Schifman: How teams are maximizing minor-league options

From Gerald Schifman at Baseball Prospectus on March 8, 2019:

For a team that led its league in run differential last season, the Dodgers had a rocky march back to the World Series. Marred by injuries and lackluster play, Los Angeles compiled a 16-26 record through mid-May. To rise from that pit, baseball’s preeminent rostertinkering team did something new: they either recalled or optioned two players at least 10 times apiece for the first time since Andrew Friedman became president of baseball operations in October 2014. Fourteen business trips apiece were taken during the season by right-handed swingman Brock Stewart and switch-pitching reliever Pat Venditte.

Stewart and Venditte had little choice but to scoot between rosters because they each had a minor-league option remaining. The options granted Los Angeles’ brain trust the ability to summon and shed them practically at will from the major-league roster. In discussing the movement with Triple-A Oklahoma City’s communications team, Stewart estimated that the excursions, layovers, and cancellations combined to put him on 20 flights in a two-month span. That total included six flights across two countries within 36 hours last May.

It’s a disconcerting number of trips for a player who threw just 17 2/3 major-league innings on the year. But maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the Dodgers’ multitude of 2018 pitching injuries and the front office’s blueprint for building and managing a pitching staff.

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Originally published: March 8, 2019. Last Updated: March 8, 2019.