Playoff-only contracts

dhappy42

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Oct 27, 2013
8,211
Michigan
Marshawn Lynch signing with the Seahawks to play the final game of the regular season, then the playoffs, makes me wonder whether this would be a good career strategy for some baseball pitchers.

Skip the regular season, stay in shape, throw bullpens, etc. then sign as a free agent, at a premium, with a contender in September. This would probably only work for proven pitchers.

Greatly reduced injury risk, an extended career, and contracts with a “playoff premium” might balance out any lost full-time earnings. Big lifestyle upside for the player. And it’d be no less efficient for teams that already “rent” players for home-stretch races and playoffs.
 

BaseballJones

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Oct 1, 2015
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Interesting idea. Would likely only work for relievers, as there's no way these guys would be stretched out as starters.

Imagine a guy with a lot of miles on his arm, like Kimbrel. Imagine him (2018 playoff struggles notwithstanding) being fresh as a daisy, perfectly healthy, with no seasonal wear and tear on his arm, at the start of September, being a free agent, with any playoff team able to sign him? He could command a pretty fair price, I'd imagine, as there would be multiple bidders for him.
 

jon abbey

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Dope
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Jul 15, 2005
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Roger Clemens did a version of this his final year, his first game was in June.
 

snowmanny

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Dec 8, 2005
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Roger Clemens did a version of this his final year, his first game was in June.
Last two years of his career he did it. He performed more successfully with the Astros in 2006 than he did during the goodness gracious reunion with the Yankees in 2007.
 

Cesar Crespo

79
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Dec 22, 2002
11,074
Marshawn Lynch signing with the Seahawks to play the final game of the regular season, then the playoffs, makes me wonder whether this would be a good career strategy for some baseball pitchers.

Skip the regular season, stay in shape, throw bullpens, etc. then sign as a free agent, at a premium, with a contender in September. This would probably only work for proven pitchers.

Greatly reduced injury risk, an extended career, and contracts with a “playoff premium” might balance out any lost full-time earnings. Big lifestyle upside for the player. And it’d be no less efficient for teams that already “rent” players for home-stretch races and playoffs.
If a pitcher gets injured, they are completely screwed going year to year.
 

DeadlySplitter

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Oct 20, 2015
20,469
isn't there a rule you have to be on a 40-man by August 31 to be eligible for the playoffs?

not that it really changes this exercise as it's basically what happened to Verlander in 2017...
 

InstaFace

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Sep 27, 2016
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Yes, although there's the K-Rod rule to get around that - you just declare someone else on the 40-man to be injured and the new guy as the injury replacement.

Aside from Clemens, Pedro also did that in 2009 for the Phillies, and frankly kinda in 2008 for the Mets too (pitched the first game of the season, then 2 months off, then June through Sept).

The issue is, doing this requires a self-awareness of your body and its fragility that is rarely found in elite athletes, who assume they're going to be invincible and awesome always - until proven otherwise, in which case they just have to come back and then they can resume being invincible and awesome. The humility required to say "you know what, I'm only 60% likely to finish this season healthy if I play the whole thing, let me take a 3-year guaranteed deal and then I have some insurance" is not a frequent commodity among the group of pitchers who would actually be desirable among contenders.

I guess ring-chasing might change the calculus, much as it does in the NBA. If you've earned more money than your kids can ever spend and you want to join up with a top-3-4 team who you could put over the top, to get that one championship moment that's eluded you in your career - not to mention that all those teams would put a pretty good price on you - then I could see you holding out that season and making it clear that you'll do monthly workouts for everyone, but won't sign before August 15th, when you can see which way the postseason winds are blowing. Clayton Kershaw, come on down!
 

Mueller's Twin Grannies

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Dec 19, 2009
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isn't there a rule you have to be on a 40-man by August 31 to be eligible for the playoffs?

not that it really changes this exercise as it's basically what happened to Verlander in 2017...
Yeah, if you're not on the 40-man by 9/1 you can't be added to a playoff roster, unless something changed in the most recent rules revisions. I guess a guy could sign on 8/31 and spend a couple weeks in extended "spring" training to be fresh for the first game of the playoffs, but there's a lot of risks associated with that approach. You'd have to have a spot open or create one and you'd have to have contingency plans in case the guy isn't ready. And what if someone has a great September that had been on the bubble or even off the playoff roster heading into the month? Do you leave him off in favor of this guy you cleared space to sign?

Would be too risky. I think the Clemens approach is the best way to do it.

Didn't think I'd ever type those words.
 

Cesar Crespo

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Dec 22, 2002
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Yes, although there's the K-Rod rule to get around that - you just declare someone else on the 40-man to be injured and the new guy as the injury replacement.
Pretty sure this is wrong. K-Rod was in the Angels organization before 9/1.

edit: They don't have to be on the 25 or 40. They have to be in the organization before 9/1. I think that's the rule.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Jan 23, 2009
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Pretty sure this is wrong. K-Rod was in the Angels organization before 9/1.

edit: They don't have to be on the 25 or 40. They have to be in the organization before 9/1. I think that's the rule.
Yes, that's the rule. In the organization before 9/1. If they're not on the 40-man, they can still be added via the injury rule like K-Rod was.

While he wasn't a mid/late season signing, it seems like a good recent example of how it would work is David Price in 2017. Came off the IL too late to build himself up to starter-level pitch counts, but was able to be a strong contributor out of the bullpen in late September and in the playoffs (as briefly as that lasted). Signing someone off the street that late in the season would essentially be the same thing.
 

BoSox Rule

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Jul 15, 2005
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Interesting idea. Would likely only work for relievers, as there's no way these guys would be stretched out as starters.

Imagine a guy with a lot of miles on his arm, like Kimbrel. Imagine him (2018 playoff struggles notwithstanding) being fresh as a daisy, perfectly healthy, with no seasonal wear and tear on his arm, at the start of September, being a free agent, with any playoff team able to sign him? He could command a pretty fair price, I'd imagine, as there would be multiple bidders for him.
What a terrible example to use unless I missed the sarcasm.
 

Ford Frick's Asterisk

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May 5, 2017
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The other issue is the regular season in the minors ending on Labor Day, so for the final four weeks of the season your choice of "spring training" games is either at the major league level (where most of the time the team isn't going to want to waste potential wins it might need to reach or position itself in the playoffs) or there *might* be a minor league affiliate extending its season into the playoffs, but you can't count on what level it will be and the schedule is constantly in flux.
 

Plympton91

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Oct 19, 2008
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The counter to this has to be that even though I assume they were working out and in shape, the track record of pitchers like Kimbrel they who didn’t come back until the draft compensation expired in mid-May has been less than stellar.