Service time is the answer to many of the transaction related questions you have during a season. Teams try to keep control of their players as long as possible. Once they become eligible for free agency, they can choose any employer they wish. (normally the Yankees) It has been reported that this is the reason why Accardo is currently pissed with your Toronto Blue Jays. It wasn't the in season call ups and subsequent assignments he was subjected to in 2009 that bothered him, it was the resulting effect they had on his service time.
The best example of this point may have happened last season to poor/shitty/over rated Alex Gordon. The Royals of Kansas City sent him down to Triple AAA in order to delay his free agency eligibility by one year. They recalled him exactly 20 days after the demotion. Mission accomplished. This insightful post draws much needed attention to this point.
A few days of service time can make a difference of millions of dollars for a player, or allow him to veto a trade. It determines when a player goes to salary arbitration, when he hits free agency and whether he can be traded without his permission. Teams monitor it closely early in a player's career because they can delay free agency or prevent a player from becoming a Super Two if they're careful. It's recorded in years and days, which are separated by a period. So a player with three years and 40 days sees his service time written 3.040. Service time matters to players at various points throughout their careers:
- Most players become arbitration-eligible once they have three years of service time.
- Super Twos become arbitration before they have three years of service time.
- After six years in the majors, players hit the market as free agents.
- After ten years, players cannot be traded without permission if they've spent the last five with their current team.
- Any time spent on the 25-man roster, on the 15 or 60-day DL or on the suspended list counts towards service time.
- Players can't get more than one year's service time in a season, even though the season lasts over 180 days.
- A player who's called up from the minors starts collecting service
time when he reports to the team.
- Traded players who report to their new teams promptly collect service time without interruption.
- Players get credit for the day they're released.
- If a team options a player to the minors for less than 20 days, he still receives credit for a full season.
- Players on
Opening Day rosters start collecting service time on the day of the MLB
opener, even if their club doesn't play in it.