas Viciedo would need to be accommodated (and he should've been!).
  • July 20: De Aza passes his personal cutoff line.
  • July 22: I write my second post wondering why De Aza hasn't been considered, noting that no mainstream media outlet had even mentioned his name in/on their properties since March.
  • July 23: Two Chicago papers publish articles mentioning De Aza.
  • July 27: De Aza is called up to fill an open roster spot after Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen are traded to Toronto.

Holding off on a promotion made little baseball sense. However, waiting until De Aza's Super Two eligibility elapsed made a lot of sense for these Sox, at least for their m.o. of always taking the path of least resistance. When De Aza cleard his cutoff date, Williams and his crew prepared their trade deadline maneuvers. Seven days later, De Aza was allowed to take a spot on the 25-man roster, because hey, somebody had to.

Star-divide

The White Sox did the same thing with Viciedo to far greater effect. Despite plenty of evidence suggesting he could have helped a helluva lot sooner, they dragged their feet until they couldn't avoid it (Quentin's injury). For good measure, they dragged their feet a little more, acting as if Quentin could avoid a DL stint even though as Larry pointed out, AC joint sprains usually take several weeks to heal. Also, it's Carlos Quentin we're talking about.

Alas, Viciedo received his promotion on Aug. 27. Delaying his promotion until it was pointless meant that he finished the season with 123 days of service time, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

If things go as planned, Viciedo will have 2.123 years of service time to his name after the 2013 season. That puts him in pretty safe territory. He would only qualify for Super Two status in one of the last six seasons, and only by one day (the cutoff was 2.122 years in 2010).

Had Quentin's shoulder allowed the Sox to adhere to their initial plan, Viciedo would have been called up five days later, which would have put the Sox in the clear. Alas, the Sox couldn't hold down Viciedo any longer, so now the club is just a wee bit exposed.

The good news is that history is on the White Sox's side. As Cot's tells us, "the cutoff point generally falls between 2 years, 128 days of service and 2 years, 140 days," so it would take another significant outlier in order to give Viciedo an extra year of arbitration.

Star-divide

And so we arrive at the bottom line, which is what this is all about. The savings aren't immediately apparent, but they'll add up.

De Aza missing out on Super Two status saves the Sox somewhere around at most $1 million for 2012. He wouldn't make a killing in his first year of arbitration given his lack of sustained success.

However, if he turns out to be a capable everyday center fielder, it could easily amount to a few million when 2015 rolls around. With Viciedo, the savings potential is even greater due to his much higher pre-arb salary, and chance for far gaudier power numbers. Plus, he has Scott Boras as his agent, so you can pretty much throw out the possibility for an amicable early extension.

When we had the back-and-forth with Gregor back in June, he didn't think saving money was that big of a deal. He asked Larry:

Do you really believe after spending over $125 million on payroll this year, the White Sox would keep Viciedo down at Class AAA Charlotte this long so he won't be eligible for free agency until 2017 instead of 2016?

(When Larry answered "yes," Gregor said that answer "kills your entire argument.")

Well, that $125 million payroll is on the way down, if Williams' early utterances are any indication. The disappointing attendance figures seem to back him up, as did the salary dump at the deadline. Assuming the Sox are a few months into cost-cutting mode, insuring themselves against Super Two salary boosts could easily be a small part of a bigger belt-tightening plan.

And then there's the matter of talent. With Gordon Beckham degenerating at the plate and Jared Mitchell's prospect stock in a long-term free-fall, Viciedo is the only young, dynamic hitter the White Sox have. In order for the Sox to successfully transition out from under the Adam Dunn and Alex Rios debacles, they desperately need Viciedo to be as good as can be expected for as long as possible.

The Sox have put themselves into position to accomplish the latter. It was painful to endure, and it sent a horrible message to everybody who had to watch it, but maybe the club can spin it as a positive going forward. After all, the Sox have a new manager with no loyalties to underachieving veterans, and these agonizing austerity measures are in the rear-view mirror, too. Those are two super reasons to put the best product on the field from here on out.

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