They are Skip Schumaker with Major League service time of 3.051 and Ryan Ludwick at 4.109 (years.days). It is the second baseman's first time eligible while the outfielder is in his second year in the process.
Brad Thompson would have joined them had he not been released recently; same with traded and now-free agent Chris Duncan. In addition, Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer have graduated to free agency after having been members of this group last winter.
Based on service time, both Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright would have been among this subset had they not previously signed multi-year contracts that cover their remaining eligible years prior to free agency.
No StL Super Twos
Another segment of players across MLB also qualify for arbitration. They are the top 17 percent of players with the most service time from those with at least two and fewer than three years of service time.
Of the 18 "Super Twos" across MLB this year, none are from St. Louis. This year, the 17 percent line was drawn at two years, 139 days. Duncan was the Cardinals' most recent Super Two at 2.144 last winter.
The closest Cardinals player to Super Two eligibility is Josh Kinney, who came into the 2009 season with 2.058 service time, most of which had been accrued while on the disabled list. Kinney added approximately 48 days this past season, not enough to reach the Super Two cutoff.
As such, that may have actually prolonged the reliever's Cardinals career, as he would have been a prime candidate to be non-tendered had he become arbitration-eligible due to his uneven mound results.
Schumaker and Ludwick tendered contracts
The Cardinals could have avoided arbitration and the large raises expected for Schumaker and/or Ludwick by non-tendering them, or not offering them a contract for next season. That due date was Saturday, December 12. Given both are valuable starters, being non-tendered seemed most unlikely and did not occur.
There were rumors that non-tenders would be up across MLB this winter as clubs tighten their fiscal belts, potentially offering the Cardinals another group of free agents from which to choose. Non-tendered players generate no draft pick compensation for their former club.
Examples of some of the 39 players cut loose, up from 35 last year, include Kelly Johnson from Atlanta, Garrett Atkins from Colorado, Gabe Gross of Tampa Bay, Jonny Gomes of Cincinnati, Matt Capps from Pittsburgh, Chien-Ming Wang of the Yankees, Jack Cust of Oakland, former Cardinal Mark Worrell from San Diego and more.
Recent Cardinals non-tender history
This route can offer bargains at times. For example, several years back, St. Louis added David Eckstein in this manner after he was non-tendered by the Angels.
Last winter, the Cardinals cut loose three arbitration-eligible players, relievers Randy Flores and Tyler Johnson plus infielder Aaron Miles. Flores subsequently signed with Colorado and Johnson with Seattle. The Cardinals made a late bid to get Miles back, but he went to the Cubs instead.
None of the five remaining eligible players last year reached their potential February arbitration hearing, though Ankiel and Ludwick were each within a few days before coming to their respective agreements. The other three, Wellemeyer, Duncan and Thompson, previously signed in January.
Key dates for Schumaker and Ludwick
December 12 - Last day for teams to offer 2010 contracts to unsigned players.
January 5-15 - Salary arbitration filing.
January 19 - Salary arbitration figures exchanged.
February 1-21 - Salary arbitration hearings.
As the filing dates near, I will be back with my annual predictions on what amounts the players and club might request in preparation for possible arbitration hearings.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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