As expected, Nationals closer Drew Storen will be eligible for salary arbitration this winter because he qualified for Super Two status. Somewhat surprisingly, he made it only because of a small, first-time tweak in baseball’s salary structure.
Storen is one of six players who qualified for Super Two status this offseason who would not have made it under the service time rules of the old collective bargaining agreement. Rather than making the league minimum of $500,000 for another season, then, Storen will receive a raise, likely to well over $1 million.
How does all of that work? Players with less than three years of service time are guaranteed to make only the league minimum. (Their teams can give these so-called “zero-to-three” players small, good-faith raises if they wish.) However, the group of players with the most service time between two and three years become eligible for salary arbitration, which means they make more money. Those are the Super Two players. They still need six full seasons before qualifying for free agency, but they get an extra year of arbitration.
Under the old CBA, the 17 percent of players with the most major league experience between two and three seasons became eligible for arbitration. Under the CBA ratified last winter, the group of players who qualified for Super Two status grew to 22 percent.
The new rule became very important to Storen. The Nationals called him up on May 17, 2010, which gives him two years and 140 days of major league service time. The cutoff for Super Two status is two years and 139 days. The cutoff under the old formula would have been two years and 144 days. So Storen qualified by only one day, and under the old format he would not have qualified at all.
When the Nationals promoted Storen for his major league debut, they assumed he would accumulate enough time to qualify for Super Two status. If Storen had just barely missed, it would have been a disappointment for him and a nice surprise for the Nationals. Instead, thanks to the new rules, Storen will likely make more than $1 million more in 2013 than he would have in any previous year.
This year, Storen missed three months after undergoing elbow surgery and dominated during September and his first three playoff appearances, only to allow four runs in the decisive ninth inning of the their Game 5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS.
Storen’s 2013 salary will be determined in large part by how much weight is given to the time he missed with the surgery, which he underwent to remove a bone chip. Last year, the top set-up men eligible for arbitration for the first time – Daniel Bard, David Robertson, Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard – all made roughly $1.6 million.
But saves are expensive in arbitration cases. Andrew Bailey, who saved 75 games in his first three seasons, made $3.9 million last winter as first-time arbitration-eligible pitcher. Storen had only five saves this year, but in 2011 he saved 43 games and he has 52 career saves.
Storen probably won’t match Bailey, but few closers have accomplished what Storen has prior to becoming arbitration eligible. And, because of a new provision, he will be paid handsomely for it.