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My Interpretation of the IL Placements of Gallegos and Sanchez

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MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

I mentioned in my last Transaction Analysis article here that the Cards placed RHP Giovanny Gallegos and LHP Ricardo Sanchez on Saturday, July 18th on the “injured list.” I said in the article that the transaction didn’t make any sense to me, and it still really doesn’t. But after engaging with Derrick Goold in his Post-Dispatch subscriber chat yesterday, I believe I have discovered the only possible explanation by a process of elimination. Even then, I’m still not sure I have it all figured out. Let’s set the stage.

QUICK RECAP

Both Gallegos and Sanchez were placed on the Club’s initial Club Player Pool of 44 players. It was disclosed that Sanchez tested positive for COVID-19 at intake screening for Summer Camp. Although he was asymptomatic, he tested positive again more than 10 days later. Two days ago, it was reported that Sanchez had been cleared, and was headed to the Alternate Training Site in Springfield. Yet the Cards put him on the “injured list” anyway. Gallegos had been stuck in Mexico for the entirety of Summer Camp until he arrived in St. Louis this past Saturday. He has declined to discuss the reason, and all we know for sure is that he was not permitted to travel. For an unknown reason, Gallegos was not cleared to work on Saturday, and the Cards put him on the “injured list” along with Sanchez. But on Sunday, he was cleared and was throwing at Busch Stadium with the rest of the pitchers. There’s nothing wrong with him, yet he remains on the “injured list.” For the record, the MLB.com transaction page has Gallegos on the 10-day IL, and nothing happening to Sanchez at all.

CHAT WITH GOOLD

The whole thing didn’t make sense to me, so I asked Goold yesterday in his chat if he had talked to Cardinal officials and could offer some clarity. Here is our exchange:

ME: Did you ever get clarification on why Gallegos and Sanchez were put on the “injured list” the other day? We know it’s the COVID-19 Related Injury List because they’re not on the 60-day IL and 10-day IL moves are not permitted to be made this far retroactive, even this season. The whole thing seemed unnecessary. They didn’t need a spot on either the 40-man roster or the Club Player Pool. It just didn’t make any sense. Gallegos is in camp throwing bullpens, but he’s still on the list.

Also do you have any thoughts on the whole phantom injury list. The MLB.com transaction pages don’t seem to have proper coding to call it a COVID-19 Related Injury List. They’ve purported to put minor leaguers on the 10-day IL when there is no such thing. It’s supposed to be a privacy issue, but even in situations where players have given their permission, they haven’t called the list what it is.

GOOLD: Yes we did, and I did my best to explain it in the newspaper the next day, and online here at StlToday.com. There are multiple injury lists this season: a 10-day injury list, a 45-day injury list (the old 60-day), and an injury list.

That last one was advertised as a COVID-19 injury list, but it’s broader than that, according to the Cardinals officials who did explain the rules. It’s a list for injuries that happen away from the field, away from the “workplace,” so to speak. So yes, it covers the virus. It also covers possible contact with someone who has the virus, concerns for a family member with the virus...it has some flexibility, and most of all, it does not have a minimum stay.

That’s why you’re not seeing the coding that you’re talking about. It’s IL, and there are privacy aspects to it, as you’ve probably heard through all of this. The union and teams have strengthened the medical privacy policy for players. Cardinals have always had this—going back more than a decade, and the time I had to go with a player to an official so that the player could tell that official, in person and even in writing if necessary, that the official could give me details on his injury which he no longer wanted to explain. These policies are real.

The Cardinals placed Gallegos and Sanchez on this IL—no day minimum—to get them into camp, and begin that process. Sanchez was assigned to Springfield. This was part of the entry into camp with Gallegos. They can be removed tomorrow from the IL or a week from now, or whatever. This allows the Cardinals to get them into camp, get them through testing, and if needed, replace them on the active roster. It also gets them in the process of being paid.

ME: I’m not in any way doubting your reporting, but the answers from the Cardinal official don’t seem satisfactory. The Operations Manual called for a special COVID-19 Related Injury List that had no minimum or maximum stay, but did not require a positive test. Something as simple as a 100.4 degree temperature would do the trick. It would require the permission of the Joint Committee to use. There was no mention of a global non-work related generic injury list. Did you understand the Cardinals’ response to mean, for example, that if, say Tyler O’Neill stubbed his toe diving into a swimming pool, the Cards could put him on the generic injury list for 2 days and recall someone from the taxi squad?

I still don’t understand why they would need to put Gallegos on this injury list to get him into camp and start the process. They didn’t do that with either Cabrera or Reyes, whom we know tested positive. You have reported that both Gallegos and Sanchez have been cleared. Gallegos is now throwing. Why the need for the IL to get them started and paid.

GOOLD: The stubbed toe is not my understanding, not at all. And I apologize if you took that from my answer. All of the things that you spell out are in the manual, and are match with what the official explained. Where the snag is on all of this has to do with the privacy of the player and whether the reveals the reason for the IL assignment or delay in arriving or not. Some players won’t. That could be because they’re private. That could be because it has to do with a family member and not them.

Cabrera and Reyes were going through the testing because they had already gotten to St. Louis. They did their intake testing and had reported to camp. If they had not been cleared to workout this past weekend, you may have seen the same move for them because opening day is coming, and now roster moves are available that weren’t before. Gallegos had not been in camp, at all. Had not been in St. Louis. He was new. Sanchez was being moved to another camp, the alt site. These things required transactions. They needed to be placed on some roster, and the Cardinals had the option of doing that on the IL in order to keep them from taking a spot on the active roster and still go through the protocols, still be in camp, still receive pay. By being on the IL now the Cardinals can start them there on the season—and if Gallegos is ready for Friday, they can easily move him off. This was an entry transaction coming as opening day came into view.

UNPACKING THE CLAIMS

First, I want to give Derrick Goold credit where credit is due. I’ve read most of his chats over the years, and I’m sure it can get very annoying. People spam him when their questions aren’t answered immediately. Some people just want to flame and argue, some people ask completely stupid questions and go on tangents, and I can’t even imagine the questions and comments that are not put through, together with the angry rants that he must get daily on Twitter and e-mail. While one may disagree with his opinions at times on baseball analysis, there’s no doubt that he busts his tail to keep Cardinal Nation informed, and he strives to maintain politeness and respect with his readers. He works hard to give the best answers he can, many times staying in a chat for hours and hours. The point of this is not to discredit him in any way. It’s not his fault. Quite frankly, I’m sure he’s got more important reporting matters at hand than to focus on this minutiae. I don’t blame him. My task is to satisfy my meticulous nature and to get to the bottom of things for you.

I sincerely appreciate him taking the time to try to answer me. With that said, the parts of his answers where he tried to break down why the club felt it necessary to place Gallegos and Sanchez—whether given to him by the Cardinals or deduced on his own—are unsatisfactory because the answers are based on assertions which either (1) don’t make sense; (2) may be true but irrelevant to the ultimate question; or (3) are flat out incorrect. Let’s try to unpack the claims.

The first claim is that the Cards put Gallegos and Sanchez on the injured list to get them into camp, “begin the process” and get them paid. That is not an answer. They don’t need to be on the IL to “begin the process.” What process is there to begin? To get screened? They’ve already done that. To get cleared? Already done, for Sanchez, and done the day after the IL placement for Gallegos. It may have just been a delay in some kind of test for Gallegos. If he had any COVID issues, I don’t see any way that he would have been allowed to travel from Mexico to St. Louis. Sanchez was just waiting for two negative tests 24 hours apart. Trying to compare Gallegos to Cabrera and Reyes and draw a distinction on the grounds that Cabrera and Reyes were in St. Louis is unavailing, as well. Sanchez tested positive along with Cabrera in St. Louis during intake testing and both were quarantined. Cabrera, Sanchez and Montero also all tested positive for a second time, just 9 days ago. Cabrera, Sanchez, Alex Reyes had all tested positive, and were just cleared this past Saturday. Yet Sanchez is on the IL and Cabrera, Reyes and Montero are not. The fact that Gallegos was stuck in Mexico can’t be the basis, because Sanchez was in the same basic boat as the others that have been in St. Louis, and he’s been put on the IL.

What about getting paid? I’m not sure how this pertains to the COVID-IL placement. Gallegos and Sanchez are 40-man roster players. They’re getting some sort of pro-rated split salary, with Gallegos almost certain to get the major league portion and Sanchez almost certain to get the minor league portion. They both got some sort of advance as part of the March agreement. It may not have been much, but it was something. Even if the players are getting nothing until MLB opening day on Thursday, why would this call for Gallegos and Sanchez to be treated differently than Cabrera and Reyes? Gallegos was actually able to do some work in Mexico that Cabrera and Reyes were not. Mike Shildt has said that Gallegos was further along in his progress than the others. At least Reyes said during his quarantine, he was alone in his house for 14 days and couldn’t throw to anyone. Shildt has flat out said that neither Cabrera nor Reyes would be available for opening day, but Gallegos might be. So why put the guy on the IL who is the closest out of the lot to being ready to go? And why wouldn’t Cabrera and Reyes be put on the IL to “get them paid” as well?

The final assertion is an amalgamation of claims that relate to roster moves and transactions. First the claim that there were roster moves available then that were not before is false. It is true that yesterday was the first day that clubs could place players on the true 10-day IL with a real injury. A few clubs, including the Milwaukee Brewers did just that. But that doesn’t relate to the issue at hand or explain why Gallegos and Sanchez were placed on the IL. The COVID-19 Related Injury List has been available from the beginning of the date that pitchers and catchers reported to Summer Camp, with the first placements by clubs on July 1st. With respect to sending Sanchez to the Alternate Training Site in Springfield, that’s also been available from the beginning, and only requires a minor league option, which incidentally, all concerned parties (Gallegos, Sanchez, Cabrera, Reyes and Montero) have. Both Gallegos and Sanchez were initially named to the Cards’ CPP. They didn’t need to be named to a roster again. And it wasn’t necessary to put Sanchez on the IL to get him started at Springfield. All the Cards had to do was option him.

WHAT’S THE MOST SENSIBLE ANSWER?

The one theory that I have come up with is that the Joint Committee is allowing clubs to place players on the COVID-19 Related Injury List who have been cleared to work out, but who, because of a COVID issue with either the players or their families will not be “game ready” by opening day. They’re not injured. They’ve done the necessary quarantines and have tested negative. But because of the delay, they’re just not ready to go. My theory for this being allowed is that MLB would be lenient in this situation because if they weren’t, the players would have to burn minor league options to be sent to the Alternate Training Site. And clubs would run into fairness issues if such a player was out of options.

This explanation sort of jives with the MLB 2020 Operations Manual. The Manual, as has been reported, states that a positive COVID-19 test is not required to be placed on the COVID-19 Related Injury List. In addition to positive tests, placements on the COVID-19 Related Injury Lists are also allowed for confirmed exposure to the virus, or if a player exhibits symptoms requiring self-isolation for further assessment. The Joint Committee must approve any placement on or activations from that list.

We know Sanchez tested positive. We don’t know for sure what happened with Gallegos. The important thing is that the Manual does not say that a player must be immediately activated from the list once the player no longer suffers from the issues that caused his placement on the list. And although the Manual doesn’t explicitly say so, I suppose there is room to interpret it in a benevolent fashion to allow a person to be placed on the list who had a COVID issue at one time—even though it has been resolved—if that COVID issue has prevented them from being ready to start the season.

Still, the explanation is not airtight, because it does not explain the disparate treatment by the Cardinals of Gallegos and Sanchez compared to Reyes and Cabrera. It is true that Gallegos and Sanchez each have only one minor league option remaining. And I understand that the Cards don’t want to burn that option if they don’t have to. If there’s an understanding of COVID-19 Related Injury List placements that could avoid that circumstance, you can’t blame the Cards for jumping on it. But we have been told that Cabrera and Reyes are lagging behind Gallegos and they will not be ready for opening day. Why not also put them on the IL and avoid burning their options (they each have two options left)? All have been cleared to work out. The difference couldn’t possibly be that Cabrera and Reyes have one extra option which the Cardinals don’t care about burning. It also does not answer the question of why the Cardinals made these placements last Saturday instead of waiting until they have to submit opening day 30-man active rosters.

CONCLUSION

I’m not sure if I’ve come up with the answer. A long time ago, my criminal law professor said in class one day that sometimes you can’t get a clear cut answer. You can only ask the right questions to try to put the answer together. I hope I’ve done that.