With all the hand-wringing over the players’ association selling amateur baseball and, if you believe some of what’s written, the future of baseball down the river; one key point from the new CBA is consistently overlooked – the new Super 2 rules.
The new collective bargaining agreement calls for an increase in the number of Super-2 players, meaning more players will earn an extra year of arbitration. The new rules call for the top 22% of players with more than two but less than three years of service time to earn an extra year of arbitration. That is an increase from 17% in the previous labour agreement.
Tinkering with service time is nothing new. The actual act of tinkering changes that with which they must tinker, in a way. If everybody tries gaming the system, the system itself resists! But who is affected most?
Among prospects currently signed to big league deals, it looks like Bryce Harper is the player most likely impacted by these new rules. Though the Nationals have little fear of Super Two designation (they are sure to run into it with Drew Storen, as Adam Kilgore points out.) The Nationals can afford to let Storen go to arbitration a little earlier because he is a relief pitcher. The type of reward for a closer doesn’t match what a high-end position player of Harper’s assumed ability stands to receive. Take a look at MLBTR’s expected arbitration rewards and compare the kind of money waiting for position players to relief pitchers. The need to massage service time for a blue-chip prospective star like Harper is paramount for the Nats so they, in the interests of good business, don’t end up shelling out additional millions to their future cornerstone.
But much like the Nats waiting until early June to call up wunderkind Stephen Strasburg, a player of Harper’s considerable skill bears monitoring even closer. Harper
crushed dealt with double-A and then went ahead and crushed the AFL all the same. At the tender age of 20, he is surely ready to hit at the major league level. Thanks to the new rules, the Nats will play it safe at the expense of their fans.
GM Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson (!) will say All the Right Things about giving Harper a shot to make the team out of Spring Training but, realistically, there is a tiny (though non-zero) chance he does. The team, as Nats Insider and CSN Washington writer Mark Zuckerman suggests:
There’s no way for GMs to know precisely when the cut-off date for Super Two players will be in a given year, but they were almost always safe in past years waiting until late-May or early-June before promoting top prospects. Now, though, that cut-off date will be pushed ahead, perhaps several weeks.
Which means GMs are probably going to have to wait until early-to-late June if they want to ensure their top prospects don’t qualify as Super Twos. Which means it’s quite possible Harper’s arrival in D.C. could be delayed by several weeks next summer.
Other players on big league deals like Trevor Bauer or Danny Hultzen could spend a little extra time in the minors as their team’s attempt to play it safe with their time. They’ll be the last, however. Major League deals for draft picks are verboten under the terms of the new CBA as well. Not a good time to be an amateur baseball player, it seems.