This year’s cutoff point to determine Super Two status will be unusually low, per Adam McCalvy of MLB.com (via Twitter). While an exact cutoff point is yet unclear, McCalvy reports that Josh Hader, who has two years and 115 days of MLB service time (abbreviated as 2.115) will be eligible for arbitration this winter. In essence, that means that Hader is about to become a very well-compensated reliever. That would’ve been the case in the 2020-21 offseason anyway, but he’ll now tap into that earning power a year early. It’s also worth noting that this cutoff point will place Miami’s JT Riddle, who finished the season at 2.118 years of service, into arbitration eligibility as well.
A 2.115 cutoff would already be the lowest Super Two threshold in the past decade. The previous lowpoints in that span came in 2010 and 2013, when the cutoff was 2.122. Last year, it settled at 2.134. If the threshold is any lower this season, others could also be impacted. Arizona’s Luke Weaver (2.112) and Oakland’s Matt Chapman (2.109) are the most notable names within reasonable distance of Hader’s 2.115.
Super Two designation is one of the innumerable quirks to the ever-confounding arbitration system. For the unfamiliar, Major League players earn “service time” for every day spent on an MLB roster. One year of MLB service is defined as 172 days — despite the fact that there are more days than that in the regular season. (This year’s season was 186 days; again — hooray for quirks!)
Upon reaching three years of service time, all players become eligible for salary arbitration. Prior to that point, teams are effectively able to set (most) player salaries at any rate they wish, so long as it is north of the league minimum. Many teams have formulas they use to determine pre-arbitration salaries, and it’s quite rare for pre-arb players to earn even $1MM (barring a long-term extension). Arbitration is the first point at which players and their agents can begin negotiating with teams regarding their salary, though arbitration prices still typically fall shy of open-market value.
The “Super Two” wrinkle further complicates matters. The top 22 percent of players (in terms of total service time) with between two and three years of service also are considered eligible for arbitration and termed “Super Two” players. Any player who falls into that service bucket and spent at least 86 days of the preceding season on a 25-man roster or the Major League injured list become eligible a year early and then go through the arbitration process four times.
In the case of Hader, he’s now in line for a fairly considerable salary. He has 37 more innings, eight more saves and a whopping 116 more strikeouts than his own teammate, Corey Knebel, had when reaching arbitration as a Super Two player last season. Knebel landed a $3.65MM salary, which Hader should handily top. Beyond that, Hader’s subsequent raises in 2021, 2022 and 2023 will be built off a higher base because of his early entry into the arbitration process.
Once the exact cutoff is determined, we’ll add projections for Hader, Riddle and any other newly minted arbitration-eligible players to our just-released annual list of arbitration projections.