When Kris Bryant tore up Spring Training in 2015 and then was sent down to AAA there was a collective scream from Cubs fans, “WHY?”, the answer was service time. Cubs management wanted to make sure they kept him in the minors long enough to gain an extra year of control. To the casual fan the term service time is a foreign concept, honestly even to an avid fan like me it was somewhat of an unknown. Again, to be honest, even though it was still somewhat of a mystery to me I really didn’t care until I picked up Trea Turner in my fantasy baseball league.
You see Trea Turner was sent down to AAA after an impressive spring. Instead of having Turner start the season where he finished 2015 the Nationals decided to go with Danny Espinosa as their shortstop. Since being demoted Turner has gone 14 for 33 (.424/.525/.606) with 4 stolen bases. Meanwhile his major league counterpart is hitting .161/.289/.483.
After seeing what Turner has done and adding him to my fantasy roster I had to get a better understanding as to when he could come up and not have to worry about service time. What If found is that in order for a player to receive one year of service they must spend 172 days on the 25 man roster or major league DL. To complicate it more the average major league season is 183 days. Confused yet, wait it is more complicated than that. A player can only gain a maximum of 172 days in any one season, so even if a player comes up on day one they still only get credit for 172 days.
Now that we understand that let’s turn to the number of years a player must have credited before they can become a free agent. A player becomes a free agent after six full years of service, a key component of that statement is full years. If on the last day of the season a player has received 5 years and 171 days of service they are one day short of six full years and therefore would not be a free agent until the year after their next season. Major league clubs are very smart and because they know how to play the service time game they will calculate the day they can promote a player and have that player only be credited 171 days of service time and therefore receive an extra year of control.
Let’s get to the example that I care about, Trea Turner. In 2015 Turner received 45 days of service time. If you subtract that from the 172 days he needs to reach one year of service time you get 127 days. Based on my calculations that means that the Nationals would have to wait until roughly May 28th, 2016 in order to bring him up and not have him receive a year of service time.
Now the question is can Trea force the hands of management by playing his way to the majors or will the Nationals hold out in order to keep their future shortstop under control for that extra year. Personally I am hoping he forces their hand.
If this post helped you better understand service time let us know, we would love to hear your feedback.
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