April 18, 2014
Painting the Black
George Springer made his big-league debut on Wednesday night, and in the process opened the season on service time–related debates. Such arguments have become commonplace in early-season baseball, particularly in recent years, as teams have grown more cognizant of the Super Two service time deadline, which determines which players will be eligible for arbitration four times instead of three. But as much as we talk about the status quo, there's seldom talk about how things should change. So how could the Super Two rules be altered (by collective bargaining) for the better? Here are three proposals.
Eliminate Super Two
The extreme solution doubles as the most obvious way to end service-time manipulation. Teams would continue to hold their best prospects down for about two weeks, just long enough to gain the seventh year of control, but would thereafter have no reason to keep the youngsters down for artificial reasons. The downside to eliminating the Super Two designation is that it would further limit the earning power of the class of players who already have the least leverage in the league. This arrangement would be a win for the teams and the fans, but a loss for the players.
Incorporate performance into the Super Two equation
If doing away with the Super Two pool isn't an option, then perhaps altering what qualifies a player for the designation is. Including other factors, like performance, would minimize the importance of raw service time.
Unfortunately, while rewarding the top performances seems like a good idea, the implementation would be easy to exploit. The key determinant would still be a proxy for service days. The only difference would be a more complicated calculus for teams. Under the current rules, one day of service is the same for everyone; if counting stats came into the equation, teams would have to figure out how many games it would take Gregory Polanco (for instance) to fall short of the necessary totals. Using a rate-based measure would seem like an obvious solution, except that a playing-time threshold would still be required.
That's a lot of downside, and we haven't even mentioned which metrics would be considered. Because the league and union have to agree on these things, the chosen categories would probably start more arguments than they would end. A win for some players, a loss for the teams, and a big loss for the fans.
Provide teams with an option
What if baseball allowed teams to pick which players would be eligible to qualify for Super Two status, but in exchange, required them to pay a fee? Here's how it would work. When a team promoted a player for the first time, they could choose one of two routes. One route would be the current one: The player would make the prorated big-league minimum and potentially qualify for Super Two status depending on his service time.