Yesterday was a special Labour Day for Jason Grilli. Though he didn't pitch in the Blue Jays loss, yesterday was the 156th day of the 2016 season. Grilli came into 2016 with 9 years and 16 days of credited major league service, so with 2016 service days he now has 172 days, which counts as full season and gives him an even 10 years.
That makes him the latest Blue Jay in the 10 year service club, but he's far from the only recent addition. Acquiring Dioner Navarro gives the Jays added flexibility behind the plate, but he also crossed the 10 year threshold in late June. A week before he was added, Troy Tulowitzki hit the same mark, just under 10 years from the anniversary of his MLB debut. And Gavin Floyd may not be top of mind for Blue Jay fans, but he accrues service time while on the disabled list and crossed 10 years on August 7th, 12 days before Tulo. That's four additions in one month.
In total, the Blue Jays now have a dozen players with 10 years of credited major league service, or just under 30% of the players on their 40 man roster. I can't say it for sure, but I have to think that is the most in MLB. While it should come as no surprise that the Jays have a very veteran roster, it's still somewhat surprising the extent to which they've become a team of grizzled veterans.
Of course, there's nothing magical about having 10 years of service time, and players well shy of the mark J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, Michael Saunders and Darwin Barney all qualify as experienced veterans. But it does take a certain longevity and sustained quality to get to 10 years, and is a significant milestone in that it vests a full pension and potentially 10/5 no-trade rights.
I've been tracking service time for the Options and Outright Status table over the last three years (recently updated!), so it's easy to put together a chart showing just how unprecedented this is:
At the start of 2014, the Jays just had two members of the 10 year club: Mark Buerhle and Jose Reyes. Maicer Izturis became a third from the 60 day DL late in the season, and things held constant through the 2014-15 offseason. Early in the 2015 season, Jose Bautista hit 10 years and was joined by Edwin Encarnacion in June for a total of five. LaTroy Hawkins was added at the deadline, but Reyes shipped out at the same time. R.A. Dickey crossed the mark right at the end of 2015 for a sixth member.
That didn't last long, as Buerhle, Hawkins and Izturis were all free agents at the end of the year, and there were no additions in the offseason. Russell Martin crossed 10 years in late April, and the total held at four until the trade deadline when Joaquin Benoit, Scott Feldman, Francisco Liriano, Melvin Upton were all added. And then August added another four, three organically and one acquired.
As a final note, it's fascinating how quickly the Jays have gone from one of the youngest rosters in the league to probably the most experienced/old. My first post on this site, way back in mid-November 2011, was about just how young the 40 man was comparatively, with no players born before 1980, two in the 1990s, and within the 1980s, skewed towards the late 1980s.
What's remarkable is despite the passage of five years - practically an eternity in baseball - by that same breakdown the current roster is more skewed towards the older time period. There's current three players born before 1980, with 11 born in the 1980-84 period, compared to 13 five years ago (so 14 total born before 1985, compared to 13 total now). It's not totally apples-to-apples since that was right after free agents left the roster (including Jose Molina and three others born in the 1970s), but that one can even make the comparison five years later speaks volumes.