Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger are away from the Indians after violating COVID-19 protocol, but they may also cost themselves service time.
It was bad enough when Cleveland Indians pitcher Zach Plesac violated COVID-19 protocols for a night out in Chicago. But then it was revealed fellow starter Mike Clevinger was with him. Both were placed on the restricted list quickly, and both have subsequently been sent to the team’s alternate training site.
With the virus outbreaks a couple teams have had, the Indians are not messing around. Being without two of their best starters is not ideal in this short season, but the poor decisions of Plesac and Clevinger have created a riff within the team. In particular, Clevinger apparently lied about this actions. Plesac even tried to blame the media.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan has reported Plesac and Clevinger will spend at least 10 days away from the Indians’ major league team. If that time away extends long enough, it will cost them both.
Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger could lose service time
This year, players can be optioned to the minors for up to 19 days without losing a year of service time. Clevinger entered the season with three years, 41 days of service time and Plesac had 125 days.
Service time in 2020 operates on the following formula: 186*X/67. In a typical season, there are 186 days. This season, there are 67. “X” is the number of days spent on an active roster. If Clevinger remains on option for 20 days, the maximum number of rostered days he can get is 47 — which, under the formula, would equal 130 days of service. That would leave him with 3 years, 171 days — one day short of reaching four years of service.
In a nutshell, the Indians can delay Clevinger’s free agency by a year if they hold him down.
Plesac began the season on an option for two days. So he only needs to be held down for 18 more days to affect his service time. If he gets a full year of service time this year, he could be a Super Two (arbitration-eligible four times instead of the typical three) after the 2021 season. If he had 130 days of credited service this year, he wouldn’t be arbitration-eligible for the first time until after 2022.
An approaching new CBA may change how the mechanics of arbitration, free agency and service time is done. Service time manipulation is a much-lamented thing right now, but in the cases of Plesac and Clevinger the Indians won’t be blamed for doing it.