Breakin’ Rad: Who’s coming back for the playoffs?
It’s day two of the All-Star Break. Let’s delve into the various possibilities of some players who started this season with the Revolution returning in time for the playoffs. Hopefully this clears up any confusion about the situation of any one player.
Atlantic League rules dictate clubs are allowed to add two players from “outside leagues” to their roster after September 1. This is not a roster expansion, the active rosters still remain at 25, so moves would have to be made. But the limit is to prevent a team from bringing in a bunch of ringers for the postseason, guys who really didn’t play a role in helping said team to the playoffs. (Accommodations are sometimes made post-Septemeber 1 for injury replacements, should a team sustain a season-ending injury after that date. That’s done at the discretion of the Atlantic League.) If/when teams take advantage of this, those players are usually guys who started the season with a team, then departed for a lucrative foreign contract, and then return due to their contract being up or the foreign season concluding.
Certainly, two Revolution names immediately spring to mind from that category: Chris Cody in Taiwan and Johan Limonta in Mexico. Should both players return, that would satisfy York’s limit of two players. But their situations are not entirely equal:
- Barring injury, it’s a foregone conclusion that Limonta will return to York following the Mexican League season. Their regular season runs March to August and Limonta’s club in Campeche is currently under .500, so barring a major run Limonta won’t be playing in the postseason in Mexico. Even if that were to happen, Limonta would still be back in time for the Atlantic League Playoffs on September 24. But he’ll likely be back for a handful of regular season games in September before that date.
- Cody’s situation is a little more complicated. The regular season in Taiwan runs through the fall into November, but they do partial-season contracts. His contract to pitch for the Brother Elephants is through the end of August, after he joined them in June. Should they pick up the option on Cody’s contract and extend him through the remainder of this season, it is highly unlikely he would turn that down, despite his loyalty to York and the Revs berth in the postseason. It just wouldn’t be the prudent financial move for a 30-year-old pitcher.
- If Cody doesn’t return, it would free the Revolution to bring in a second player of their choice, pitcher or otherwise from a multitude of other leagues, as the “outside leagues” rule applies to domestic leagues as well as foreign, and those added players don’t have to be players said team had under contract earlier in the season. For years Atlantic League teams have added players in September – usually starting pitchers – from the Mexican League and stateside leagues, usually the American Association (most comparable to the ALPB) and the Frontier League (a more developmental league for younger players). The two domestic leagues each play a 100-game season ending in early September, leaving several players looking to catch on with an Atlantic League team if they were a top performer in their other league, in order to play another month and possibly win a ring.
- The “two player rule” does NOT apply to players that end the season with Major League affiliates whose regular seasons end September 1, with all post-season games concluded a couple weeks later. MiLB procedure dictates that any player’s contract purchased from an Atlantic League team (or American Association, or Frontier League etc.) is to last throughout the current season only, with the MLB organization then given the option to release that player or invite them back for next season’s spring training following the World Series. So technically that player is the property of his organization until about November 1, but there’s a way around it. Often, the Atlantic League team the player had his contract purchased from will ask the player and his organization if he can be officially released immediately following their season, in order for the player to return to the Atlantic League for the remainder of the regular season and then playoffs. Of course, the player has to consent to this, which he often does. It depends on the organization if they release said player or not; a sign of the player being in the organization’s long-term plans is if they say no. But using the Revolution as an example, Manager Mark Mason looks out for the player’s career as well. “If releasing a player so he can come back here is going to affect spring training the following year, I don’t ask that player to return,” says Mason. Usually, when a player is released in September and able to return for the ALPB postseason, it’s an indication that player would not be invited back for next spring training anyway, but that’s not always the case. The most recent, most high-profile example of York getting a player back in this situation was when the Rangers granted outfielder Val Majewski his release from Triple-A Round Rock in 2011 to return to York, where he started the season, helping the Revolution to a second-straight ALPB title. Majewski was invited back to MLB spring training with the Rangers however, and spent the entire 2012 season with that organization.
- The most likely player to return to York in September under these circumstances is right-handed starter Anthony Lerew. Lerew made five starts for York before the Angels purchased his contract on May 20, and he’s at Triple-A Salt Lake. That would be a player Mason would for sure inquire about, if the Angels would be willing to release him early. Lerew, a York County native who makes his home in Dillsburg, would be back in the area shortly after September 1 with Salt Lake 40-58 on the season, well out of Pacific Coast League playoff contention. Lerew, who very much seemed to enjoy playing at “home” for the first time in his career, would likely agree to come back for the end of the season. Without making any guarantees, let’s call it “likely” he returns to York, barring injury and any consternation from the Angels. Lerew would be right up the road in any event.
- Other players in this situation at Triple-A, that the Revolution had under contract this year that could be candidates to return: RHP Julio DePaula, Norfolk (Orioles), RHP Shawn Hill, Charlotte (White Sox), RHP Mike McClendon, Colorado Springs (Rockies).
Aside from Limonta, I’d expect the Revolution to likely exhaust their two additions to add another impact pitcher for the final few weeks of the season to prepare for the playoffs. That’s usually the M.O. for any Atlantic League team that’s already clinched a postseason berth, or is in contention in the second half. The Revolution added starters Nick Schumacher (Sioux City) and Jino Gonzalez (Lincoln) from the American Association in 2011, with each having stellar postseason starts to deliver York its second championship, with Schumacher of course turning in a championship performance on three days rest in the clinching Game 4 at home against Long Island. The duo also helped York clinch a playoff spot, as they had to qualify via winning the Freedom Division second half that season. However many players return from MLB affiliates is at the mercy of those organizations, injuries and whatever Mason decides he wants his playoff roster to look like, as for every player added post September 1, a current player would have to be inactivated if there are no open roster spots at the time. Stay tuned.
TOMORROW: I’ll have a look back at the various Revolution players that have been selected to the Atlantic League All-Star Game and a few highlights.