Cardinals Rubber Stamp 17 Remaining Contracts

17 St. Louis Cardinals with less than three years service time now have 2009 contracts. When might they become arbitration-eligible in the future and why?

The St. Louis Cardinals announced on Saturday they have agreed to terms on one-year contracts for 2009 with 17 players. The club now has all of its players under contract for the upcoming season.

The current group includes pitchers Mitchell Boggs, Jaime Garcia, Blake Hawksworth, Josh Kinney, Charlie Manning, Kyle McClellan, Jason Motte, Chris Perez and Matt Scherer; infielders Brian Barden, Tyler Greene, Jarrett Hoffpauir and Brendan Ryan; outfielders Brian Barton, Joe Mather, Skip Schumaker and Nick Stavinoha. (Note the club called Schumaker an outfielder in their release, not me!)

All 17 players have less than three years of Major League service time and as such, are not yet eligible for arbitration. This announcement is a mere formality since in setting these players' salaries, the Cardinals are basically bound only by good faith and the minimum MLB salary, which for 2009 is $400,000.

Looking ahead, following is the status of these players in terms of future arbitration eligibility. This is where things will get interesting in the future, as they receive an opportunity to secure large salary increases in years three through five while ramping up to free agency at year six.

The 17 players are ordered by their current service time, which is measured in years.days, where 172 days is a full season. Next to that is when they would likely reach arbitration eligibility if they would remain in the majors the entire time between now and then, an unrealistic scenario for many. The final column is my projection as to when the player might actually achieve the necessary service time.

Player MLB Service Soonest arb Forecast arb
Josh Kinney 2.058 after 2009 after 2009
Skip Schumaker 2.051 after 2009 after 2009
Brendan Ryan 1.082 after 2010 after 2010
Kyle McClellan 1.000 after 2010 after 2010
Brian Barton 1.000 after 2010 after 2011
Chris Perez 0.136 after 2010 after 2010
Charlie Manning 0.129 after 2010 after 2011
Joe Mather 0.098 after 2011 after 2011
Jaime Garcia 0.081 after 2012 after 2012
Brian Barden 0.072 after 2011 after 2011
Nick Stavinoha 0.053 after 2011 never
Mitchell Boggs 0.039 after 2011 after 2012
Jason Motte 0.027 after 2011 after 2011
Blake Hawksworth 0.000 after 2011 never
Matt Scherer 0.000 after 2011 never
Tyler Greene 0.000 after 2011 after 2013
Jarrett Hoffpauir 0.000 after 2011 never

Note that both Kinney and Schumaker are seemingly locks to become eligible for arbitration following this season. Kinney has accrued the majority of his two-plus years of service while on the disabled list. For those players noted with "never", I am not being rude, but it is not realistic to assume all 17 players will remain major leaguers long enough to gain three years of service.

Another interesting player to note is Chris Perez. Due to the service time accrued in 2008, if he remains in the majors for all of the 2009 and 2010 seasons, he will probably become eligible during the winter of 2010-2011 as a "super two". That is a special rule that enables the top 17% of MLB's two-year service time players the same arbitration eligibility as all of the three-to-six year players.

Bottom line, if the Cardinals were to manage their roster solely to minimize spending money, they would find a way for Perez to spend part of this season or next back in Memphis. This could also be a factor in the timing of Colby Rasmus' MLB introduction, as I have discussed previously.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Catch his Cardinals commentary daily at his blog, The Cardinal Nation.

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