Feb. 19: Q of the Day

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

I have a question for you regarding arbitration windows. I just read a tweet stating that if the Cardinals keep Shelby Miller in the Minors for a month plus, they can buy an extra year on his arbitration window. Could you discuss a) whether you think this plays a role in who the Cards start the season with and b) what are the arbitration windows for some of the younger players?

Stephen M.

When the Cardinals decided to call Miller up last September, they also started his Major League clock — and when it comes to service time, there are two particularly important benchmarks. The biggest is getting to six years of service time, a point at which a player can then become a free agent. The other benchmark is related to arbitration. A player becomes arbitration eligible when he has between three and six years of service time.

Right now, Miller has 30 days of service time, so he’s obviously still a few years away from hitting a point where he qualifies for arbitration. If Miller were to start the season in the Majors this year and remain there for good, he will become arbitration eligible after the 2015 season. (He’d have 3 years, 30 days of service time). If Miller stays in the Minors for at least another month, though, he won’t hit that three-year service time mark until the 2016 season. So, yes, everything would be pushed back a year — including free agency.

There is, though, a catch with arbitration, and that is the Super Two concept. Players with between two and three years of service time who rank in the top 22 percent in total service among players who fit that criteria, get an extra year of arbitration eligibility. So if the Cardinals were to hold Miller back for the purpose of keeping him from hitting three years of service time until later, Miller could still end up with arbitration eligibility as a Super Two player.

Some organizations have been especially deliberate in holding a player in the Minors to ensure that the player’s arbitration eligibility is later, rather than sooner. The Cardinals aren’t as driven to do so. Miller is competing against a pair of pitchers (Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal) who have similar service time, so the club is going to have to start the service time clock on someone.

In a bigger picture (I think this is what you were getting at with your ‘B’ point), the Cardinals are set to have several key players reach arbitration after this season. In this category are: Jon Jay, Fernando Salas, Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso. David Freese, Mitchell Boggs, Marc Rzepczynski will also all be arbitration-eligible again.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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