Service Time Implications For Danny Duffy’s Debut

Eric Hosmer rewarded the Royals for promoting him aggressively instead of taking a more cautious financial approach and delaying his debut. Less than two weeks into Hosmer's big league career, he has two home runs and an .848 OPS. Now, one of Hosmer's former minor league teammates is on his way to Kansas City for his MLB debut.

Left-handed pitching prospect Danny Duffy will start for the Royals on Wednesday, according to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. For the second time in a month, GM Dayton Moore is calling on his young players despite the possibility that the early promotions will mean the players go to arbitration four times instead of three and cost the team millions in the process. 

That’s not to say that Duffy's early promotion will cost the Royals. The upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement and the unpredictability of future super two cutoffs make it nearly impossible to predict with certainty. Plus, if the Royals option Duffy to the minors for at least 20 days at some point between now and the end of 2013, it's likely that he will only go to arbitration three times.

Duffy will have 134 days of service time if he stays in the Majors for the entire 2011 season. If he collects a full year of service time in 2012 and 2013, he’d likely qualify for salary arbitration after ’13 and go through the potentially lucrative process four times (though that’s subject to collective bargaining and the variable super two cutoff). He’s definitely not going to be eligible for free agency until after 2017 – the Royals assured themselves of that by keeping him in the minors for April.

Six weeks into the season, it's not hard to see why the Royals called the 22-year-old up. The former third rounder entered the season as the seventh-best prospect in Kansas City’s stacked system, according to Baseball America (68th in MLB). Duffy’s first seven starts against Triple-A hitters have been impressive; he now has a tidy 3.00 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9.

There’s something to be said for calling on prospects – especially pitchers – when they’re ready, instead of obsessing over service time. The Royals need arms after last night’s drubbing at the hands of the Indians and Duffy appears to be the best option they have. There are risks involved with the move, just as there are advantages. It’s too early to tell for sure, but the unexpectedly early callup could provide Duffy with just enough service time to qualify for arbitration an extra time.

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