Arbitration and Free Agency Clocks


If you include Erasmo and Vinnie Catricala.  Or Catricala and ... me.  Hey, that was the graphic we had.  So sue us.


G-Money does some legwork for us again:

Paxton could arrive the week of April 15th, and we'd get the 7th year of club control.  Arb deadline fluctuates, last week of May - to - 1st week of June, normally.  May 24th to June 5th is usually a good bookmark, which is why most players come up June 10 or so if a team is worried about it.  It's actually done by days (Opening Day til the last day of the regular season, counted by days not games), and teams try to keep guys with 2 years and 130-something days or less to avoid it for the most part. 

FYI, it looks to me like our early opener won't count for service time purposes, since it was moved up.  Service time is gonna start when everybody else has THEIR opening day, not when we play in Japan.

But if you don't care what you pay them, just that it's you paying them? 172 days = a full year of service time.

A season isn't normally longer than 183 days.  So 12 days into any season you should be able to call someone up and have them miss their year of service time.

Which means Sunday the 15th (or so) any of the kids should be able to come up.  Somebody would have to check the exact date, but really, it can happen QUICK.  When do we need a #5 starter again with this wonky schedule we have?

~ G

Gracias.  Here is another good primer on the subject, at


Q.  What do you have to do, to prevent a player from getting free agency after six years?

A.  Like Gordon said, you have to wait about two weeks into the season.


Q.  Is this actually feasible?  Does the union actually put up with such a transparent ploy to cheat players out of deserved salaries?

A.  Much to my surprise, it's totally feasible.  The Rays called up Evan Longoria on April 12th of 2008, exactly 10 games after the season started.  Wow.

Not only didn't Longoria pitch a fit, he jumped on the chance to sign a very team-friendly contract.  One week later!?, he signed a 6-year deal with three additional club options at $9.5M per year - for his 7th, 8th, and 9th seasons.  Slap me SILLY.

You give me some examples now, what say?


Q.  And nobody does anything about this?

A.  Agent Matt Sosnick says, in the MLBTR article, "As an agent you have to know that.  It's the team's call and it's out of your control.  Go ask them to call up a guy 10 days earlier and they'll just tell you to get lost."

Why the union doesn't mind much, you'll have to ask them.  They've always cared much more about entitled veterans, than they've cared about what happens to young players trying to join the fraternity.


Q.  Okay.  So the M's keep H-T-P for year #7 if they wait even two weeks.  Now what's this thing about arbitration?

A.  If you just joined us:

MLB players get arbitration for years 4, 5, and 6.

But!  A significant fraction of players (is it still 1/6 of them?) get arbitration for year #3, also.  The 1/6 of players who were called up earliest, in that "class," get Super Two arbitration.

For players like Hultzen, Taijuan, and Paxton, "that's the difference between $500K in year three, and $5M that year," says Sosnick.

It costs the M's $4 to $5 million extra, in 2014, if they want to use one of their young pitchers for the two months between April 15 and June 15.


Q.  Why would anybody pay $4-5M for two months' worth of any pitcher?

A.  CC Sabathia is getting $9M per two months.  Felix is getting $6M per two months.  Cy Young candidates actually earn about $10M per two months.

But it goes beyond that.  April and May could be your season.  On June 15, things could be decided.  Is this about accounting, or is it about the pennant race?

So GM's will tell you:  it's not about service time as much as fans think it is.  If a player can help you, he's up.


Q.  Leaving us where?

A.  That the Mariners would want 7 years from their young guns, that they would spend the 2+ weeks in order to avoid quick free agency for them, that's completely understandable.  To play the Super Two game with them, though, that would not be.

Taijuan, Paxton, and Hultzen are liable to earn more, even this year, than the Super Two cost will be.  If the Mariners allow mediocre pitching from Beavan, Millwood, and Co., waiting until June or July to call up their pitchers, that's in effect punting 2012.

Zduriencik's a competitor.  Those 3-4-5 starters are going to have to kick tail and take names in order to keep their spots beyond April.

Juuuuuuust the kind of situation that Zdurienik loves :- )



Anyroad's picture

Jack Z is a liar.  I understand that comes with the territory when you are a GM of a MLB team.  But he should be careful who he lies to.  He told Hultzen that he would compete for a starting rotation job this spring.  And Hultzen was outcompeting others for that 5th spot in the rotation.  Seems the sap kinda believed Jack Z, because, as reported by S. Drayer, he was a little stunned to be reassigned to minor league camp so early.  Yes Jack Z's job, broadly speaking, is asset management.  But trust (or goodwill) is an asset too, and on Sunday March 11 some trust disappeared.


And although I wouldn't have used that characterization ... I do wonder how Zduriencik would respond to your point.
Lurkers take note:  98% of Anyroad's post consists of intellectual substance, and the 2% worth of style that [I personally] don't care for is still well within the intent of what is addressed by the U.S. Constitution (which document is the underlying basis for our freedom).
That's the difference between (1) free intellectual expression and (2) speech that is restricted for no other reason than that the dictator doesn't like it.
I'm therefore not going to dilute his idea by rewording it.  Thanks for your post, Anyroad.
If anybody has any ideas how Zduriencik *would* respond to Anyroad's post, I'd like to hear them.

wufners's picture

He might respond that he did let Hultzen come and compete.  That he got a chance to show what he has, that he left an impression on everyone.  So he made good on his promise.  But when he made that comment, he did not know that he would have Kevin Millwood in camp.  He didn't know that he was going to sign Iwakuma or that Beavan would make a positive impression the last month of the season.  He also didn't know if Erasmo would continue to raise his game to an MLB ready stage.  As excited as everyone is about Danny, there are only 5 starting slots and there are too many guys ahead of him currently.  Rather then have him up here hoping for positions that just aren't open, he decided to send him down where he can put that final polish on his game, get a handle on those intangibles so that he's able to leap ahead of those other guys.  Danny has the talent, but you need more than just talent to be a MLB pitcher, and that's what he has to go and work on.
He also might mention with a wink that if only Danny hadn't dragged his negotiations out to the last possible minute, then maybe they could have got him some professional innings last season and he might be ahead of those other guys now.  Like Bauer did.  But don't worry about it kid.  You're time is coming soon.
Not saying Z would say this or that if he did, they'd be his real reasons.  Only offering it as one possible take.  It's certainly not my own.  I'm not looking forward to watching either Millwood or Beavan pitch.  Then again, I'd give those two spots to Noesi and Paxton before I would Hultzen.


"Compete" doesn't necesarily mean that a player is guaranteed a spot if they have a good spring training. When you are dealing with someone who has never played professionally and the alternative is an extremely experienced player who has proven himself at the highest level, the standard is not the same for the two of them. Hultzen might be better than Millwood out of the gate, but there are a bunch of legitimate reasons to go with Millwood to start the year if he looks like he still has something left.
If Millwood looked terrible, then Hultzen likely would have had a real shot at making the club immediately, which is what Jack meant by "compete".

wufners's picture

You know, these guys are going to have inning limits this year, why start them pitching now only to have to shut them down later?  Especially if there's even the minutist chance that they could be a contributer to the Cinderella run?  That would stink to be a few games out (or up!) of the wild card and playing like gangbusters only to have to bench one or two of your key starters.
So why not take someone like Hultzen, and let him sit with the big club for the first month of the season?  Let him learn the intangibles from the vets before he replaces one of them.  Then, when he would be in a good position to finish the year and the weather is nicer, send him to Tacoma to get into game shape and call him up in a couple weeks without having to worry about shutting him down.


Theory: Hultzen did compete.  He was beat out by Erasmo Ramirez.
From the Times:
"Ramirez is the only one of the four to have any Class AAA experience and is seen as the closest to the big leagues. Mariners manager Eric Wedge said Sunday that Ramirez remains in the mix for a rotation or even a bullpen job."
At the moment, Ramirez hasn't given up any runs yet, he mowed through three innings of Diamondbacks in 28 pitches on Saturday, and he is currently running a Cliff Lee esque .67 WHIP.
Now we know that the Mariners love those hit to contact guys who eat up a lot of innings and never walk anyone.  Ramirez seems like this type of guy.
That's one theory.
Here's another conspiracy theory:
The Mariners brass was worried about Hultzen, Walker and Paxton's stuff.  It was so nasty in the dry and thin desert air, that the Mariners were worried that it would translate into  passed balls and beaned fans, when those balls started to spin and catch traction in the cold, dense wet sea air of the Safe.  "We don't want to make the new catchers look bad" they decided.
Therefore, the trio was sent on a Minor League assignment to play on the Tacoma Raineers to acclimate their stuff and maybe tone it down a little bit.


It's on their Cactus/Hot Stove league podcast page.  The interview was after the three were sent down and Blowers or Rizz asked why did Paxton/Walker/Hultzen all get sent down at once?
Paraphrasing from memory (I listened Tuesday) Z mentioned their inexperience and personal maturity.  Walker was only 19.  Hultzen has only pitched in the AFL professionally.  Paxton took 1 1/2 years off of baseball.  He also said he expects two, if not all three, to be in the Majors this summer.
Z also talked about his general method for prosepects.  He wants them to be emotionally prepared to handle MLB on more than the baseball level.  He also would rather be one day late on promoting a player rather than one day early.  His reasoning is that if you do it one day early, you could ruin a player for his career.  If you're one day late, then you still have the career.
It was obvious from the interview that the Mariners look wholistically at a player rather than just at baseball ability.  He mentioned Sweeney and why he traded him to Philly - because Sweeney had never played playoff baseball and it was his last chance.  Z didn't trade him until it was to a playoff team.  Z talked about Saunders' personal life - two years of his mother dying from cancer, finally passing this summer, and then getting married and moving over the Winter.
I think Z was honest Hultzen was competing for a job, but at the end of the day, Hultzen didn't have all the skills Z requires for a starting job out of Spring Training.


... that there is no breach of integrity involved here.  Interesting.
My own suspicion is that it was either (1) an organizational call, made by Armstrong, Zduriencik, owners etc., or (2) my previously-expressed impression that JZ began to realize it ain't 2011 any more.  Different times call for different Pineda decisions.
Still, you guys seem oddly unimpressed with the fact that --- > just 10 days ago, Willis was saying "if they've got the goods, then let's go!" and Zduriencik was saying "they'll get a good fair look" and etc.  Then, on March 10th, they are prevented from showing their stuff.  
Millwood didn't come in and outpitch them.  His ERA is 7.20.


Cool Papa, why cut them now, rather than on March 20th?  Wouldn't you normally value the chance to see them pitch a few innings against major leaguers?
All of JZ's arguments address the idea of leaving them off the 25-man.  Which of his arguments address the idea of flushing them before the org can see them?
Jed, did he say "two if not three"?  If they bring up Taijuan as well, then ...


A huge reason is that you have to cut the roster down. Spring training isn't simply a try out, it's mostly about getting players ready for the season. That means the guys who are going to make the team need to get plenty of work in so that they do as well as possible. You can't have 60+ players in camp right up until you leave for Japan. So if the decision has been made that the young pitchers will start out in the minors, you might as well cut them now so that Millwood, Iwakuma and the relievers get plenty of innings so they are sharp.


I'm not sure how to link (here) - maybe that works.  It's  Podcasts, then Hot Stove Leage, then the 7-8pm hour from 3/12.
Z really sounds excited about them, but I get the impression it really is about the mental experience and maturity rather than their baseball skills even though he praises everything about all three.  I think Z wants them to force their way in rather than being given a spot and Z hasn't been forced yet.  

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