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Thursday, March 4, 2010
Should Braves keep Heyward in holding pattern?

Yeah, everybody wants to see Jason Heyward. I want to see him, you want to see him and the ghosts of Paul Krichell and Cy Slapnicka want to see him. Want to see him playing right field for the Atlanta Braves on the 5th of April.

But we've been through this before, right? With Evan Longoria? But Longoria started the 2008 season in the minors, and a happy ending (well, almost) was enjoyed by all parties. As Bryan Smith writes, the Rays were simply doing what they had to do:

Smith appends a note at the bottom: Thanks to Dave Cameron for helping me make sense of baseball’s ludicrous service time rules.

I'm just beginning to think through this issue, but there's something ludicrous here, right? I just wonder if there's a better way to do this. As long as free agency is tied to service time, there's going to be an incentive for teams to delay promoting their überprospects, if only for a couple of weeks. I suppose the obvious "solution" would be to simply add a few days to the definition of "full season." Or even more simply, the number could be six full seasons plus one day. So if you play on the last day of the 2009 season and never stop playing, you're a free agent after the 2015 season, but if you don't play in 2009 but do play on Opening Day in 2010 (and forever after) you're not a free agent until after the 2016 season.

Sorry, I'm rambling. The "problem" with this "solution" is that the players would be giving something up, and it's not often that they give things up. I also wonder if there's any real impetus for change. If the Braves do send Heyward to Triple-A for a couple of weeks, will it cost them any wins? Probably not. Will they sell fewer season tickets because of disgruntled fans? Probably not. Will it cost them a chance to sign Heyward at some point to an übercontract extension? Probably not, if Longoria's any guide.

The current rule is just a little glitch that's probably not annoying enough for anyone to think seriously about fixing.

As a fan, I want to see Heyward on Opening Day. If I'm a Braves fan, though, I don't want to see him until the middle of April. You have to take the long view of these things.