Major League Baseball salaries are a complicated beast, and there are ample clauses embedded within the salary scale that make estimating how much players will earn while under team control difficult, to say the least. Possibly the single most hard-to-pinpoint aspect is the Super Two cutoff/designation, the clause that states that the top 22% of MLB players who have between two and three years of service time can be eligible to opt-in to arbitration four times, not just three times.
(For instance, Zack Cozart wasn't a Super Two because the Reds delayed calling him up in 2011, meaning he had the usual three years of team control before being arbitration eligible - all making roughly the league minimum - before seeing significant raises in each of 2015 and 2016. The 2017 season - his sixth and final year of team control with the Reds - will feature another raise in his final arbitration year before he reaches free agency.)
The one player the Cincinnati Reds may well have been nervous about in regards to Super Two status was one that didn't even creep onto their radar until late in the Spring: pitcher Dan Straily, who the team claimed off waivers from the San Diego Padres just prior to the start of the 2016 season. Straily began 2016 with 1 year and 126 days of service time to his name, and after spending the entire season with the big league Reds sits with 2 years and 126 days of service time on his ledger. That was enough for MLB Trade Rumors to initially estimate that he'd be a part of the 22% of big leaguers to qualify for Super Two status prior to the 2017 season, meaning he and his agent would be able to leverage his breakout 4.3 bWAR campaign against the Reds' front office in an effort to land a significant raise from the roughly $512,000 he made in 2016.
How big of a raise? Well, MLBTR initially estimated he'd make some $3.9 million as an arb-eligible player for the 2017 season, guessing that his 2.126 years of service time would just cross their conservative, arbitrary threshold of 2.125 years needed to qualify. However, after sifting through piles of more precise data, their own Tim Dierkes landed on a much more vetted estimate that between 2.127 and 2.131 years of service time would be needed to qualify as a Super Two, which would mean Straily would miss the cut by the most narrow of margins possible: just a single day.
How big of an impact will that have on the Reds? It's easy to say that the projected payroll for 2017 will contain significantly more wiggle room than the record-breaking numbers from the 2013 and 2014 seasons, thanks to the purge and rebuild and whatnot. Still, if Straily isn't eligible for arbitration, he'll make something very close to the $512,000 he made this year - a far cry from the $3.9 million estimate should he actually make the cut. That's an easy $3.4 million on the front end, but considering arbitration year salaries are benchmarked on previous year earnings, there's a snowball effect that won't be able to build for another season, which means that many more potential millions will be saved should Straily's production continue to warrant being tendered a contract.
That's a large potential windfall, especially considering the team hadn't even had to think about paying him at all until 7 months ago. It's a full-season salary for Skip Schumaker or Burke Badenhop, if you're into vomit-inducing comparisons. Of course, from Straily's perspective, it takes away what could be a life-altering amount of money just months after being on the proverbial scrap-heap, which makes humainzes the fickle nature in quite a large way.
We'll continue to track how this plays out, since it's clear whichever way the decision turns will have more than just a passing impact on the bottom line.