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One of the blessings of TwinsGeek.com (and now MNGameDay.com) is that it provides the opportunity for the Twins community to educate each other a bit about some of baseball's intricacies. That occurred yesterday, when long-time reader Mark sent an email pointing to a Cleveland Indians blog which contained some details surrounding arbitration that I didn't know.
Arbitration is not a trivial issue to Twins fans. At a high level, it provides a point of outrage for Twins fans every year as one of their least favorite players is given a ridiculous raise. But for baseball geeks, it's much more. The Twins rely on young players, and they're limited by money, and arbitration is all about young players starting to make the money they're worth. It isn't an exageration to say that if you understand arbitration, you can gain a much clearer idea of the Twins future.
I encourage you to click over to the article, because it's full of good info and interesting to anyone paying attention to moves an AL Central rival makes. While explaining arbitration, it also illustrates why the Indians traded Coco Crisp this offseason, and why Andy Marte likely won't be called up before the end of the season. Again, read it yourself, but I'll highlight a couple of points that I found interesting:
How to read a player's service time
This is going to make me sound stupid, but at wonderful sites like Cot's Baseball Contracts, I've been reading the notes for service time incorrectly for years. When it says that coming into the season Justin Morneau had service time of 1.168, I thought it was truly a decimal, so he was closer to one year's service time instead of two. Wrong. Instead, it means that Morneau has one year plus 168 days of service time (out of 172 days). In other words, Morneau is just a couple days short of two years of service time.
Super 2 Cutoffs
One of the more infuriating aspects of arbitration is that it the cutoff isn't clean. Anyone with over three years of service time is arbitration eligible, but "Super 2" players are also eligible, and trying to figure out who Super 2 players are has been mostly guesswork.
It still is, but at least the guesswork is a little more precise now. The article clarifies that the Super 2 cutoff is usually between 2.130 and 2.140, so that helps tremendously in figuring out who will qualify for Super 2 arbitration in the next couple of years.
Back to the Twins, this also makes it a bit clearer just exactly when some players will be arbitration eligible:
Justin Morneau will certainly be arbitration eligible. He came into the year with 1.168 days, and will be on the roster the whole year.
Lew Ford will be arbitration eligible. He may have just missed being a Super 2 this year. He came into the year with 2.123 service time which is close to the cutoff.
Jason Kubel will be arbitration eligible after the 2007 season. He gets credit for a lot of that time on the Disabled List, but he's still at just 1.034 coming into the season, and will probably be a little over two years at the end of the season if he's not send down.
Jesse Crain will also be arbitration eligible after the 2007. He came into the year with 1.064. He'll be quite a bit short of Super 2 status.
Jason Bartlett conspiracy theorists, unite. Bartlett came into the year with 148 days of service time. If he had been with the Twins the whole year, he likely would have been arbitration eligible after 2007, due to Super 2 status. By waiting two months to call him up, the Twins essentially ruined any chance of that happening. Bartlett will be eligible for arbitration, at best, after 2008. (It's not a very similar case, since Terry Tiffee isn't seen as a long-term starter for the Twins, but Tiffee came into the year with 144 days of service time. He was also called up at the same time.)
While leaving Bartlett in Rochester undoubtedly hurt the Twins for the first couple of months this season, it may have been a very fiscally prudent thing to do. By having him spend two months in Rochester, they gained an eatra year of affordability.