Drew Pomeranz: Send him down and stretch him out?

Pom Pom Pom, Pom Pomeranz. - Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bringing up another reliever isn't so simple.

Before Drew Pomeranz, 25, joined the Athletics, he started seventy-six out of the eighty appearances in his professional career (major and minor leagues). His four relief appearances in Colorado all came during the September 2013 active roster expansion. Although Pomeranz was expected to start in Sacramento, Jarrod Parker's injury and Jesse Chavez's reinvention as number three starter led the Athletics to use Pomeranz as the last reliever.

Most of his appearances have been for a single inning, his longest appearance is the forty-one pitch, two and two-thirds innings effort in relief of Dan Straily beginning in the fourth inning of the A's extra-inning victory over the Angels on April 15. The Athletics do have other relievers in their system, however, and Pomeranz's service time clock is ticking. Why not bring up a reliever from the River Cats, and let Pomeranz pitch every fifth day in Sacramento?

To begin to answer that, let's look at the option status and MLB service time of Pomeranz and all of the players that might replace him in the bullpen. Service time information was provided by Baseball Reference.

Last updated 4/17/14 POS Roster Status Summary Option Years Left MLB Service Time (start of 2014)
Pomeranz, Drew SP Active Can be freely optioned 2* 1.050
Rodriguez, Fernando RP 15-day DL
(AAA Sacramento)
Optional waivers required 1 2.142
Scribner, Evan RP 40-man (optional)
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 1 1.088
Savery, Joe RP 40-man (optional)
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 1 1.056
Humber, Philip RP Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Out of options.
May elect free agency if outrighted.
OUT 3.093
Nieve, Fernando RP Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Out of options.
May elect free agency if outrighted
OUT 2.107
*Includes a fourth option year in 2015.

Manipulating service time for fun and profit

Drew Pomeranz started 2014 with one year, fifty days (1.050 years) of service time, and the Super Two arbitration line under the current collective bargaining agreement hovers between 2.122 and 2.146 years. To be conservative, let's only assume that a player with 2.110 service years after the 2015 season will not be eligible for Super Two arbitration.

If Pomeranz is sent on optional assignment this year, he will be entitled to a fourth option year in 2015, because 2014 is only his fourth season in professional baseball. As you'll see, this gives the A's some flexibility if they want to keep Pomeranz on until A.J. Griffin or Eric O'Flaherty return. Jane Lee suspects that Griffin may not return before June, and also predicts that O'Flaherty may be ready in June.

If Pomeranz earns more than seventy days of service time in 2014, the fourth option allows the Athletics to option him to Sacramento to start 2015 for twenty days or more and then call him up so that he ends 2015 safely short of Super Two arbitration eligibility.

Below are three scenarios that assume Pomeranz is called up on September 1 when rosters expand, accounting for twenty-eight days of service time. The A's can avoid Super Two status and retain team control until 2019, his age 30 season, by using him in the following ways:

  1. Option Pomeranz before May 2 (32 + 28 = 60 service days), keep him on the roster for all of 2015.

  2. Option Pomeranz between May 2 to May 10 (maximum 69 service days). In 2015, option Pomeranz for the first twenty days. A player must be on optional assignment for at least twenty days for that assignment not to count for his service time, and there are eleven more days in an MLB season than an MLB service time year.

  3. Option Pomeranz after May 10. In 2015, option Pomeranz until the earlier date of (1) his service time not hitting that year's Super Two cutoff or (2) fewer than eighty-six days left in the season (about mid-July) and not reaching 3.000 years of service time. Super Two arbitration is not available to players that were on the active roster for fewer than eighty-six days the preceding season, but regular arbitration would be.
The A's could ignore all of the above and use the fourth option year to avoid Pomeranz appearing on the active roster at all in 2015 except for expanded rosters in September (assume 61 service days total for 2014 and 2015). By keeping Pomeranz under 2.000 service years through 2015, the A's would retain team control through the 2020 season, his age 31 season. To accomplish this, the A's would have to option Pomeranz before the 61st day of this season, May 30.

The relievers in Sacramento need to wait

Let's assume that Pomeranz is going to be a stud in 2015, what will it cost us down the line to use one of the other relievers? I'm also going to assume that whoever takes Pomeranz's spot will be sent back to Sacramento when Eric O'Flaherty returns, and that O'Flaherty returns on June 1. Finally, I also assume that players on the 40-man roster will be activated when rosters expand in September, and players recalled remain though not necessarily at the beginning of September. There are twenty-eight days of expanded rosters this season.

Evan Scribner (one option year)

Evan Scribner, 28, was sent to Sacramento on April 7, meaning he accrued seven days of service time to get to 1.095 days so far. If he is recalled before April 27, his time in Sacramento will count towards his MLB service time, and he would accrue 62 days of service time through June 1, bringing him to 1.150 years. Because Scribner's return to Sacramento would still cause him to be out of options next year, Scribner can only be up for 21 days in September to avoid clicking over his service time to allow the Athletics to retain team control through 2019, his age-33 season. In summary, an early recall this year would cause Scribner to become eligible for Super Two arbitration after 2015, and might put him over two years after this season, losing a season of control.

If Scribner is recalled at least seven days before O'Flaherty's return, he would reach September with at least 1.102 days service time, would not have any option years remaining, and the timing of his September call-up would greatly affect whether he achieves Super Two status after 2015, though the Athletics would definitely have team control through 2019 regardless.

If Scribner is not recalled until September, the team can retain team control through 2019 and can comfortably time his September call-up to avoid Super Two arbitration.

Joe Savery (one option year)

Joe Savery, 28, started the year on optional assignment to Sacramento. Sitting on 1.056 service time years, 28 days of September call-ups would put him at 1.094 years. This is his last option year, and he must be kept on the active roster or waived next year.

If the A's want to avoid Savery reaching Super Two arbitration status in 2015, they can only safely recall Savery for about two weeks, three if they are willing to delay his September call-up date. Keeping Savery's service time under two years allows the A's to retain team control through 2019, his age-33 season.

Fernando Rodriguez (one option year)

Fernando Rodriguez, 29, started the year on rehab in Sacramento. His rehab assignment must expire by April 29, and the A's will either have to option him or place him on the active roster. Rodriguez was a Super Two arbitration eligible player for this season, settling on $600,000.

If he remains on the active roster, and not optioned until 2015, the A's would retain team control through 2018, his age-33 season. There are not any indications that the A's intend to get Rodriguez into the Oakland bullpen, especially with Eric O'Flaherty's mid-season return. Starting the year at 2.142 service years, Rodriguez will hit exactly 3.000 years of service time if kept on rehab assignment for the maximum 30-day period.

There are not any service time obstacles to calling up Rodriguez, so his pitching performance will play a dominant role in whether he appears on the active roster before September.

Fernando Nieve (out of options)

Fernando Nieve, 31, is with the Athletics on a minor league deal. He comes in with 2.107 service time years. Being out of options, if he is called up only to be outrighted when O'Flaherty returns, he would need to be passed through irrevocable waivers, and can elect free agency if outrighted because he has previously been outrighted during his career.

More likely, if the A's want to use Nieve this season and keep him in the long-term, is that he is called up with fewer than 75 days left in the season. This works out to after the All-Star Break, on July 18. Nieve would not be Super Two eligible this year because he would have pitched fewer than the eighty-three days minimum for eligibility, and he would remain under team control through 2018, his age-35 season.

Philip Humber (out of options)

Philip Humber, 31, is with the Athletics on a minor league deal. He arrived with 3.093 years of service time. Humber is interesting as a replacement for Pomeranz until O'Flaherty returns because (1) he obviously is capable of pitching multiple innings, (2) the A's would avoid the service time or waiver problems of calling up any of the other pitchers, and (3) he is the most likely of these five to clear outright waivers once O'Flaherty returns. Humber can elect free agency if he is outrighted, however. If Humber is on the active roster for fewer than seventy-nine days this season, the A's can retain team control through 2017, his age-34 season.

What does it all mean?

All of the above comes with the caveat that knowing Billy Beane as A's fans do, the team in April will bear little resemblance to the team at the end of July. Injuries happen, trades happen, the reliever you least expect gives up a billion runs, players find a higher calling, and so forth.

What I think is most likely, as of right now, is that Drew Pomeranz stays with Oakland until Eric O'Flaherty or A.J. Griffin is ready to return. A long-man like Pomeranz has proven valuable, and he has been good at it, considering he is the eighth man in the bullpen.

Pomeranz's extra option year in 2015 offers a great deal of flexibility too. Including Jarrod Parker, Pomeranz pencils in as the #7 starter in the organization for 2015. If the A's think Pomeranz is ready to move up the starting depth chart to #5 by the start of next year, Pomeranz will only need to spend a short time starting in Sacramento before moving up to Oakland. If Pomeranz turns out to be more of a #2 or #3 guy by next year, the A's might be willing to allow Pomeranz to hit his Super Two date without delay.

Managing the relief staff's major league service time in this way is also well-timed for the Athletics. Next year, with Scribner, Savery, and Rodriguez out of options, they will either needs to start the year on the active roster or waived. Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson are free agents after this year, which at the moment means there is one extra out-of-options reliever ahead of 2015. Will we see one of them go by the trade deadline, or will Billy Beane stand pat and change getting nothing for one of those relievers in order to protect against injury?

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