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What in God’s name is Super 2?!

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Exploring Super 2 and other Service time aspects - and why it matters with Yordan Alvarez

MLB: Houston Astros-Media Day Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Astros fans across the internet are shouting for the call-up of Yordan Alvarez. He’s absolutely obliterating the minors, and people are wondering why he hasn’t been called up. Some people mention defense and others counter with the DH. The main argument has been Club Control and Super 2. The two often get a bit confused.

All of the below are going to be somewhat over simplified to give a high level overview and provide a full link to the rules.

Service Time

Service time rule are generally simple to understand. A player is eligible for Free Agency after accruing six full years of time on the 25-man roster.

What is a full year? Well the MLB considers a full year to be 172 days on the 25 man roster. There are 187 days of the regular season, so put into simple terms, if you wait 16 days before calling a player up - the team gets an entire additional year of control. There is a hard set date in each year which makes this easy to determine.

Under normal (non-Super 2) conditions, a player serves 3 years at league minimum and 3 years that they go through arbitration.

Arbitration

The literal definition of Arbitration means the use of an arbitrator to settle a dispute. In baseball terms, Players and Teams submit a salary figure. Most of the time, they come to a negotiated happy medium and have the salary for the following year. Some teams believe in file and trial where they submit the number, if it is rejected they go to arbitration. If this occurs or they are unable to come to a happy middle ground, they go to arbitration. Generally a “brutal” process where both sides present their case (Teams saying the player shouldn’t make that salary figure due to X,Y,X). The arbitrator decides which salary request is more reasonable and decides between the two figures.

Arbitration is based on your previous earnings, which sometimes defies people’s logic. Getting to arbitration earlier makes a large difference in pay - I’ll show some examples later.

Super 2

Ahh the messy one. Super 2 takes the top 22% of players in play time that have between 2-3 years of service and makes them arbitration eligible.

To put this simply, players will gain an additional year of Arbitration which has SIGNIFICANT impact to the overall earnings of the player if they are in the top 22% of play time between 2 and 3 years.

The challenge is that there is no set date in which you are safe from your player becoming Super 2 eligible. With that said, there are general rules of thumb, which is early-mid June.

This rule was created to off-set the Service time manipulation for club control reasons. Basically, forcing a team to decide between missing 2 months of performance vs 3 weeks.

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Great explanation by Tuk for additional clarification. Replaced MLBTR’s older data on Super 2 with his as well:

“To avoid Super Two, a prospect needs to be called up after 187 – [Super Two days]. In the last 10 seasons (below), the number of Super Two days ranged from 122 to 146. A high number like 146 means a lot of rookies were called up early, playing a whopping 146 days of the season versus a conservative year like 122, thus the cut off date would be earlier.

So if we use a conservative number like 120 for 2019, then 187 – 120 = 67. For 2019, 67 days after the season started, March 28, brings us to June 3 as the date. Given the $20M difference in Brian’s article, teams may want to wait until mid-June

2018: 2.134

2017: 2.123

2016: 2.131

2015: 2.130

2014: 2.133

2013: 2.122

2012: 2.140

2011: 2.146

2010: 2.122

2009: 2.139”

-Tuk

Real Life example

Fangraphs had this quote on Super 2 for the example: “If a player makes $500,000 for each of his first three seasons and then get’s $3 million in arbitration, his next two arbitration salaries will be based on that $3 million. Maybe he’ll get $6 million and $9 million before hitting free agency. If that same player gets Super Two status, they will make that $3 million and then go through arbitration three more times instead of two, making something like $6 million, $9 million, and $12 million. The difference, for some players, could be more than $10 million based on a few days of service time in their first year.”

Obviously, the higher the tier of player, the larger the impact from a Super 2 standpoint. We’ll look at an extreme example here to highlight the potential impact - Nolan Arenado who just set the record for Arbitration. Here was the salary information from Arenado

Arenado - Super 2 vs Non

This is not a perfect analysis. The reason being is that the salaries are based on what happened the year before. Given an extra year as proof, it is tough to say exactly what the salary differential would have been between first arbitration years. Regardless, it is within reason to think that there literally was a $20 Million dollar difference in Arenado’s salary.

Nolan Arenado was called up at the end of April, to a Colorado Rockies team that went 74-88, finishing 5th place in their division. If they had waited approximately another month, they would have saved over $20 Million dollars.

That goes a long way in being able to get another player to put you over the edge. The Diamonds backs have finished in 2nd place in 2018 (by 1 game) and 2nd place in 2017,

For a long round about way of explaining it - that’s Super 2 and why it matters with Yordan Alvarez

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