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Jaime Garcia and arbitration eligibility

An apparent typo in a service time date has led to an incorrect conclusion on several prominent sites.

Jaime Garcia (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)Whether or not a major leaguer is eligible for arbitration is a big deal in terms of compensation as that is the first time a young player can argue in favor of receiving market value instead of a near-minimum salary.

For most, the point of qualification is very clear. Three years of major league service is that tipping point. However, as part of the collective bargaining between the players and ownership, a special arbitration sub-group was added, called Super Twos.

This group consists of the top 17 percent of players with between two and three years of service, where “top” is defined as those having the most service time. This cutoff line varies by year depending on the players in the population, but is often around two years, 130 days. Essentially, being a Super Two means a player can be arbitration-eligible for four years prior to free agency instead of the normal three.

Hence the case of Jaime Garcia.

Coming into this season, Garcia’s service time was listed in the St. Louis Cardinals media guide as 1.147, or one year, 147 days. This information was picked up by a number of online data sources.

The problem is that it wasn’t accurate. Based on the rookie left-hander’s history, the numbers just didn’t add up, with the reported number seemingly too high. After all, just one year prior, Garcia’s service time was 0.081. It seemed impossible for anyone to accrue well over one year of service in just 12 months.

This came to light for me after a discussion with a member of The Cardinal Nation message board community, CariocaCardinal I think, back in March. At that point, I checked with the Cardinals organization and confirmed the 1.147 was in error. It should have read 1.047.

After a full season with the Cardinals in 2010, Garcia’s current service is now 2.047, well below the point where the Super Two line will be drawn. In other words, the Cards can pretty much renew Garcia’s 2011 salary at an above-minimum rate of their choosing.

Unfortunately, that word didn’t completely get out.

Especially this time of year, a segment of the fan base really gets into the bowels of the payroll, both committed and projected. In that light, I was asked about Garcia most recently because of a Thursday article at in which he is listed as arbitration-eligible along with teammates Brendan Ryan and Kyle McClellan. The latter two are not under question, each having three or more years of service.

It also came up during a Joe Strauss chat at the Post-Dispatch on Wednesday. He had the incorrect date as well and answered a reader question accordingly. When asked about it later on Twitter, Strauss initially stuck to the number, but after I weighed in, he checked his sources and verified the mistake.

I bring this up not to criticize the Cardinals, Strauss or Matthew Leach, the MLB writer, in any way. Both writers used the best information available to them to draw their conclusion, yet both documents remain up on their respective websites with the incorrect conclusion drawn. The wrong service time for Garcia is also still listed on several prominent internet reference sites.

As such, the purpose of this post is simply to help clarify the situation. Garcia will not yet be eligible for arbitration, likely having saved the Cardinals several million dollars in 2011 as a result.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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