As we reach the final two weeks of Spring Training, various media outlets have raised the question of the Pittsburgh Pirates decision to send Gerrit Cole back to the minors for “seasoning”- management’s vernacular for we don’t want to have him accumulate service time and advance his clock.
There is very little question that Cole will become an above average MLB starter, when that takes place is up for debate.
The Pirates are taking the right path with Cole as the idea that he needs to spend more time pitching to advanced hitters is the correct line of thought. In the lower minors, pitchers can get by on pure stuff, but advanced hitters won’t get fooled. He has proven all he can at the lower level, but it doesn’t mean he is ready to face Ryan Braun or Joey Votto just yet.
Cole’s fastball and slider are already major-league ready. He needs to continue to advance his Change-up and Curve to be more than “show me” pitches to keep hitters off balance. Spending the first half of this season in Indianapolis is the best way of doing this, even if the performance numbers don’t reflect better results.
The other factor, and Pirate fans know this as well as anyone, is financial. Pittsburgh is not nor will it ever be mistaken for Los Angeles Dodgers east with the new ownership spending, having the ability to drop millions into player contracts, consequences and results be damned.
If the Pirates can avoid Cole becoming a “Super Two” player sooner rather than later, they can save themselves important dollars. Bringing Cole (and others) up in September at the deadline, rather than July, allows them to avoid going to arbitration four times with a player as opposed to three.
With the amount of money involved in contracts, MLB clubs monitor service-time very frugally as if service time were dollars. This is especially true for clubs that don’t have the external income resources of the Dodgers or New York Yankees.
Why spend money you don’t have to, on a player you can control more easily by letting him hone his craft at Indianapolis this season?
Save money now and later by keeping Cole in the minors.