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How much money did Yairo Munoz cost himself?

Munoz signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox, which means he cost himself some amount of money.

Washington Nationals v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

There are not that many things happening baseball-wise that interest me. There is very little news and my main interest is simply hoping baseball will return at some point. Just give me some baseball 2020. Aside from that, the only news is bad news: Chris Sale and Noah Syndergaard are undergoing Tommy John surgery - apparently if you’re rich, you CAN get elective surgery. Cool.

There was a bit of news that I wouldn’t classify as good or bad news yesterday. It was just news. Yairo Munoz signed a minor league deal with the Boston Red Sox. I have nothing in particular against Munoz, so I do not take delight in this report. I also don’t think it’s a travesty he’s not getting another MLB contract. Which is why I’m calling this neutral news, neither good or bad.

In case you don’t follow the Cardinals regularly and have somehow stumbled onto this blog (hello!), here’s an update on the Munoz story. Munoz was having himself a good spring training, batting .375 with a double and a homer. We’re talking 16 plate appearances here and he never walked, but you know a player can’t hope for more than what he did. Then he pulled his hamstring. We never were really told the severity of the hamstring, but that he would not be ready by Opening Day.

An MRI was scheduled, but it never happened. Munoz disappeared. He saw that he wasn’t going to get any playing time - and frankly, he had a point here - and just up and left. So we still don’t really know how serious the hamstring injury was, although if they believed he’d be out for at least a month, it was somewhat serious. It seems safe to assume he’d be ready to go by the new Opening Day. Once Munoz disappeared for a full week in the Dominican Republic, the Cardinals released him.

Now, while I say that Munoz was right in assuming he would have little playing time, he was wrong in assuming he deserved the playing time. At his best, he’s a good bench player, not a starter. And he wasn’t at his best last year. So it wasn’t a huge surprise when Cardinals fans reacted with shock and then a shrug at the news. Professional athlete thinks higher of himself than his actual play. News at eleven.

But, as I question in the title, what was the monetary cost of his decision? We’ll never truly know, because we’ll never have the outcome where he did not throw a fit and leave the country, and stayed on the Cardinals. We’ll not know how his 2020 would venture, and whether the Cardinals would keep him beyond that. So that part of the equation will have to be speculated. We will eventually know what happens in his career, but for now we’ll also have to resort to speculation there as well.

But I want to try. The MLBPA and the owners are hammering out the details to figure out how to pay MLBers while no games are played. So I’m just gonna come up with the simplest solution I can think of - let’s say the season is extended by two weeks. Simply take the days before the season begins, minus the two weeks, and anybody on an MLB roster will get credited for that amount of service time before a game is played.* I think this is the reason the Cardinals decided to demote Edmundo Sosa and a couple players a few days ago. If they didn’t, they’d get like 50 days of service time. So I’ll be operating under those two premises: that the season will be extended two weeks and the service time will still be 183 days, but that players will get credited for no games played if on an MLB roster (adjusted for adding two weeks of course.)

Second assumption: season starts on July 1st. The later the season starts, the worse the hypothetical for Munoz under my assumption. Munoz was injured before he got optioned to the minors so he would be on MLB roster until he became healthy. Let’s say season starts on July 1st, and the two weeks of spring training are the days that are not counted to the service time, making this clean and easy. And actually we’ll say the season starts on June 28th, because that’s a Monday and makes more sense than a Wednesday. Which means second spring training will be from June 14th to June 27th. I’ll do the math, but the season started on March 26th, which means that’s 80 days of service time until second spring training.

So that’s the floor of missed money from him, and that assumes when second spring training ended, he’d be immediately optioned to the minors and never play an inning in the majors, which... probably would not happen. Hell, he might never be optioned. Here’s a direct quote from Mike Shildt, who has a little bit of input into who makes the roster. “More opportunities were going to come Yairo’s way with the extra (spot) on the bench.” That quote doesn’t really make sense - an extra roster spot does not mean there’s an extra fielding position - there’s still no path to regular playing time for him, but he’s more likely to actually stay on an MLB roster with the extra spot.

Anyway, the relevant part is that Munoz was rather likely to make the team. So I’ll present three different scenarios for Munoz. He gets optioned and never gets called up. He gets 80 days MLB salary. He gets optioned, but is mostly in the MLB. He’d get bare minimum two months of MLB time - the first month and the last month when you can carry 28 players - so that scenario is, let’s say 150 days. And the last, where he’s on the roster all year.

Before I continue with that hypothetical, what exactly is his salary with the Red Sox? This one is hard to say. The minimum salary for a player on the 40 man roster on option to the minors is $46,000. Munoz is not on the 40 man in his new deal with the Red Sox. It’s a minor league salary. The minimum salary of a AAA player is about $14,000. Munoz has MLB service time to his name, so even though he is not guaranteed a spot on the 40 man, he probably agreed to a higher salary than a minimum 40 man spot. So we’ll say he’s getting $60,000 with the Red Sox.

His salary in the majors will also have to be estimated, but this one will be in the ballpark guaranteed. He received a $545,000 contract in 2018, and a $562,000 one in 2019. Assuming a similar raise, I’ll give him a $580,000 contract for 2020. This does not mean he’ll get paid that in 2020 no matter what if he never got released. He’d be paid a pro-rated amount of that for every day spent on the MLB roster, which is why I presented three different scenarios above.

80 days - $253,552

150 days - $475,410

183 days - $580,000

Admittedly Munoz didn’t know at the time that the season would be delayed, although he would have been paid for however long he was injured plus rehab time at the least, which can last up to 20 days. Then the Cards would either have to call up him or option him to the minors. If he was clearly out for Opening Day, he’s probably out until May and if he manages to play baseball in April, he’s probably healthy on an MLB roster.

Let’s pivot to the Red Sox. It’s no coincidence Munoz was released on March 7th. The first spring training game played by the Cardinals was February 22nd. A player released on or before the 16th day is entitled to 30 days of salary, and a player released after that is entitled to 45 days salary. Would it surprise you to know that March 7th is the 16th day of spring training? (The first actual spring training games were played February 21st though not by Cards, and if the Cards officially started then, I would assume that he was actually released Friday night and the news reported it the next day. It is way too conveniently the 16th day to not be planned like that).

I will assume that he would be entitled to 30 days of an MLB salary. Since that comes out to $90,000, we can probably assume his 2020 salary is straight up $90,000. I know when a player is released and a new team signs him, the old team only needs to pay him the difference between his new salary and old salary. So if a $10 million player is released and picked up midseason for league minimum, the old team is required to pay him $10 million minus the league minimum salary. Basically, I don’t think he’s getting $90,000 in addition to the $60,000, which means I wasted my time estimating his new salary, which does not matter in the slightest because I doubt his new salary is over $90,000, being a pure minor league deal.

Would Munoz ever make the majors with the Red Sox? This is hard to say. If the Red Sox are genuinely interested in keeping him beyond 2020, the easiest way to do so is to call him up at some point, because if he remains in the minor leagues, he can and surely will elect free agency at the end of 2020. It’s hard to say if that’s their plan, because it’s just as likely he’s a flier and the Red Sox have nothing to lose. We can look at their current team and guess though.

In the infield, they have Mitch Moreland at 1B, Michael Chavis at 2B, Xander Bogaerts at SS, and Rafael Devers at 3B. They also signed Jose Peraza and drafted Jonathan Arauz in the Rule 5 draft. Seeing as the Red Sox have no interest in competing in 2020, I see no reason to doubt they’ll keep Arauz on the roster all year. In addition to those six, they also have Tzu-Wei Lin, #4 Red Sox prospect Bobby Dalbec (3B), and #21 prospect CJ Chatham on the 40 man roster. And he’s not Rule 5 eligible until December 2021, but #1 Red Sox prospect Jeter Downs saw some time in AA last year and crushed and hypothetically could be in the majors at the end of the year. Dustin Pedroia also exists, although I’m not going to count on him to play.

There is a scenario where he’s called up, but it would take a lot of luck. Dalbec has only played at 1B or 3B, so if a middle infielder is needed, he’s not getting the call. CJ Chatham only played in 20 games last year in AAA and he had a 92 wRC+. He’ll need a middle infielder to get injured pretty quick in the season and/or Chatham to fall on his face so he doesn’t seem like a viable option. But if Chatham is even doing merely fine, organizations always go to the guy on the 40 man.

Where Munoz really screwed up is beyond 2020 though. Let’s look at a player in a similar position, Greg Garcia. Garcia, out of options and entering arbitration for the first time, was let go by the Cards. The Padres claimed him and he got a $900,000 salary in his first year. This year, he has a $1.5 million salary after a good season. Munoz would be looking at a similar trajectory - this delay if anything would make it a lot easier for him to reach Super Two, especially if they give MLB service time to him for April and May. Either Munoz would never be sent down - which means he probably had a good season and is looking at $1 million+ in arbitration - or he doesn’t and the Cards use the option at some point. They expose him to waivers and some other team claims him and that’s where my comparison to Greg Garcia comes in.

Point is instead, he’s hoping to get some MLB time, and it’s almost certainly going to be nowhere near enough time to get to 2.120 days. And he’ll have to go through this process again next year. And hope some team offers him a 40 man spot. Which I expect someone to give him, but maybe in that year, he’s optioned to the minors and still doesn’t get enough time to qualify for arbitration. The amount he may have cost himself is basically incalculable. He could have parlayed one good year into teams giving him chances for years after and instead he’s back to hoping he merely gets a chance. Yeesh.

So how much did he cost himself? He definitely cost himself some money (life-changing money for most of us in fact), but it could literally be millions.

*It seems more confusing to me, but let’s say the season is 100 days. You could make anyone playing in the 2020 season eligible for free agency after 5.100 days, but yeah I think either doing it my way or adjusting the 2020 days into 183 days is more plausible and less confusing.