With the St. Louis Cardinals recalling Kolten Wong on Wednesday, it brings up the question of when might the parent club make the move to slide Oscar Taveras into their lineup? Right now, the Cardinals are perfectly satisfied with letting Taveras enhance his skills in the outfield and get more at-bats under his belt to make up for the lost time from last year’s ankle injury. It seems that their preference would be for him to be able to play center field once he comes up before he eventually has to move to a corner outfield spot, as his body eventually outgrows the position. Given the fact that Taveras has a .307 batting average and 5 home runs that add up to an .867 OPS and the parent club has struggled offensively so far in the outfield, we have to wonder how much longer they can wait.
For a good estimate on when Taveras goes from being a prospect to being a major leaguer we need to look at service time; more specifically, what date he would not qualify for “Super 2″ status. Players who have at least three years, but fewer than six, of Major League service time, are eligible to file for arbitration. In addition, there are the so-called “Super Two” players. These are the top 22 percent of players, based on service time, with at least two but fewer than three years of service. The Cardinals are concerned with this date because it could mean millions of dollars saved by avoiding that one year of arbitration if Taveras plays as they expect.
One example in previous years can be found in 2007 when the Giants called up Tim Lincecum on May 6th and the Brewers brought up Ryan Braun on May 25th. Jonathon Mayo of MLB.com sums up what happened next:
“Jump forward three years and Lincecum, following back-to-back Cy Young Awards, is now making $9 million a year as part of a two-year, $23 million extension, after making $650,000 in 2009. Ryan Braun went from $1,032,500 in 2009 to $1,287,500 as part of the eight-year extension he signed in 2008…In short, if a team calls up a player early — such as Lincecum in 2007 — and that player sticks in the Majors, he will be eligible for arbitration after his second full season. Lincecum would have been due a huge raise in arbitration prior to this season, two-plus years after coming up. Lincecum’s camp had filed an arbitration request for $13 million, and there’s a reasonable chance he would have gotten it. So the Giants signed him to the extension to buy out his next two arbitration years.”
Given that the rules required players to be in the top 17% in 2007, compared to the 22% now, we should expect to see Oscar roaming center sometime around late June or early July. The big question to be asked given the way teams are locking up their best players earlier than ever, has to be is it worth it? Until then, we get to continue watching one of the top prospects in baseball hone his skills in Memphis as the Cardinals offense continues to struggle.