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Weekend bantering: Super Two cutoff, Leone, minor league free agents

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Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The big news today of course is that the World Series match-up is set, with Houston having eliminated the Yankees in a very satisfying couple of games. Truth be told, at this point I don’t really care that much, the only two things I was interested in for the playoffs was seeing the Red Sox and Yankees out. I don’t have a strong interest between the Astros and Dodgers, though considering it was the former who dumped both teams I wanted to see gone, that’s probably the direction I lean.

Meanwhile, there is precious little going on in Blue Jays land, with no transactions involving the 40-man this month (other than pro forma recalls of players on optional assignment right after the season ended). In fact, excluding the transactions involving Taylor Cole right at the end of the season - which also appeared to be largely pro forma since he didn’t make it into a game - and there hasn’t been a real transaction since early September.

One way of another, that will change soon. The World Series will end at the latest on November 1st, and players become free agents the next morning. Additionally, players on the 60-day DL must be activated at that point, and the 40-man limit becomes a hard cap for the rest of the winter. That means that not only will five free agents be departing the roster, but with seven players to activate, a couple other moves will need to take place by then as well (see here for a more detailed breakdown).

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There are some bits and pieces of news. MLBTR reported on Friday that the official Super Two cutoff will be 2 years, 123 days. That means, as I suspected, that Dominic Leone will be arbritration eligible for 2018, as he qualifies with service time right on the cutoff. Instead of earning something close to the MLB minimum of $550,000, MLBTR now projects a $1.2-million salary. Literally one extra day in the majors in past season will result in something like double the 2018 earnings for him.

What’s particularly interesting is that Leone actually didn’t accrue the actual service time necessary to hit the Super Two cutoff. He came into the 2017 season with 1 year, 123 days, and spent (by my count) 168 days on the MLB roster for purposes of service time credit. With 172 days (of 183 in the season) needed to accrue a full season, Leone’s actual days would have him fall short.

However, because Leone consequently only spent 18 days on optional assignment, his last of three option years was not burnt as 20 days is the threshold to trigger the use of an option year. Article XXI(B) of the Collective Agreement provides that in this circumstance, the player receives service time credit for the days on optional assignment. From the perspective of service time, it’s like Leone was never optioned.

(Incidentally, there’s no math error above. In a 183 day season, he got MLB service time for 168 days and spent 18 on optional assignment for a total of 186 days...by the terms of the CBA, it’s possible for a player to both receive MLB service credit and be on optional assignment on the same day depending the actual timing when the transaction sending him down occurs. At least to my best understanding.)

Had the Blue Jays left Leone on optional assignment for another two or three days at any point in the season, then the option year would have been used up and he would have fallen short of the Super Two cutoff by about a week. In effect, whether perchance or by scheme, the Jays bought an extra option year for Leone at an expected cost of about $650,000.

While that might seem superfluous given how good be was this past year, considering what happened coming off his 2014 season I’d suggest the tradeoff works out well. If he does relapse to past struggles, there’s the ability to get him out of the MLB pen to work things out in the minors without having to risk losing him on waivers.

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Finally, Baseball America’s most recent minor league transactions (covering the first couple weeks of October) reports that seven non-40 man players elected free agency under Article XX(D), which allows players outrighted off the 40-man with three or more years service time or for a second or subsequent time to elect free agency either immediately, or at the end of the season. They are:

  • LHP Jeff Beliveau
  • RHP Mike Bolsinger
  • RHP Lucas Harrell
  • LHP T.J. House
  • RHP Brett Oberholtzer
  • C Mike Ohlman
  • RHP Nick Tepesch

All of these seven spent some time with the Jays in 2017 prior to being outrighted, varying from a low of four days for Oberholtzer to 68 for Bolsinger.

They would all have been minor league free agents in any even this winter, which otherwise occurs on the 5th day following the end of the World Series. This effectively gives these players a headstart on the market to secure contracts for 2018.