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Alvarez and Tabata cut, Super Two breakdown

The Pittsburgh Pirates made two waves of cuts this morning, first cutting Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Doug Bernier, and Jonathan Van Every.  They followed that up by cutting Tyler Yates, Jimmy Barthmaier, Neal Cotts, and Craig Hansen.

Alvarez and Tabata were optioned to AAA, while the rest of the players were assigned to minor league camp.  It’s likely that Bernier and Van Every will play at AAA.  The four pitchers have been rehabbing all Spring, and aren’t likely to make the start of the minor league season, so their cuts were no surprise.  The Spring Training tracker is updated.  There are now 45 players in camp, with my projections showing 25 players competing for the final five spots.  I’ve recently upgraded Delwyn Young and D.J. Carrasco to locks to make the team on the bench and bullpen.  My complete 25-man roster projection can be found here.

Dejan Kovacevic had some information on Alvarez regarding Super Two status, and when he should be expected up.  I’ve covered this before as well, but figured I’d recap it here, and add a few dates.

The first step is for Alvarez to get under 172 days of service time this season.  While the 2010 MLB season will last 183 days, an official year of service time only runs 172 days.  The simple thing to do would be count back from the final day of the season, October 3rd, until we get to 171 days of service time.  That gives us April 16th.  However, there is another thing to consider.

Alvarez will start the season on optional assignment, using his second option.  If Alvarez is called up on the 16th of April, he will have only been on optional assignment for 13 days.  Any player with less than 20 days on optional assignment in a season gets credit for service time for those days.  The player also saves their option for the season, which means Alvarez would still have two options, but for the Pirates and Alvarez, the option isn’t as important as the extra year of service time.

So in order to get Alvarez under 172 days of service time for the 2010 season, which delays his free agency from the end of the 2015 season to the end of the 2016 season, the Pirates would have to call Alvarez up no later than April 23rd.

The next thing to consider is Super Two status.  You can read all about the rules and details of Super Two status on the BUCCO Fans Wiki page.  There’s no formula for avoiding Super Two status, because there’s no way to successfully project who will be in the top 17% of playing time in Alvarez’s class after his second year of league minimum play in 2012.  So in this method, it’s best to take a “better safe than sorry” approach.

This off-season, the Super Two cutoff was 2 years and 141 days of service time.  Usually if you can keep a player under 130 days, you are safe.  Andrew McCutchen was brought up on June 4th last year, and received 123 days of service time.  In order for Alvarez to receive the same amount of service time as McCutchen, he would need to come up on June 3rd this year.  The Pirates might be safe bringing him up on May 28th, giving him 129 days of service time this season, but like I said before, it’s better safe than sorry.  One extra week in AAA in order to avoid such a high cost for Alvarez is definitely worth it.

And what’s that high price I speak of?  If a player is Super Two eligible, he replaces his third league minimum year with an extra year of arbitration.  A normal player has three league minimum years and three arbitration years.  A Super Two player has two league minimum years and four arbitration years.  Looking at the contract information section on Alvarez’s player page, we see the following breakdown:

2010: $500,000
2011: $550,000
2012: $700,000
2013: $700,000 club option

The 2013 season is the year that is affected by Super Two status.  Alvarez has a clause in which he can void the option if he is arbitration eligible.  So by avoiding Super Two status, the Pirates lock him in for $700,000 in 2013.  They also avoid an extra year of arbitration, which could really drive costs up.  Take a look at Price Fielder as an example.  Fielder was arbitration eligible for the first time in 2009.  He signed a two year, $18 M contract, covering his first two years of arbitration.  In his first year he received $6.5 M.  In his second year he received $10.5 M.  He also received a $1 M signing bonus.

If Alvarez were to reach his potential, he’d be exactly like Fielder, although hopefully not as fat and whiny, and Joe Kerrigan would probably get along with him.  So we could project an arbitration cycle like the following:

Year 1: $6.5 M
Year 2: $10.5 M
Year 3: A raise over his $10.5 M salary in Year 2, possibly $13.5 M

If Alvarez were given an extra year of arbitration, his fourth year would be a raise over the figure in year three, which could end up being more than $15 M if he becomes an impact player like Fielder.  So by avoiding Super Two status, the Pirates save a ton of money in the long run.  Before you think “Bob Nutting is cheap!”, realize that this is a practice by every major league team, and it’s simply smart business, especially for a small market team like the Pirates.

Of course, Alvarez has yet to spend a day above the AA level, which means that some time in AAA is necessary for him before he makes the jump to the majors.  If Alvarez is destroying AAA hitting in mid-May, kind of like he did with AA hitting in 2009, then the Pirates would be foolish not to wait a few weeks and avoid Super Two status.

If I had to guess, I’d say June 3rd will be when Alvarez arrives.  We might also see Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata up at the same time for the same reasons.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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