Should Detroit option Zumaya to Toledo?

One of the benefits of growing your own talent is getting 3 years of quality production at or near the league minimum. Joel Zumaya was a bargain in 2006. In 2007 he didn’t cost the team much, but he didn’t contribute a whole lot either due to the exploding finger. In 2008 he figures to again be affordable, but not particularly productive for a big chunk of the season. Therein lies the problem. The Tigers and Zumaya are poised to waste a good portion of his pre-arb years on the DL.

As a general rule, players become arbitration eligible after 3 years of service time. There’s another caveat where the top 17% (based on days of service) of those players with more than 2, but less than 3 years of time are also eligible. These players are called Super 2’s. Last year the cutoff was 2 years and 131 days of service.

I bring this up because Joel Zumaya is a lock to miss at least two months of the season, or at least 60 days. Which means he’s a near lock to not actually be able to contribute enough days to equate to a Super 2. Zumaya still has 3 options left, never having used one. If the Tigers were to option Zumaya to Toledo for the duration of his DL stint they could delay arbitration by a season.

Now last year when the team had a full 40 man roster, it was advantageous to keep Zumaya on big league roster and place him on the 60 day DL freeing up a spot on the 40 man. It’s why Tony Giarratano was placed on the 60 day DL last year. This year the team has several spots open thanks to THE TRADE and it’s not a consideration.

Now the downside of this type of tactic is that it can be perceived as a jerk move by the player. You not only cut into his earnings in the current season, but it also pushes back his big payday a year. Also, the general impression is that the organization tends to take care of its players. Certainly an image worth maintaining when your ace is about to get more expensive and you’re trying to lock up one of the game’s preeminent hitters long term. Still, from an immediate pure dollars and sense standpoint it does warrant some consideration.

17 thoughts on “Should Detroit option Zumaya to Toledo?”

  1. Very thoughtful article Bilfer and very debatable. The Tigers need pitching help in the bullpen desperately as we all have witnessed. If it would better the team, with the pitching crisis they have on their hands, then they should do it. INHO, of course.

  2. You may save some money in arbitration, but you’d also probably guarantee that he leaves Detroit sooner rather than later. I agree with Sam, it’s a move the Pirates would make. And I agree with your other point, it sends one hell of a signal to Cabrera.

    The secondary effects of such a move are not beneficial to the franchise. I’m glad you raised the issue and discussed it, that’s the point of having a blog, but I don’t see a net positive out of such a move.

  3. I remember something from last season that might apply here. Anibal Sanchez of the Marlins was ineffective, demoted to AAA, then proven to be injured and placed on the DL down there. I think that he filed a grievance through the Player’s Union, suggesting that the Marlins didn’t check if he were injured before demoting him.

    It may be against the rules for the Tigers to option a player to
    AAA simply because he’s injured. I’m not sure where to look for this rule. Not positive, but maybe that’s something they’ll have to consider.

  4. It might teach him not to go around playing guitar hero before the playoffs/flipping bikes er ahem dropping a trophy on himself.

    That being said, they are getting record attendance, adding new seats, raising seat prices, and are probably generating a lot of other revenue from the team being more popular than its ever been (kinda nice kinda not – but thats another story)

    In any event because of the two injuries (hopefully there are no more in the future ;))

    he will be seen as a risk, and thus will probably make more if they go to arbitration after this year (whether it is good or bad)

    That effect is somewhat negated if he has a spectacular end to ’08 and does well in ’09

    Either way, like many have already posted, just like you don’t push Cabrera from his most comfortable position, bat Sheffield 9th, etc. (well except for moving Guillen over to 1st) you don’t try to do something that would piss off or anger a potential star. And I’m sure they won’t

    Anyways thats my take on it.

  5. Sure, if Zumaya brought this to the Tigers as a way of saying, “I’m sorry I’ve been injured so much. I want to stay in Detroit, and I want the team to be in a winning position when I come back in June (May). If this helps achieve that goal, then I would be willing to accept the assignment, provided that when it finally does come for me to get a payday, your wallet isn’t empty.”

    That quote is much easier to imagine if you picture him throwing up the devilhorns periodically, mouth guitaring random Metallica riffs, and saying, “I throw 103, braw, deal with it!”

  6. That would be a PR nightmare, whether or not it makes sense (cents). Besides, I think the organization truly does take care of its players.

  7. Unless Zoom gets healthy, smarter about his off-the-field activities, and recovers at least a portion of his former effectiveness, they won’t have to worry much about his “payday” or arbitration number.

  8. They should make sure there are no places to ride dune buggies in Toledo if they are going to do this.

  9. They need to keep him close and keep an eye on him.
    I think an option to Toledo might be demoralizing for poor ol’ sensitive Joel.

  10. Just because one can do something, does not mean one ought to. I’d be against doing anything like this. If my employer figured out a way to pay me less than I was expecting, I’d be pretty upset. And I’d start looking for a new job as soon as I possibly could.

  11. I was actually thinking about that but wasn’t real sure on the rules, so thanks. I really don’t think they can option him to Toledo, it would be perceived as a jerk move I think. None of this has been his fault and I wonder how much money he’ll be able to demand when it gets to that point given his injury history?

  12. I dunno. It’s an interesting theory anyway. At this point you aren’t sure if he’ll be anywhere remotely close to the 2006 Zumaya again so I don’t think there’s much risk in burning an arb year. If he ends up being a stud closer it could cost them (K-Rod got $10 million when he “lost” in arbitration), but I’m skeptical that he’ll be able to reach that level.

  13. TC Chris raises a good point. I’d have to believe it’d be hard to pull this off, as the injury would obviously be the reason.

  14. I think we we need to look at a good balance, Z probably needs to pitch in Toledo as he has pitched very little. While doing this he also needs to put the money thing aside. While its nice making the money in the majors, pitching in Toledo because you need to needs to be the paramount thing.

    Z is trying to be a stud big league pitcher and while maybe the exploding finger thing could not have been avoided, maybe (not looking for an argument here) moving the boxs could have been. So lets look at this from both sides. The club has an investment in him and he needs to develop his skill not just his bank account. Its called acountability.

    The money will be there if he has quality stuff and proves himself. If I were considering this move, I would sit him down and talk with him man to man. Joel this is about your career and getting you back to top form. We will make the lost money up to you and get you the contract you desire once we see that you are ready to go. We know you love Detroit and Detroit loves you. Now lets go get you some innings so you are ready to have a great 2nd half in Detroit and help us with the championship.

    What can he really say to that?. He knows he needs innings and that the move is really the best for him and the club.


  15. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Detroit has made a habit of buying out the arbitration years lately, not demoting players to avoid paying up. Also, outside of 2006, Zumaya hasn’t shown anything to prove to an arbitrator that he’s worth any money. Let him get healthy, let him prove he can be effective again. Neither are a given — he’s had one mild, one sizeable, AND one career threatening injury at this point, and he’s 24.

    If he’s healthy, and he throws 100 mph again, the fans will continue to love him and the team will be happy to pay for him. If not.. K-rod will be on the market next year anyway.

  16. I thought this as well, but I doubt it’s much of an issue aside from possibly pushing his free agency back. I highly doubt Zumaya will command much in arbitration.

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