When the new qualifications for players to reach “Super Two” status — earning an extra year of arbitration for the top 22% of players with between two and three years of service time in the league — were first revealed, it resulted in a lot of projections and gambling. Teams had much to lose by allowing their young talent to reach Super Two status: mostly millions of dollars.
While teams outwardly say that service time issues are good problems to have, they still carefully manage their young players to avoid the expensive arbitration process kicking in a year early.
After much speculation, the hard cut-off for Super two status was released yesterday, resulting in some financial winners and losers among baseball’s best young players.
The biggest loser of all is Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who had elevators built into his contract ensuring a substantial raise should he meet the Super Two requirements. He didn’t, which means he misses out on an extra $2 million bucks in salary, just as Ben Nicholson-Smith suggested in September. With the service time cut-off coming at 2.139 years of service time, Lucroy missed out on that tidy windfall by three measly days.
Poor Michael Saunders of the Seattle Mariners missed the Super Two cutoff by a single day, ensuring another year of pre-arb servitude rather than cashing in on his career-best season in arbitration. Saunders teammate in Seattle Justin Smoak just missed the cutoff, thanks in no small part to his horrid play in 2012, bad enough that the Mariners sent him to Triple-A for three weeks when his OPS dipped below .600.
Drew Storen and his bushelful of saves stands to benefit greatly from his additional year of arbitration while Sam Fuld may well have Super Two’d his way into being a non-tender candidate thanks to the early arbitration. The cost-conscious Rays might worry about his escalating play on one hand while recognizing his relatively paltry numbers won’t exactly break the bank.
A very interesting case to follow is that of Stephen Strasburg. After famously demanding (through his agent Scott Boras) that he required a $30 million big league contract, the big right-hander eventually signed a four-year deal worth $15 million, spreading out a massive signing bonus while ensuring big pay days during his pre-arb days.
Strasburg, thanks in no small part to the Nationals careful massaging of his service time, comes in under the Super Two deadline while his initial pro deal lapses. Meaning the Nats could potentially sign Strasburg for less than they paid him in 2012. Unlikely as it may be, the ongoing contract status of Strasburg bears monitoring.
Not to mention poor Giancarlo Stanton. Sure, he’s one of the best power hitters in the league and potentially a historically great power hitter, but the Marlins kept him under the Super Two designation and now he gets to toil another year for close to the league minimum for the tight-wad Marlins.
What kind of arbitration award would a player with 93 home runs in fewer than 350 games earn? A substantial one, to be sure. Can I get a #FreeStanton? I knew that you could.