You Might Have Seen The Last Rookie Like Stephen Strasburg

Stephen StrasburgStephen Strasburg

MLBPA chief Michael Weiner spoke with the AP yesterday and most of the headlines centered on the desire to expand Major League Baseball’s playoffs and shorten the regular season.But lost among his comments was the desire to change baseball’s arbitration-eligibility rules.

Specifically, Weiner complained about the status of so-called “Super-2s.”*

Under the current rules, if a team waits until at least mid-May to promote a prospect, that team can get more than three and a half years from the player at the league minimum salary before he is eligible for arbitration.

We saw this when the Nationals waited until June to promote Stephen Strasburg this season. And again in 2009 when the Orioles waited until the end of May to call up Matt Weiters. And in 2008 when the Reds didn’t give Jay Bruce his shot until the Super-2 window was closed.

While Weiner doesn’t say exactly what the union would like to change about the rule, we can assume that they want to increase the number of Super-2s. In other words, the players’ union will probably seek to give arbitration-eligibility to all players with something in the neighbourhood of two and a half years of service time. Instead of 140 days of service time in year one, a player would only need about 85 days.

Will this create the desired affect of getting more players to arbitration sooner? Maybe not.

With only eight teams making the playoffs in baseball, many teams know very early that they won’t be contenders. And if a team is not contending, there is less need for the top prospects to contribute. Increasing Super-2 eligibility could lead to more teams waiting longer to promote their top prospects in order to save money down the road.

The way around this for the union would be more teams in the playoffs which would keep more teams in contention longer each season. And teams in contention are more likely to use their best players. Oh wait. What were those headlines again?

*Major league baseball players are eligible for free agency once they hit six years of service time. A year of service time is defined as 172 days. Most players make close to the league-minimum (~$400K) in their first three seasons. After three years of service time, a player is eligible for arbitration. Most players will receive their first significant raise at this point. In addition to 3-year players, those in the top 17% of players with at least two years service time are also eligible for arbitration. Typically, this includes players with two years plus approximately 140 days of service time. These players are dubbed the “Super-2s.”

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