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How to count service time for Tigers’ brightest prospects in 2020

Here’s how rules for 2020 impact young stars’ service time

Detroit Tigers Summer Workouts Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers begin the 2020 baseball season coming off three consecutive years where they averaged 103 losses per season, and the only bright spots bringing a ray of hope for the future are their young prospects, who are slated to begin the season in Toledo. There is much speculation about whether the club might call up some of their young stars during the abbreviated 60 game campaign this summer.

In addition to whether the club believes th players are ready for major league competition, here are the factors that have to be considered when deciding whether to call a player up to the major leagues.

Prorated Service time in 2020

Under the terms of the agreement reached between major league owners and players on March 27, 2020, players will receive service time on a prorated basis for the 2020 season, assuming the season is not cancelled. That means that a player will receive 2.8 days of major league service for every day that they are on the (26 to 30 man) major league roster. A player who is in the major leagues for the full 60 game season will receive one season of service time.

The formula: (No of days on MLB roster x 186) / 66 = credited service time in 2020

A player who is on the major league roster for 30 days will receive 30 x 186/ 66 = 85 days service time.

Free agent eligibility

For purposes of free agency, players need six full seasons of major league service under the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement. 172 days counts as a full season, so a player would need to spend less than a week of the season in the minors to delay free agency another season if they stick in the major leagues.

Arbitration eligibility

For arbitration purposes, players need at least two years plus 120 days- or more- to be arbitration eligible as a super two player. The threshold has been as high as two years plus 140 days, but teams generally prefer to err on the side of caution. If a player were to spend 25 days in Toledo, until mid August, that should be enough to delay his arbitration clock until he has three seasons in the major leagues. These service clocks are subject to stopping and starting as players are sent down and recalled to and from the minor leagues. And they are subject to any changes in the next collective bargaining agreement.


A player on the team’s 40 man roster can be optioned to the minor leagues in three different seasons without clearing waivers. Isaac Paredes, Kyle Funkhouser, Beau Burrows and Daz Cameron were added to the 40 man roster in November, and were optioned for the first time in March. The options become official once they are in the minors for at least 20 days. They can be recalled and sent down without burning another option, but they would begin to accrue service time in the major leagues.

These players being on the 40 man roster helps them, as the club would not have to put another player through waivers to call them up, as long as they are replacing a player who has options remaining. Keep an eye on how Jeimer Candelario and Dawel Lugo, who are both out of options, or Harold Castro who has options left, start out this season, and whether the Tigers will call up Paredes to playe in the infield. Burrows and Funkhouser could be given a shot before some of the top pitching prospects make their debut, particularly if there is a need for them in the bullpen. And let’s face it- there is.

Rule 5 eligibility

Matt Manning and Alex Faedo will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in the winter if they’re not added to the 40 man roster, so they could be added during this season without burning an option at least until next spring, as long as they remain on the major league roster for the remainder of the season. Since they’ll surely be added to the roster after this season, there is no downside to calling them up, other than the accelerated service time accrued.

A player who is on the major league roster for 30 days in 2020 is prorated to 85 days of service time. By itself, this is not enough to use a full season toward free agency, nor even enough to give a player a fourth season of arbitration as a super two eligible. But this time can be combined with service time in future seasons, so if the player isn’t likely to stick in the majors, a club is less likely to call him up this summer.

Rony Garcia

As a rule 5 selection, Rony Garcia must remain on the major league roster for the entire season in order to satisfy the Rule 5 requirements. If the season is shortened further due to cancellations, or if he is injured, he must spend at least 50 days on the active major league roster, not including time on the injured list, and would receive prorated time.

The players least likely to be called up are those who are not on the 40 man roster, and are not Rule 5 eligible this winter. Calling these players up would mean moving other players off the 40 man roster, starting accelerated service time for free agency and arbitration purposes and possibly burning an option this season or in the spring if the players don’t stick in the majors. We may have to wait til next year for Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal.