What are the Red Sox’ options with Alfredo Aceves?
|02.18.13 at 6:38 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s no secret. The Red Sox are watching pitcher Alfredo Aceves carefully this spring to figure out whether the pitcher’s tremendous individual talent can fit within the overall team concept.
The fact that manager John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves had to talk to him on Sunday, after the pitcher spent what was intended to be a live batting practice session lobbing pitches gently towards home plate, suggested at least a yellow flag for the pitcher’s relationship with the team, if not yet a red one — particularly given his growing history of suspect behavior with the Red Sox.
For now, it would appear that the team will try to work with Aceves and see if the rubber-armed right-hander, who avoided arbitration last month by agreeing to a $2.65 million non-guaranteed salary for the 2013 season, can move in the same direction as his teammates. But if he doesn’t, and if the team decides it does not want him on its big league roster this year, what options does it have?
— Obviously, the team could trade Aceves. In doing so, the team would likely get little return given the makeup questions that surround him, but perhaps another team would absorb some or all of his salary.
— The team could waive Aceves; if another team claimed him, the Sox could simply cut ties and let the other club assume his contract.
— The right-hander still has options remaining, and given the team’s deep bullpen, it’s not inconceivable that the team could open the year with Aceves in the minors getting stretched out in the rotation. However, it’s difficult to imagine that such a scenario would yield a positive outcome in terms of getting the pitcher to be on his best behavior.
Barring any of those outcomes, there’s the nuclear option. Could the Red Sox cut Aceves based solely on bad behavior?
— Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, a player on a non-guaranteed contract can have his contract terminated during spring training “for failure to exhibit sufficient skill or competitive ability.” Such a player, according to the CBA, “shall be entitled to receive termination pay from the Club in an amount equal to thirty (30) days’ payment at the rate stipulated in paragraph 2 of his Contract, if the termination occurs during spring training but on or before the 16th day prior to the start of the championship season. If the termination occurs during spring training, but subsequent to the 16th day prior to the start of the championship season, the Player’s termination pay shall be in an amount equal to forty-five (45) days’ payment at the rate stipulated in paragraph 2 of his Contract.”
So, in this case, if Aceves was deemed to have insufficient skill or competitive ability, the Sox could cut him for approximately 1/6 of his salary ($434,426) by March 13, or for approximately 1/4 of his salary ($651,639) on or before March 27. However, Aceves’ skill and/or competitive ability really isn’t at issue for the Red Sox. He’s not likely a case for performance-based termination.
— Instead, if (and only if) Aceves passes through waivers without being claimed, the team could, under the rules set forth in the Uniform Player’s Contract, seek to terminate his contract without pay if he should “fail, refuse or neglect to conform his personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship and good sportsmanship or to keep himself in first-class physical condition or to obey the Club’s training rules.”
If the Sox went that route, a grievance would almost certainly be filed and, unless a settlement was reached, go to an arbitration hearing. As this Seattle Times article notes, the citizenship clause has typically been used to try to void the contracts of players who have been arrested for off-field incidents (with the article citing the examples of Denny Neagle, Sidney Ponson and Francisco Rodriguez).
However, there have been instances of players having their contracts voided for team-based reasons, including when the Astros voided the contract of Shawn Chacon for his assault on former Houston GM Ed Wade in 2008. Though Chacon filed a grievance seeking to recoup his salary, that termination without pay was upheld by a three-person arbitration panel.
Aceves has yet to engage in such extreme acts, however, so it’s not as clear whether the Sox would be within their rights to terminate his contract without pay if he should continue to demonstrate behavior that runs counter to team-building. All the same, the fact that Farrell was left on Sunday to discuss the “team concept” as it relates to Sox players suggested that the issue will be monitored closely going forward.
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