Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, and James Karinchak would all likely be on the Cleveland Indians’ 26-man roster under normal circumstances. Instead they’re headed to Triple-A with Bradley Zimmer.
The Cleveland Indians optioned four players to Triple-A Columbus on Thursday. Had the season begun on time, at least three of them were almost certain to be on the major league roster: Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, and James Karinchak. The fourth was Bradley Zimmer.
Service time has been one of the primary bullet points in the league’s negotiations with the players’ association on how to handle whichever scenario emerges from a wide-ranging sea of them regarding the 2020 baseball schedule.
The send-downs of Civale, Plesac, and Karinchak are directly tied to these same concerns over service time. It’s a shrewd business decision and the Indians will not be alone in operating this way, but the situation is not one without moral ambiguity.
It could be argued the Indians are essentially exploiting a worldwide calamity to manipulate the service clocks of young players with the intent of earning an extra year of control. With Shane Bieber the only healthy Tribe ace, Civale was most likely going to start the Indians’ second game of the season on Saturday, with Plesac following on Sunday. Karinchak could very well be the best pitcher in Cleveland’s bullpen. These weren’t fringe 26-man roster guys.
While the organization has a right to protect itself from the ramifications of a shortened or canceled season, the key difference is that the organization actually has the ability to do so. The players do not, outside of the union.
In any case, no one with ties to the Indians will lament a bonus year of team control over three promising young pitchers–except maybe the pitchers themselves, if they have to wait an extra year to become free agents.