With reports circulating regarding a possible call up of the top Cubs prospect Anthony Rizzo from Class AAA Iowa, I decided to look at his service time and how that will factor into the team's decision regarding when to promote him to the big leagues.
Rizzo is having his second consecutive banner year in the minor leagues but last season when he received a promotion to the San Diego Padres he struggled mightily hitting just .141 with 46 strikeouts in 128 at-bats and eventually ended up back in the minor leagues and being traded to the Cubs in the Andrew Cashner deal.
While I understand the interest in seeing the Cubs move incumbent starting first baseman Bryan LaHair to left field and starting Rizzo at first base while rebuilding a struggling team it is important to look at the service time rules as it affects free agency and how it will affect Rizzo. A player receives free agency after six full seasons in the major leagues. There are 183 days of service time possible in a big league season and a player is required to have 172 days to count as a full season. Rizzo accumulated 68 days of service time in 2011 which means he needs 104 days this season to achieve a full year in the big leagues. However, if the Cubs keep him in the minor leagues long enough this season he will fall short of a full year by a few days which prevents him from reaching free agency until after the 2018 season. The date that the Cubs should have circled on their calendars is June 23rd because if Rizzo is not on the big league roster before then he will not have enough days left in the season to reach 172 days.
Now could the Cubs promote him in early June to use him in some interleague games when the team will need another bat in the lineup because of the DH? Sure, but if they do they will need to send him back down to make sure he does not have the necessary 104 days. To some that may not seem like a big deal but when you have a player with the potential impact of Rizzo it is imperative that the Cubs do all they can to hang onto an asset as long as possible. Why rush to call him up now when the team is as bad as it is and you gain nothing and you move him towards free agency and a potentially huge payday one year earlier than is necessary?
Some pundits have wondered about Rizzo and his Super Two arbitration status but for him to miss out on a year of arbitration would require the Cubs to keep him in the minor leagues until late July at the earliest and that is not something that I see happening. Free agency is one thing to keep an eye on but in this case the Cubs are not concerned with his arbitration status and if he plays as well as they hope, they will not have a problem paying him.