We just wanted to take a moment to clarify a couple of erroneous reports yesterday in the mainstream media concerning the service time of Evan Longoria. Bill Chastain of MLB.com, Marty York of Canada Metro and John Romano of the St. Pete Times reported that the Tampa Bay Rays would be able to delay Longoria’s free agency clock by one year if he remains in the minors until the end of April.
From MLB.com: From a business standpoint, if Longoria begins the season with the team, he’d likely be eligible for free agency following the 2013 season. Meanwhile, delaying his Major League debut until mid-April would delay his free agency until after the 2014 season.
From Metro Canada: If Longoria opens the season with Tampa, he will likely be eligible for free agency after 2013. If he is in the minor leagues until late April, however, he can’t be a free agent until 2014.
From St. Pete Times: If Longoria is on the roster on March 31, he will probably be eligible for free agency after 2013. If he is in the minors until late April, he won’t be a free agent until after 2014.
The problem with this assessment is that a promotion at the end of April does not delay the arbitration clock which is of more importance for a player that the Rays hope to have around for longer than six years.
Normally a player is eligible for arbitration after 3 years and free agency after 6 years of service time. In baseball’s most recent collective bargaining agreement, a year of service time is defined as 172 days. However, of the players that fall shot of this mark, the top 17% with at least 2 years of service time are also granted arbitration eligibility. These players are called “Super 2s”. The exact amount of service time varies from year-to-year, but has been as low as 128 days and as high as 140 days although the number is usually 130-135.
If we count backwards from the end of the regular season (Sept. 28), a player that is called up on May 24 and remains on the roster for the remainder of the regular season will accumulate 128 days of service time. A player that is called up on May 12 would accumulate 140 days of service time.
The Rays will eventually want to sign Longoria to a long-term deal and the parameters of that deal will be more immediately affected by when Longoria becomes eligible for arbitration as that will be the first year that he can expect a large increase in annual salary.
So if we assume that Longoria plays well in Durham and the team does indeed consider service time in their plans, we can make an educated guess that Longoria will be promoted to the Rays on or after May 26 (Memorial Day). Promotion on this day would give Longoria 126 service days this year and in all likelihood will delay his arbitration/free agency clock by one year. Last season the Brewers accomplished this with their top prospect Ryan Braun by waiting until May 24 to promote him to the majors.
On May 26, the Rays will be in midst of a 10-game home stand and will be starting a new series on that day against the Rangers. In addition, if the Rays do get off to a solid start, the holiday plus the debut of The Dirtbag could push the crowd to record levels for a non-opening day, non-Yankees contest. Not to mention, the buzz of Longoria’s arrival could push attendance for all seven games remaining on that home stand.
It sure seems like Memorial Day works for both Longoria and the team. Mark your calendars. If Longoria is demoted to Durham, he will most likely make his major league debut on May 26…Not mid- or late-April as reported above.