There has been some fretting about whether the Pirates' core of Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez might become Super Two-eligible, even though the Pirates seem to have tried their best to time their promotions so they would fall after the phantom Super Two cutoff date.
Previous to this year, two years and 130 days of service time was the lowest needed for Super Two, but the 2011 date has unexpectedly come in at only two years 122 days. If the same thing happens in 2012, McCutchen will be due for a big raise, which could seriously affect the Pirates' ability to sign him to a reasonable extension, especially if he goes crazy and puts up a 5+ WAR year.
The prevailing thought by many has been that the Super Two date has been creeping later due to teams like the Pirates that have tried to manage their players arbitration dates by calling them up after the third week in May.
However, I have taken a closer look at the numbers, and I'm happy to say that this fear is probably ill-founded.
Most likely, this year's Super Two date is an anomaly that will not repeat itself next year and is not in immediate danger of creeping towards July. Here's why ...
Why The Earlier Super Two Date Is Not A Trend
It is very rare for a Super Two player to be a midseason call up, and then play straight through the next 2+ years in MLB to become a Super Two. In fact, the number of players who did that to become 2010 Super Twos and the number who did it to become 2011 Super Twos was exactly the same. There was only one each year!
Although there are some players affected by teams attempting to manage the arb dates of their players, there is a far greater number of players who are not being held back for this. Even the Pirates have not cared about Super Two status for players like Steve Pearce and Neil Walker, who likely will both be Super Twos. It is generally players whose teams did not care too much if they became Super Twos who are the ones who make up the vast majority of the Super Twos.
Look at how few players got their Super Two service time in only three seasons:
2011 Super Two Players
Burke Badenhop, Florida 2.143 (3 seasons)
Travis Buck, Oakland 2.122 (4 seasons)
Jay Bruce, Cincinnati 2.125 (3 seasons)
Dana Eveland, Pittsburgh (outrighted) 2.152 (6 seasons)
Josh Fields, Kansas City 2.159 (5 seasons)
Armando Galarraga, Detroit 2.148 (4 seasons)
Alberto Gonzalez, Washington 2.135 (4 seasons)
Chase Headley, San Diego 2.123 (4 seasons)
Luke Hochevar, Kansas City 2.151 (4 seasons)
Jim Johnson, Baltimore 2.165 (5 seasons)
Kyle Kendrick, Philadelphia 2.159 (4 seasons)
Jensen Lewis, Cleveland 2.133 (4 seasons)
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay 2.170 (3 seasons)
Darren O'Day, Texas 2.128 (3 seasons)
Ross Ohlendorf, Pittsburgh 2.139 (4 seasons)
Felipe Paulino, Houston 2.163 (4 seasons)
Chris Perez, Cleveland 2.136 (3 seasons)
Ian Stewart, Colorado 2.154 (4 seasons)
Sean White, Seattle 2.156 (3 seasons)
Brad Ziegler, Oakland 2.122 (3 seasons)
Of the Super Twos for 2011, only Jay Bruce was a midseason call up from mid-May onward, and was never sent back to the minors.
2010 Super Two Players
Matt Albers, Orioles 2.141 (4 seasons)
Mike Fontenot, Cubs 2.139 (4 seasons)
Tom Gorzelanny, Cubs 2.160 (5 seasons)
Jared Burton, Reds 2.165 (3 seasons)
Nick Masset, Reds 2.146 (4 seasons)
Rafael Perez, Indians 2.157 (4 seasons)
Jason Hammel, Rockies 2.153 (4 seasons)
Hunter Pence, Astros 2.156 (3 seasons)
Alex Gordon, Royals 2.162 (3 seasons)
Carlos Gomez, Brewers 2.141 (3 seasons)
Rajai Davis, A's 2.167 (4 seasons)
Joey Devine, A's 2.171 (4 seasons)
Tim Lincecum, Giants 2.148 (3 seasons)
Brian Wilson, Giants 2.169 (4 seasons)
Matt Garza, Rays 2.149 (4 seasons)
Dustin Nippert, Rangers 2.140 (5 seasons)
Jesus Flores, Nationals 2.158 (3 seasons)
Of the Super Twos for 2010, only Carlos Gomez was a midseason call up from mid May onward, and was never sent back to the minors.
I have only analyzed two years in depth here, but I think it's pretty clear that the jump from 139 surplus days in 2010 to 122 surplus days in 2011 was not due to players being held back in an attempt to avoid Super Two. If it were, we would see an increase in those who were midseason call ups being granted Super Two status, and we haven't seen that at all.
It looks like that there just happened to be a smaller percentage than usual of the "non-held-back" group whose surplus time was over the usual 135 day mark.
Cutch, Jose and Pedro are probably safe from Super Two status, assuming there still is such a thing after the current CBA expires after the 2011 season.