Spare Parts: More ideas for fixing MLB’s service time problem

Plus: Rob Scahill and Daniel Palka are living the dream, two All-Stars ponder their futures, and Conan turns 25

Eloy Jimenez isn’t alone, which is why squabbling over service time has reached a new volume this season. Toronto has the same situation with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., except Guerrero has been the one prospect consistently ranked higher than Jimenez. Peter Alonso isn’t in the same category as either of the aforementioned prospects, but Mets fans have a pretty loud bullhorn.

Over at The Athletic, Jayson Stark asked agents and executives about potential solutions to the service time issue. None of them involved lottery balls like Patrick’s did, and none of them are satisfactory to either side.

The one that probably comes closest in the NHL model — everybody reaches free agency at 27 or 28, or seven accrued seasons — but baseball has a varying range of starting ages that makes such a system difficult to implement. A top prospect can break in at 19 or 23, which is a big reason why service time has been the solution to date.

I still think the first attempt to answer it could involve hearings with a much faster turnaround, just to give teams the sense that egregious examples of service-time manipulations are noticed and can be punished. If both sides find the arbitration hearing process unpleasant and worth avoiding, there must be something good about it.

Spare Parts

Willowbrook native Rob Scahill beat Zack Burdi to the “Lifelong Sox fan pitching for Sox story.” He also talked about an August full of doubleheaders and wearing it that inflated his ERA.

‘‘The worst week I’ve had as a baseball player,’’ he said. ‘‘I gave up 17 earned runs in three innings [with one walk and six strikeouts]. And it was all singles, too. It wasn’t like I was getting banged around the yard. Not a lot of hard contact.’’

James Fegan shines a light on the mutual respect between Daniel Palka and White Sox fans, specifically the ones sitting in Section 108.

Still, there’s something unique about the player who hears the voices of well-lubricated fans yelling at him from the outfield corner and finds his community. It’s enough to forge a connection with the White Sox fan base that goes beyond Palka’s status as a lefty power bat fighting for playing time, at least with a certain corner of it that is enjoying Palkamania.

“He’s the spirit animal of the 108,” said @chorizy. “We can’t speak for the M&M guy.”

Friend of the Podcast Dan Szymborski is going through all of the eliminated teams to assess where they stand after a season that was a losing one in terms of the standings. He draws sensible conclusions up and down — the White Sox pretty much jogged in place this season — and throws in a seven-year projection for Eloy Jimenez for good measure.

The Yankees and Dodgers were able to reset their luxury tax violation clocks, so that’s one thing that could free up cash for free agent pursuits this season, even if the overall market remains against players 30 and older.

After dealing with back, neck and shoulder problems for the last five years and missing the entirety of the last two seasons, David Wright’s first start of the season for the Mets on Sept. 29 will be the last of his career.

Joe Mauer probably has some baseball still left in his body as his contract with his hometown team comes to an end, but hitting .273/.344/.374 as a first baseman in 2018 forces him to decide how hard he wants to try to keep playing. He was born and raised in St. Paul and has played every single one of his games for the Twins organization, so it’s a weightier decision than usual.

Mauer has 2,103 career hits, 1,803 of them against the White Sox.

Thursday marked Conan O’Brien’s 25th anniversary as a late-night host, and so I spent a lot of Thursday watching old Conan clips that were shared, compiled and aggregated. It starts with his dalliance with vintage baseball.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Josh Nelson

Dan Szymborski will be on Monday’s show.


After reading the Szymborski article, it got me to wondering if the White Sox will try to find an inning-eating 5th starter this offseason or just throw prospects at that spot all season.

If they go the veteran route, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but what about bringing back Shields? By all accounts he’s been a great clubhouse presence. He’s probably going to be a little more expensive than the front office would want to throw out there, and he might want to try to pitch for a team that has a shot at contending. But you can offer him the chance to start working on his post-playing career as a pitching coach (if he wants that), and you get a guy who can continue to help develop the young pitchers.

Lurker Laura

I can’t believe I agree with this idea, but I do. Shields has not been a disaster this year, and I’ve come to have a good amount of respect for him.


He is a good guy to have around. Coaching the pitchers as well as a general, positive cheerleader. But I suspect he will have offers from places like Seattle or Oakland – a team looking to contend, not break the bank, in a less HR prone stadium. Plus, IIRC, he wanted to be in SoCal when signing with SD so he may want to get out West to finish his career


He will only have offers if the Sox decline his option, which is what the OP was alluding to.


Well, I think the assumption has been a $16 mil option would be declined regardless. He would probably sign a one year deal for a couple mil


I do not want anything to do with Shields. I am sick of watching him and I am skeptical, without any tangible reason, I admit, of his value in the clubhouse. Also, irrelevant to my position, but hey, the notion that there will be demand for him is ludicrous to me. His career is over. The White Sox can do better and by a lot.


A guy who can throw 200 innings to save the bullpen from the 5th starter spot should have some value. But I doubt it will be with the Sox, so I wouldn’t worry about it.

Greg Nix

They should aim higher. Re-signing Shields is a move with no upside and a downside of the 2016 version reappearing.

The fact that most of us would be ok with him coming back is actually a pretty sad indictment of the organization’s recent offseasons and near-term aspirations.

Lurker Laura

True. I change my mind. Must have higher expectations!


There’s only 2-3 4-WAR type of starters available in the upcoming FA market. Keuchel for sure, but then you’re talking Corbin and Eovaldi after that and they don’t have Keuchel’s track record. Next year’s FA market will have 6-8 4-WAR starters. Might as well just pick up Shields’ option and be happy that his value isn’t in wins, it’s in resting the bullpen.


Why settle for a 4 WAR ceiling?

Go all in for Kershaw.


Kershaw has to opt out first. He isn’t going to opt out to go to a rebuilding team. And Kershaw’s trend in WAR is looking like 4 should be the expectation on him.


Would the Padres be paying part of his salary if they pick up the option? I can’t see the Sox committing $16M to a mediocre innings eater.

Lurker Laura

They’d decline the option, then sign him at a lower deal as a FA.


Yeah, exactly. I can’t think of one good reason to pick up the option, unless the Padres are paying a significant chunk of it.


No, the option would all be on the Sox. It’s an overpay for sure, but they have the payroll room.


This year’s free agent starting pitching market is very thin. Even if Kershaw opts out, he is not leaving LA. As zerobs said, only Keuchel, Corbin and maybe Eovaldi would be significant upgrades. As far as all the other guys, I’d just as soon have Shields as any of them. At least Shields will eat innings and the Sox are familiar with him. I think Santiago would also be a possibility to resign. But I’d like to see them give one spot to one of the young guys (Adams or Stephens). They both spent most of the year in AAA. We need to see what they can do.


I don’t think they need to give a long term deal to any starter. By 2020, Cease and Kopech should be part of the rotation. And there are 4 or 5 other guys that, with a good year next year, could be ready in 2020.


Charlie Morton would be an upgrade who shouldn’t cost as much in years.

Greg Nix

There’s pretty huge middle ground between one year of Shields and a multi-year contract for a 4-win starter.

Here’s a partial list of free agent pitchers I’d rather the Sox sign, based on recent performance and/or upside.

Clay Buchholz
Trevor Cahill
Patrick Corbin
Marco Estrada
Nathan Eovaldi
Gio Gonzalez
Cole Hamels
J.A. Happ
Matt Harvey
Jeremy Hellickson
Clayton Kershaw
Dallas Keuchel
Lance Lynn
Charlie Morton
Martin Perez
Drew Pomeranz
David Price
Tyson Ross
Hyun-Jin Ryu
CC Sabathia
Ervin Santana
Josh Tomlin


we Will have to disagree. Most of that list is no better than shields and the few that are will require multiple years. Either aim high or save your ammo. 


No Dutch Oven?


That’s fair. I guess the upside I was thinking of is having a vet around to help the young pitchers develop. But, like gibby, I too am a bit skeptical of the actual value in this. So I retract my idea. Fire Shields into the Pacific Ocean and let the current take him to his next team!

Lurker Laura

Great Mauer joke.


1000 of those Mauer hits came in Radke wins, if I recall correctly. 

karkovice squad

300 of them were singles back-to-back with Lew Ford.


And 200 of those knocked in Nick Punto.

Ted Mulvey

A +1 for each of you.


i’m cloudy on some of these rules, but isn’t there a point where players have to be added to the 40-man roster or risk losing them in the rule 5 draft. Maybe that’s when the clock starts? It would be a point where high school draftees, college draftees, and international signees are all catching up to each other.


The NHL free agency model is a non-starter without also implementing the NHL’s draft rules and the MLBPA won’t go for those draft rules. And that’s ignoring the NHL’s hard salary cap. But it probably is the fairest approach.