Kevin Mather went viral on Sunday for comments he gave during a meeting with a Rotary Club in Washington, and his careless honesty ended up costing him his job . Former AL MVP Josh Donaldson is actually appreciative of Mather for sharing all the information.
Donaldson, who won AL MVP with Toronto in 2015 and is entering his second season with the Minnesota Twins, tweeted a statement Monday about Mather. He said he was sincerely grateful for Mather’s honesty.
Thank you Kevin Mather. I sincerely mean it. You just said what everyone already knew, but now we @MLB_PLAYERS have official evidence that is going to help a lot of players. Again, thank you!! Bravo
— Josh Donaldson (@BringerOfRain20) February 23, 2021
What are the statements Mather shared publicly that everyone knew but never had full proof of? Likely the service time manipulation used by clubs.
Top players have filed grievances over being kept in the minor leagues too long. Players lose those grievances. Kris Bryant was a recent example of this happening and blasted MLB over it. Over and over we see teams keep top young prospects in the minors for what seems to be unnecessary lengths of time. The clubs all use excuses such as “the player needs to work on his defense” or something else, before being promoted. Then, magically, the same player who was not good enough to be on the roster for Opening Day gets called up in late April, when it will allow the team to keep the player for an extra year before he hits free agency.
It’s a stupid game that we all know happens, but it is nearly impossible to prove. Now with Mather’s comments, there is direct proof of this. Mather literally said that the fans would see one Mariners pitcher in April, but in the middle of the month, not at the start of the season. He said clearly that his plan for outfielder Julio Rodriguez was to keep him in the minors for 2021. And he admitted that none of the team’s top prospects was going to get called up last year, no matter what!
One of the biggest issues with MLB is that free agency is structured so that teams are NOT incentivized to open the season with their best prospects on the active MLB roster. Instead, they are incentivized to wait a few weeks before calling up the player so that they retain an extra year of team control for that player before said player can enter free agency. It’s a bad system that all teams take advantage of, although the Padres recently bucked the trend and were rewarded.
The system needs to be changed. The problem is twofold, however: MLB teams will always work to find loopholes in rules that will help them. Two, if an MLB team says it wants a prospect to work on some skill before bringing him up, it’s very hard to argue with its development strategy. It’s not as if players don’t need development; they do. But it’s so obvious what a club is doing when a player who was tearing up spring training such as Bryant gets sent down to the minors for only three weeks before getting called up.