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.

 
 

11 Comments

  1. David says:

    I think you’re confusing arbitration with free agency. A super two would go to arbitration four years instead of three. You still need six years of service time to become a free agent. Ryan Howard is a super two, and the Phillies are facing four years of arbitration with him.

  2. The Professor says:

    you are correct. they are referring to free agency and not arbitration. I have reworded part of the post. but the overall theme remains the same. if they are going to delay service time, it makes much more sense to wait until the end of may and delay the arbitration clock than just the end of April. when the team decides to work out a long term deal, arbitration-eligibility will be just as big a factor as the eventual free agency. this was the path taken by the brewers and makes more sense for the Rays.

  3. Robert Rittner says:

    Isn’t it possible, Professor, that arbitration and free agency are equally important to the Rays? If they simply postpone free agency one year, but not the super 2 clock, they can still negotiate to buy out the 4 years of arbitration plus some free agent years. In fact, I think Romano made that distinction recently when he said it made sense to postpone free agency, but he thought it would be a mistake to extend his Durham time to avoid super 2 status.

    In any case, even if he becomes super 2, they still control him for the entire 6 years. Naturally, the financial burden would probably be heavier, but at least the choice remains with the team, even should he not negotiate an extension.

    You may be right, but given all the static the team is receiving now just because of spring stats, and even apparently from the clubhouse, imagine the pressure should he be tearing up AAA ball early in April and is still not here come May1. I am not sure they would want to withstand that sort of negative publicity.

  4. The Professor says:

    My argument would be IF you are going to send him down anyway, why bring him back in 2-3 weeks. why not just wait another 4 weeks which could mean the difference of $2-3 million dollars on the payrolls for 2011-14

  5. Anonymous says:

    i dont think carl crawford and the rest of the players would be too worried if it was only going to be 2 weeks.their concern sounds more like 2 months.

  6. Tim says:

    I talked to Keith Law about this topic in reference to Ryan Braun.

    Here’s what he said:

    “Mid-June is the conservative estimate [to call a player up and not have them accrue a year of service time]. However, June 1 has been after the cutoff for the last several cycles. You just don’t know for sure until two years after the fact.”

  7. The Professor says:

    this is something that I have wondered but would take way too much effort to research…with more teams using this strategy, you would think the 17% mark would keep getting pushed later every year as more teams try to beat the clock.

    mid-June is definitely the safe time frame. it has never been less than 128 days so as far as I can tell the cutoff has never been in June. I thought the Brewers were cutting it close last year, but the Rays have a little advantage this year as the season ends a few days earlier than usual (Sept. 28). Usually the season goes into the first few days of October.

  8. Robert Rittner says:

    I agree, Professor, but I wonder if there is so much heat, that should Longoria dominate at Durham in the first few weeks, right or wrong, it would be a tough public relations hit if the Rays wait 2 months. If he is up by May 1, I think the issue would blow over (unless the Rays are within a few games of a playoff spot in October), but 2 months would probably leave a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.

    I would have no problem with it, but I do think the pressure would be hard to withstand.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Do you think the NDROs will continue this trend next year and promote, Price, McGee, Davis, Brignac in June 2009?

  10. The Professor says:

    this is exactly the problem i think the Rays are setting themselves up for. I just think once you go down that road, you might as well stick to your guns go the whole nine yards. (how many cliches was that?)

    i think management is expecting the backlash but they know that unless the Rays miss the playoffs by 2-3 games, this will all be forgotten in a year or two and in fact we may praise their patience.

  11. The Professor says:

    yes. this is something we have touched on before in regards to David Price. a lot of people are thinking Price will be up this year. I just dont see it unless he posts Tim Lincecum-like numbers in the minors.

    31ip 12H 1r 46K 11bb in AAA last year

    I think Davis or McGee have a better chance to break camp with the big boys next year. in fact, if one is having a great season in the minors and the Rays are in the playoff chase this year, i would not be surprised to see McGee or Davis called up to be the Rays version of Joba Chamberlain. That is a top-flight 8th inning set-up guy that can just rear back and blow hitters away with one or two pitches even if the full arsenal is not quite ready. but for that to happen the stars need to be aligned just right.

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