With the leak of several club financial documents, the focus in Major Leaguue Baseball over the last week and a half has been, rightfully so, revenue-sharing. Prior to that, with the amateur draft signing deadline, it was a hard-slot system for bonuses. But, a topic that will surface just after the end of the World Series is going to be salary arbitration players classified as Super Twos.
For the uninitiated, normally players that reach 3 years of Major League service time (ST) qualify for their first year salary arbitration eligibility. The system mandates that they are offered salary arbitration each year that they are under single year contracts until a player reaches 6 years of service time. At that point, a player is eligible for free agency, although clubs can offer salary arbitration after 6 years of service time, if the player accepts.
But, there is a small percentage of players each year that qualify for salary arbitration before they reach 3 years of salary arbitration.
The CBA defines Super Twos as follows:
A player with three or more years of service, but less than six years, may file for salary arbitration. In addition, a player can be classified as a "Super Two" and be eligible for arbitration with less than three years of service. A player with at least two but less than three years of Major League service shall be eligible for salary arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and he ranks in the top 17 percent in total service in the class of Players who have at least two but less than three years of Major League service, however accumulated, but with at least 86 days of service accumulated during the immediately preceding season.
The amount of service time a player needed to be salary arbitration eligible has been a battle over the years.
In 1973, before the reserve clause was broken, Marvin Miller and the players fought for, and won, salary arbitration. At that time, players with just two years of ST became eligible for salary arbitration. In 1985, the owners negotiated into getting eligibility up to three years. And, in 1990, the players clawed their way into a compromise with the Super Two status.
And even though the small percentage of players comprise a fraction of the total salary arbitration eligible players each year (in 2009, of the 111 players that filed for salary arbitration, 20 were Super Twos, and last year, of the 213 potential salary arbitration eligible players, a total of 18 were Super Twos), the league wants to get back to that nice and tidy “3 years” point for eligibility.
(SEE DETAILS OF SALARY ARBITRATION PLAYERS FROM 2007-2010)
The problem is that clubs have a tendency to trump up excuses to hold players back in the minors in an effort to keep them from become Super Two eligible. For Stephen Strasburg the excuse from the Nationals on starting him in the minors was to “slow down his delivery from the stretch”.
And, it’s likely that the Nationals #1 overall pick this year, Bryce Harper, will wind up in the same position. When Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com broached the subject, I had this to say (see Will new CBA affect Nats' plans for Harper?)
"… This was something the Players' Association got, and clawed for," Brown said. "This may be a bargaining chip for something. There's a list that [each side] wants. For the players to give up Super Two would mean some form of concession, maybe someplace else. I don't think they're going to give this up wholeheartedly."
Industry sources have long though one of the reasons Harper went to all the trouble he did to enter the draft early (getting his GED, playing junior college ball at 17) was to arrive before the next CBA. That could insulate him from a new Super Two arrangement, if players drafted before the new CBA were still allowed to obtain Super Two status, but it would also mean the Nationals likely doing with him what they did with Strasburg, keeping him in the minors until June in whichever year they feel he's ready to come to the majors.
"If the Players' Association says, 'No, we're not going to go there at all,' one way you could lessen the blow would be a grandfathering system," Brown said. "That might be one way to do it. If you have a five-year CBA, toward the end of it, you would see (a new) Super Two."
Revenue-sharing…. Hard-slots… Super Twos… These are just three of items that will be collective bargained for. Sessions that will most assuredly result in a new CBA by the time the current one expires in Dec. of 2011, begin just after the upcoming World Series ends. Where Super Twos fall in terms of priorities is not yet know, but be certain, it will be on the list.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
Follow Maury Brown on Twitter
Follow The Biz of Baseball on Twitter
Follow the Business of Sports Network on Facebook