If you’re die-hard baseball fan, or even a casual observer of the game, you have heard about the mythical “Super Two” deadline in regards to top prospects. You may have asked why this is important, or you may have simply accepted the deadline as something the business side of baseball requires. And I’m sure there are some that flat-out don’t care about the cut-off at all.
For those out there that need a little more clarity as to what the “Super Two” is, Fangraphs does a good job of breaking it down. Basically, all players once promoted accrue MLB service time, typically need three years of MLB service time to qualify for salary arbitration. However, the top 22% of players promoted first in the season that have more than two years of service time, but less than three years, qualify for salary arbitration under the “Super Two” status.
If I remember correctly, Fangraphs (along with other notable baseball publications) took their breakdown of players that qualify for “Super Two” status a step further, saying that an early promotion of a top prospect could cost a team between an extra $10-15 million over the course of arbitration. For small market teams that rely on cost efficiency of young prospects, that figure could be too much to swallow.
However, we’ve been seeing much more frequently that teams aren’t letting their best young players even get to salary arbitration, locking them up to long-term extensions well before that point. We’ve seen it with players such as Mike Trout, Jedd Gyorko, Starling Marte, and just about everybody on the Atlanta Braves.
With this spike in early extensions, which guarantee players more money early in their careers in exchange for a discount on their first two or three free agent eligibility years, the question should be asked: Should teams worry about the “Super Two” cut-off at all?
The more I think about it, the more I feel that worrying about the cut-off date is unnecessary. Not every top prospect is going to pan out. The ones that do, however, teams want to lock them into long-term contracts that buy out arbitration years early, sometimes as soon as only one year after their debut (Matt Moore). It’s become the new norm in front offices across the league. No longer is it a ploy by small market teams to keep their top talent in-house at a lower price.
Sit back and think for a minute about who was the last truly impact player under the age of 29 to hit the free agent market. My mind takes me back to Jose Reyes, but even he hit the market after the Mets extended his contract to cover his arbitration years and his first free agency season.
If a team wants to compete, and has a dynamic prospect in their system ready to go, it’s foolish to wait until late June or early July to promote that prospect. The Astros, who have no chance at competing for a playoff berth this season, promoted top prospect George Springer to give him MLB experience for when they are ready to compete. The odds of the Astros letting Springer get to salary arbitration, barring an unforeseen collapse in his performance, are slim. Smart teams aren’t letting their top talent get to arbitration anymore (or, in the case of the Braves, they let them get to arbitration and immediately start negotiating extensions).
With this being the new practice, shouldn’t we ignore the Super Two cut-off all together?
I believe we should.