Service Time

Here's another term for the MLBTR Glossary

A few days of service time can make a difference of millions of dollars for a player, or allow him to veto a trade. It determines when a player goes to arbitration, when he hits free agency and whether he can be traded without his permission. Teams monitor it closely early in a player's career because they can delay free agency or prevent a player from becoming a Super Two if they're careful. It's recorded in years and days, which are separated by a period. So a player with three years and 40 days sees his service time writen 3.040. Service time matters to players at various points throughout their careers:
  • Most players become arbitration-eligible once they have three years of service time. 
  • Super Twos become arbitration before they have three years of service time. 
  • After six years in the majors, players hit the market as free agents. 
  • After ten years, players cannot be traded without permission if they've spent the last five with their current team.

So how is it calculated?

  • Any time spent on the 25-man roster, on the 15 or 60-day DL or on the suspended list counts towards service time. David Riske won't pitch again this year, but he's still collecting service time because he's on the major league DL.
  • Players can't get more than one year's service time in a season, even though the season lasts over 180 days.   
  • A player who's called up from the minors starts collecting service time when he reports to the team. So even though we heard about Gordon Beckham's promotion yesterday, his clock starts ticking today.
  • Traded players who report to their new teams promptly collect service time without interruption. Yesterday's trade doesn't stand in Nate McLouth's way as long as he reaches Atlanta on time.
  • Tom Glavine collected service time yesterday, when he was released, but not today, since players get credit through the day they're released.
  • If a team options a player to the minors for less than 20 days, he still receives credit for a full season.  
  • Excepting last season (which had an early opener) players on Opening Day rosters start collecting service time on the day of the MLB opener, even if their club doesn't play in it.

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