MLB has a luxury tax that will make teams think twice about surpassing each year’s set amount.
That’s why rookies or inexperienced players who are talented and can contribute immediately or shortly after receiving the call are so valuable for a team trying to fit in as much talent as possible.
If some teams can afford the wait, they will just delay calling up a prospect for as long as they can to ensure that the player won’t earn a full year of MLB service time during his debut season.
Here are three players that will, most likely, face service-time manipulation.
3. Wander Franco
You can make the case that the Tampa Bay Rays shortstop is already facing service-time manipulation.
But there could be more on the horizon.
By now, the Rays could easily call up Wander Franco if they wanted to, because they waited long enough to gain an additional year of service time.
However, they currently have the second-best record in MLB, which means they are doing just fine without him.
Tampa is a small market club with one of the lowest payrolls in the sport, so what if they decide to gain yet another year of control over Franco?
They have the age excuse to keep him in the minors for a few more months, as he is still amazingly only 20 years old.
But it’s getting hard to justify keeping him in the minors when he is batting .313/.365/.557 with five homers and four steals in Triple-A.
The most likely scenario is Tampa calling him up at some point this year, but with their infield depth, you never know.
2. Vidal Brujan
Speaking about Tampa and infield depth, they also have Vidal Brujan.
The Rays have also gained one extra year of service time from Brujan, so they could potentially call him up soon.
Shortstop Willy Adames has been traded from Tampa Bay to Milwaukee, source tells ESPN. Rays will be getting pitching back.
Door is open for Wander Franco. Or Taylor Walls. Or Vidal Brujan. Rays are loaded at shortstop at the Triple-A level.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 21, 2021
Brujan is playing remarkably well in Triple-A, batting .305/.407/.543 with seven homers and 13 stolen bases.
He has proven that he is ready for the big leagues, but unless there is an injury, there may not be room for him.
It remains to be seen if Tampa is bold enough to keep him in the minors for the whole season and try to gain another year in 2022, but that remains unlikely.
Still, with Tampa’s depth and willingness to keep their assets for as long as they can, anything is possible.
1. MacKenzie Gore
Just a few months ago, San Diego Padres lefty MacKenzie Gore was universally considered the best pitching prospect in the minor leagues.
He is currently sidelined with a blister issue that appears to be minor, but hasn’t had a good season.
He has struggled with his control, particularly, and Gore has a 5.94 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, and 16/10 K/BB ratio across 16.2 innings in Triple-A.
This is a left-hander that can miss bats with multiple pitches and has dominated the low-Minors.
Once he gets more consistency with his command (he is handing 5.40 free passes per nine innings), he could be ready to help the Padres this season.
Many MLB observers still defend the thesis that he was ready last season.
However, the Padres have the perfect excuse to keep him down, sadly: he lost command of the strike zone.
Triple-A West. Not much prospect action to report at this level. MacKenzie Gore really struggling to throw strikes. pic.twitter.com/dF2RYX54Nc
— Phil Goyette (@PhilOfSports) June 2, 2021
That, and the admirable pitching depth in San Diego could potentially earn them another year of service time from Gore if they don’t call him up until sometime in May 2022.
That is unlikely if he gets it together this year, but it’s still possible.