At the end of every season when free agent declarations and other roster housekeeping is complete I like to take a look at roster tenure among Toronto Blue Jays players and the organization more broadly. Frankly, with the lack of movement at the top over the last year I hadn’t really thought about it, but that all changes with last week’s trade of, in most respects, the longest tenured Blue Jays player.
There are different ways of measuring tenure, and that can make a significant difference in a ranking of tenure. When I started tracking this in 2015, I was using total time in the organization and credit service time with the Blue Jays since I had them from other purposes. I’ve since added a couple additional measures.
Active service was first added because chronically injured players accumulate service time without having on-field impact. This is essentially the number of days during the season the player was available to the active roster (excluding extended injuries, suspensions, and various other inactive stints). Personally, this is my preferred measure. Earliest debut is another means by which a player could be considered the longest standing Blue Jay.
As recently as 2019, these methods gave different answers (Teoscar Hernandez by service time, Randal Grichuk by active service, Anthony Alford by earliest debut). By 2020 they had converged at least for the purposes of the 40-man, but last year and again this year the nuances given different answers.
One recent complication is the proration of service time due to shortened seasons, principally in 2020. This creates a bit of a conundrum when it comes to comparing across years, as a partial full season can represent more actual days of service but less credited service time. Trent Thornton, Anthony Kay and Nate Pearson all had more actual days of service time in 2021 than 2021, but were credited with less service time.
What I have decided is to order the service time list by the credited service time rather than actual days, though I show that as well. However, since the purpose of the active service list was basically to have a ranking of days in uniform, that is ordered on the basis of actual days.
Service time ranking
Starting with credited MLB service time with the Blue Jays (format: years.days, with 172 days needed for a full year), the leader is the same as last year:
With the two top from last year since departed in Tesocar Hernandez and Randal Grichuk (and three of the top four with Ryan Borucki), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. ascends to the top spot as the most tenured Blue Jay by service time. This is the first time there’s been a change at the top since since Luke Maile was non-tendered in December 2019 when Teoscar took the spot, and at the end of the season he also became the first to accrue five years of service time as a Blue Jay since 2019 (Aaron Sanchez).
Beyond that, there is considerable continuity with only one other of the top 10 having departed. Whereas two years ago no player had three years of service with the Jays and only three had two or more, it now takes almost three years to even make the list, albeit in some cases one of those seasons was highly truncated.
There’s the curiousity that despite ranking fourth by credited MLB service years, Tim Mayza has the most actual days. This is because he was off the 40-man roster the entire 2020 season where the others weren’t. With the shortened season, service credit was on a pro-rate basis where each actual data was worth almost 2.75 credit days.
Active service ranking
Here too the 2020 season makes for some messiness in the ordering, but since the idea is to count actual days in uniform, Mayza ranks at the top with 625 days, or the equivalent of just over three full seasons. Since he played a full season where Gurriel was injured for a portion of 2022, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. moves up into a tie for second.
On a seasonal basis, they’d actually slide ahead of Mayza, but there’s no basis to overweight those 2020 days. The 2020 effect is really clear looking at the spots 5 to 8, where the number of active days is very similar, yet the seasonal equivalents varies by almost a full season depending on the player’s status in 2020.
Here too there’s just the four departures noted above, with the backend joined by players who only became regulars in the past couple years in Jordan Romano, Santiago Espinal, and Alejandro Kirk. Another fully healthy season leapfrogged Bo Bichette over Cavan Biggio. Alek Manoah is just on the doorstep, and should be remain healthy with even a little turnover, he should be on the list next year.
Tenure by earliest debut
After the top six carried over last year, it wasn’t the case this year with 50% organizationally, as Elvis Luciano is now a free agent as well. Teoscar’s trade sneaks a 2020 debut onto the list with Hyun-Jin Ryu, otherwise for the first time in at least four years it would required a player to debut more than three years previously to make the list. This is another indication of the increased stability with the emergent core.
Organizational tenure ranking
Here too there’s a new name after last year’s leader Ryan Borucki departed in June, just short of the 10 year mark with the Jays and becoming by my count the 36th player in franchise history to have been in the organization for 10 years. Instead, Ryan Tepera four years ago remains the last to attain the milestone, though with two possibilities in Danny Jansen and Mayza I think there’s a good chance that changes next year.
As predicted last year, here too there was more stability, with more than half of the names repeating for the first time dating back to 2017. There’s also a significantly longer list of players with more than six years, attributable to the current front office having been in place since 2015, and thus all players on their initial amateur contracts being their signees (who inevitably get longer leashes than holdovers from a previous regime in whom they and their people don’t have the same investment).
With the exception of Tepera, there have been no changes to the historical list, which can be reviewed in this 2015 post. At some point in the future, I plan to revise and refresh those lists to be more precise on service time and include active service rankings.