Young New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto may file a grievance through the players union concerning his recent minor league demotion.
New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto was demoted to the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas over the weekend. Conforto, who played extensively and effectively in the World Series last fall, has struggled of late with a slash line of .148/.217/.303 since May 1. Young players with those kinds of numbers are sent down to the minors routinely.
But there’s a catch to the whole thing, and Conforto may file a grievance with the Major League Baseball Players Association because of it.
Conforto has been trying to play through an injury; strained cartilage in his left wrist. He received a cortisone shot on June 14, but his stats didn’t improve, prompting his demotion.
But Article XIX (C) (1) of the collective bargaining agreement doesn’t allow teams to demote injured players. “Players who are injured and not able to play may not be assigned to a Minor League club.” That’s what the disabled list is for.
The reasons to file a grievance are strictly financial. If he’s on the disabled list, Conforto keeps his big-league salary (a difference of more than $2,000 a day compared to a minor league salary) and continues to accrue MLB service time toward his free agency years and, eventually, his pension.
But he seems to have accepted personal responsibility for his demotion, and has vowed to work hard to get back to the Big Apple.
It’s not clear if Conforto has a case. Article XIX says big league teams can’t demote players who are injured and not able to play. Conforto was in the lineup consistently before his demotion, and has played for Vegas this week. He would have to argue he shouldn’t have been playing in the first place and convince an arbitrator his injury should have been treated differently.
That might be a tough call for the outfielder. On the one hand, he can be seen as a good union man who stands up not only for his rights, but ultimately for the rights of other players. On the other hand, he’s competing for playing time, service time and salary with those same players, many of whom are on his team.
It probably won’t help his relationship with the team to file such a grievance, either. And if the injury gets worse, he may well get buried in the minors.
The safe bet is Conforto doesn’t file. His biggest task is showing last fall wasn’t a fluke and getting back to the bigs. He doesn’t need to put speed bumps in his way.