Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Super 2 Status Is Not Scary
The Pirates have been shopping Joel Hanrahan around for a while now, especially since they re-signed Jason Grilli to a 2 year deal for $6.75M last week. With Hanrahan projected to make around $7.5M via his final year of the arbitration process, it just makes "Pirates sense" that committing nearly $10.5M in 2013 (out of a $70M payroll) to 2 relievers does not make sense.
In a bit of dot-connecting, one of the teams connected to Hanrahan are the Detroit Tigers after they re-signed Anibal Sanchez to a 5 year/$80M deal. That leaves them with a theoretical excess of starting pitchers (even though a team usually needs 7-8 options). The Tigers also lack a "proven closer", even though they have publically declared they will go with Bruce Rondon, so they could be a possible trade partner.
One of the trade candidates from the Tigers is Rick Porcello. Porcello was a highly touted prospect after getting drafted 27th overall in 2007 (he dropped due to bonus demands). He skyrocketed through the minors, thanks to the Tigers' typically aggressive promotion procedure, and made his debut in early April 2009. Porcello has pitched nearly 4 full seasons and won't even be 24 until two days after this Christmas. Porcello has had a good, not great, career to this point. He is a sinkerball pitcher that pitches in front of perhaps the worst infield defense in the Majors, plus he does rack up a huge amount of strikeouts (typical of sinkerball pitchers). Knowing Neal Huntington's love of sinkerballers, Porcello would seem like a natural fit.
Here's the interesting part about Porcello -- even though he has nearly 4 full seasons, Porcello still has 3 years of control left for either the Tigers or whatever team trades for him. How is that possible? It's possible because Porcello officially has 3 years and 170 days of service time. In baseball terms, a year is considered 172 days. Because the Tigers brought Porcello up a week into the 2009 season, they were able to buy a nearly full year of service from Porcello (he made 31 starts) and still reap the benefits of him to the maximum -- he pitched 170 innings a pitched to a 3.96 ERA/4.77 FIP/4.27 xFIP and produced 2 WAR as a 20 year old.
Because of those 2 days saved, Porcello became a Super 2 player in 2012 and was arbitration-eligible for the first time this year. For Porcello's 2nd year of 4 in his Super 2 progression, he is projected to earn $4.7M. Porcello has consistently produced 2 to 2.9 WAR in each of his 4 years, so he is a steal for his projected salaries going forward. Imagine if he actually had a halfway decent defense behind him to catch some of his 52.3% ground ball ratio.
The moral of this story is that Super 2 is not something to be scared of or be concerned about as a fan. The Tigers maximized their use of Porcello and could essentially have him for 7 full seasons. The Pirates' Super 2 candidate, Neil Walker, has 2 years 166 days of service time, but approximately 30 days of that time is from his cameo appearance in September 2009. The Pirates brought him up in late May 2010 for good, so they didn't reap the full amount of the season like the Tigers did with Porcello.
Teams have a financial interest to keep their players out of Super 2 status. Instead of 3 full years at minimum scale and 3 years of arbitration, a Super 2 player has 2 full years of minimum scale (plus whatever time accrued during the call-up year) and 4 years of arbitration. It's pricier for the team, of course, but for a team like the Tigers the benefits of a quality full year definitely outweigh the cost down the road. If a player is good enough to help a team, he should be brought up just after the start of a season to gain the extra year of control -- Super 2 be damned.