Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chisenhall Decisions & Options

On March 15, 2010, to the chagrin of many Indians fans, 2008 first round pick and future third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall was reassigned to their minor league camp.  Chishenhall was having a tremendous spring training, hitting .478, 11 hits in 28 at-bats with 5 extra base hits.  Many fans feel that Chisenhall could easily continue to develop at the major league level and point to many that have skipped AAA as evidence.  Some believe that Chisenhall could use some more  at AAA to refine his skill set.  Others vehemently despise the move because it is viewed as strictly a fiscally motivated move to keep Chisenhall's arbitration clock from starting. 

 Indians GM Chris Antonetti told the Akron Beacon Journal that:
''Lonnie has had a very good camp, but he has some development to do. He needs to be a little more consistent against left-handed pitchers and do a better job of knowing the strike zone. Defensively, he is still learning the nuances of third base after being a shortstop.''
Some who argue that Chisenhall needed more time to develop after only posting a .801 OPS in AA were reminded that he had a shoulder injury in May and got off to a slow start and really posted some great numbers to finish with the .801 OPS.  Below is the month by month look at Lonnie Chisenhall's season which reveals that Chisenhall got off to a nice start in April and did in fact tank in May (most likely due to the shoulder injury hampering his swing).  June and July were decent months, August was a monster month, and September (only 6 games) was a normal month.  


The Indians could also choose to start Chisenhall's arbitration clock approximately a month into the 2011 season and have him for the remainder of 2011 and 6 full seasons, even at the expense of him obtaining Super 2 status (4 arbitration years).  The Indians could also choose to wait until mid-June to call Chisenhall up and have him for the remainder of 2011 plus 6 full seasons while only having to worry about 3 arbitration years.  According to Tim Dierkes of, this could be as short as 10 days into the 2010 season or April 11th:

Some teams don't concern themselves with service time manipulation, for example the Braves in the case of Jason Heyward last year.  Others are all about it, taking great pains to ensure the player's free agency is delayed by a year and that he avoids Super Two status.

By my calculations, the MLB regular season is 182 days long this year (March 31st through September 28th).  172 days of service time represents one year, so a team just has to make sure their top prospect makes his MLB debut at a point where it's impossible to accrue more than 171 days.  In 2011, that point appears to be April 11th or later.
 The Indians could also approach Chisenhall with a long term contract modeled after Evan Longoria's of the Tampa Bay Rays.  Longoria received a 9 year contract (details from Cot's) which bought his first 6 seasons for 17.5 million.  His seventh season is a club option at 7.5 million (3 million buyout), his eight season is 11 million (club option), and his ninth season is 11.5 million (club option).  The Rays took a 20.5 million gamble on Evan Longoria that appears is going to pay of handsomely for them.  Lonnie Chisenhall is not expected to be the next Evan Longoria, but the long term deal at a lower dollar value could be modeled to fit Chisenhall's profile.

Of course, if Chisenhall, still only 22 years old,  struggle early in AAA like he did when he first got to AA in 2009 (age 20) where he hit .183/.238/.387 in his first 101 plate appearances the Indians may elect to keep him in AAA until the end of the season to see if like 2010 he figures it out by August.  It will be interesting to see how Lonnie Chisenhall develops in 2011 at AAA, regardless, he has become a lightning rod in the Cleveland Blogosphere for those who believe that the team is running on a shoe string budget and all moves are made with financial implications receiving top priority.

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