Lynn just misses out on big Super 2 payout

St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn fell short of arbitration eligibility by three days. Additional information on eligible Cardinals is also included.

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn hasn't had the greatest week – and it has nothing to do with his club's delayed flight into Boston on Tuesday evening.

On Sunday, the 26-year-old right-hander absorbed a home loss to the Red Sox in Game 4 of the World Series. On Tuesday, Lynn missed the cutoff for salary arbitration eligibility by just three days, a circumstance that may have cost him several million dollars in earnings for the 2014 season.

The minimum level of major league service time required to be eligible to have one's salary decided through arbitration for 2014 is two years, 122 days. This is according to calculations agreed to by the commissioner's office and the players' association and shared by the Associated Press.

Cruz
With service time at the end of the 2013 season at two years, 119 days, Lynn just fell short of qualification. At two years, 105 days, Cardinals catcher Tony Cruz also missed the arbitration cutoff - by 17 days.

Instead of a marked increase in salary for next season via this process, the two will be paid at a rate set by the club, likely slightly higher than the 2014 major league minimum salary of $500,000.

The process

The collective bargaining agreement that went into place in December 2011 indicates that the top 22 per cent of Major League players by service time with at least two years but less than three years are also eligible for arbitration as long as they had at least 86 days of service time during the season. (A full season is considered 172 days.)

According to the AP, for this off-season, 28 MLB players are in that population - called "Super 2's". They join a larger group of three-to-six year service-time players already eligible for arbitration. So, in essence, the Super 2's receive four years of arbitration-governed salary before reaching free agency at six years of service.

These players almost always come to terms with their clubs on a new contract before actual arbitration hearings are held, but the increased leverage enables them to receive a considerable raise.

This year's Super 2 cutoff was down from 2 years, 139 days last winter, when Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay fell just five days short.

Potential impact

One comparable to Lynn from two winters ago is Washington's Jordan Zimmermann. He settled for a $2.3 million contract as a Super 2 for 2012. That same winter, Cleveland starter Justin Masterson came to terms for $3.825 million for 2012 as a first-time arbitration eligible player.

This past winter, then-Houston right-hander Bud Norris settled for $3 million covering his first arbitration-eligible season in 2013. Cincinnati's Mike Leake was paid $3.06 million this past season in his first year of eligibility. Lynn could argue his accomplishments have been greater than either – but he will not get the chance for another year.

From the team's benefit, beyond the obvious expense savings for 2014, Lynn's lower salary could increase his appeal to potential trade partners. While it is not known if Lynn will be on the block this winter, it is no secret that the club has pressing needs up the middle which a pitching surplus might be used to address.

As a reserve catcher with limited playing time, Cruz' potential increase would have been much more modest than Lynn's.

Other St. Louis arbitration-eligibles

Currently active Cardinals with between three and six years of service who will be arbitration-eligible this winter include two repeaters - John Axford, a Super 2 last year with Milwaukee, and David Freese - plus two first-timers in Daniel Descalso and Jay.

Had they not already signed multi-year contracts prior, Allen Craig, Jaime Garcia and Jason Motte would also be among the three-to-six year group. Instead, the Cardinals chose to head off this process by locking up these key players early.

At the other end of the spectrum, another way teams can avoid arbitration with any eligible player is by cutting ties with him. The approach is called non-tendering a player - failing to offer him a contract for the next season by the December 2 deadline. In doing so, the club would be making the player a free agent.

One other arbitration-eligible player with St. Louis may be in the non-tender at-risk group - if kept on the 40-man and unless he comes to terms with the organization on a 2014 contract prior. Catcher Rob Johnson, added to the 40-man roster in July but inactive in the post-season, already had over three years of major league service before joining the Cardinals organization.

Update: Though not on the post-season roster, reliever Fernando Salas also accrued enough service time to be arbitration-eligible. However, given his limited success the last two seasons, his salary should be low, even if the organization decides to keep him.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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