The Cincinnati Reds sent Nick Senzel, their top prospect, to the minor leagues on Friday, and the move didn't sit well with Senzel's agent.
Senzel is a third baseman who has also seen action at second base and shortstop in the minors. The Reds have been working him in center field this spring while they search to replace the departed Billy Hamilton.
Senzel hit .308 in major league camp this spring, and agent Joel Wolfe told ESPN's Jeff Passan on Friday that his client was sent to the minors to prevent his major league service time from starting. That could give the Reds his rights for an extra year before Senzel would be eligible for free agency.
"I don't believe I've ever made public statements on this issue in my career, but I feel compelled to do so in this case where it feels like a simply egregious case of service-time manipulation," Wolfe said.
"We are well aware of the mandate from ownership for the Reds to win this year -- and this seems to fly in the face of it. The NL Central was decided by one game last year. Every game matters. This is a shortsighted move that may be frugal now but could cost them dearly later."
Manager David Bell explained the decision Friday.
"In the end, we had to remember that [Senzel] has never played in a regular-season game," Bell said. "The good news is when he does come up, he's going to be that much more prepared to [play center field], and he's close."
In 44 games at Triple-A last season, Senzel hit .310 with six homers and 25 RBIs and eight steals. His 2018 season was curtailed by a broken finger and a bout with vertigo.
Despite learning a new position and having limited Triple-A experience, Wolfe said Senzel has earned the right to begin the season in the majors.
"Nick Senzel is not a young prospect. He's a major-league-ready impact-type player," Wolfe said. "He has done everything they've asked this spring, including working hard to become a major league center fielder.
"Nick takes pride in wearing the Reds uniform. He appreciates how much support he's received from Reds fans. He's going to go to Triple-A and prove every day he belongs in MLB."
Bell said Senzel reacted to the news of his demotion as well as can be expected.
"I would never say he liked it, and I wouldn't say he agreed with it, but he handled it perfect," Bell said.