Nothing went right for the Nationals once the game started yesterday, but one thing that happened before first pitch was perfect: The Nationals called up top prospect Anthony Rendon on the precise day that gives them a chance to maximize his ability this season while not losing a year of his service before he becomes eligible for free agency.
In baseball’s esoteric collective bargaining agreement, there is always a long-winded explanation. As we move through the version of how service time rules pertain to Rendon’s call-up, keep in mind three particulars.
1. By Sunday morning, exactly 20 days had expired since opening day.
2. All players must accumulate six full seasons of service to become eligible for free agency.
3. Rendon signed a major league contract worth $7.2 million out of the 2011 draft, but that big league deal does not affect his service time. His first day was yesterday.
While all players need six major league seasons before free agency, there is a sliding scale for constitutes a full season. A player who starts the season in the minors and not on the 40-man roster can spend the first 12 days of the season in the minors, get called up and not have that season count toward his free agency status. A player who starts the season in the minors, but who is also on the 40-man roster, would have needed to miss the first 20 days of the season to delay free agency by a year.
By virtue of his big league deal, Rendon was on the 40-man roster. When the Nationals called him up, he had spent – you guessed it – 20 days in the minors.