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Arbitration Savings

After Will Ohman was put on the disabled list, it seemed logical that Blake Dewitt would get recalled from AAA Albuquerque. Instead, A.J. Ellis got the call, putting three catchers on the 25-man roster. One reason for this is probably that the Dodgers don't want to take away at bats from Dewitt. But another reaason could be the salary arbitration savings if Dewitt were to remain on the major league club.  Arbitration was the process by which Russell Martin, Andre Ethier, and Jonathan Broxton all saw huge jumps in their pay during this last offseason.

When a player gets called up to the majors, their service time clock begins to run. Once they have six years of service time in the major leagues, they can become a free agent. Of course, if they get sent back to the minors, the clock stops for the time being. For a player's first three years in the majors they make the major league minimum salary (or close to it), but once they have three years of service time they can file for arbitration and thereby increase their salary. For the next three years their salary jumps until they finally reach free agency. There is also Super Two eligibility, which grants players in the top 17% of service time under three years arbitration as well. These players get four years of arbitration instead of three.  A full season of service is 172 days, and players with 2 years of service and close to 3 years end up getting Super Two status. This nearly always ends up being players with 2 years and 130 days of service or more.

At this point in the season, we are just passing the point where there is no longer 130 days left in the season. This means that teams can call up their top prospects and not fear that they will get Super Two status, giving them an extra year of arbitration and consequently costing the team millions of dollars. We've seen Matt Weiters, the Orioles top catching prospect finally got called up, and this was the reason why. In the next few weeks we can expect to see a few other top prospects called up as teams now know they can get three years of service at the minimum salary out of them.

Which brings us to Blake Dewitt. Dewitt ended last year with 150 days of service and has been in the major leagues for 25 days so far this year, so he currently has 1 year and 3 days of service time. There are currently 126 days left in the season, so today marks the first time that Dewitt can be called up and remain indefinitely in the major leagues without likely qualifying for Super Two Status (he would only end up with 1 year and 129 days of service). This means that Dewitt will not be arbitration eligible until at least the 2012 season. It may not matter much right now, but he could end up being a starter as soon as next year. It would be nice to have a starter making the minimum as other young Dodgers see their salaries increase.

Russell Martin, Andre Ethier, and Jonathan Broxton will all be arbitration eligible again next year. On top of that, Chad Billingsley, Matt Kemp, James Loney, and Hong-Chih Kuo will all be eligible for arbitration for the first time in their careers. All these pay increases will probably add $15-20 million onto the Dodger payroll, making up for the expiring contracts of Jason Schmidt, Randy Wolf, Guillermo Mota, etc. Luckily, these young players are all still under team control for three more years (with the exception of Broxton, who is only under control for two). It will be important to start locking up some of them to long term deals in the near future, both for the payroll relief and to ensure that we are able to keep most of them.

The next wave of players is in the same boat as Blake Dewitt, they'll have at least one year of service time after 2009 but won't end up receiving Super Two status. This includes Dewitt, Clayton Kershaw, Ramon Troncoso, and Ronald Belisario. These players will make the major league minimum until 2012.

After them there are tweeners like James McDonald (67 days of service), Chin-lung Hu (131 days), Scott Elbert (44 days), Brent Leach (31 days), Xavier Paul (26 days), and Jaime Hoffmann (11 days). The last four in the group would need to stay up for most of the rest of the year just to get to one year of service time. So they will likely make the league minimum salary for at least four more years. James McDonald could end up with a year of service time, but his recent demotion to the minors makes it unlikely. Chin-lung Hu would just need to get called up before September.

Finally we have the players who have not yet been called up to the majors but could end up being important pieces of the Dodgers' future, players like Josh Lindblom, Ivan Dejesus, and Andrew Lambo. All of these players could be called up for the rest of the year and stick with the major league club and still not be arbitration eligible until 2013. In the event that they are not in the majors full time next year it could be even longer until they get to arbitration. All of these players can be safely called up at this point without having to worry about them wasting their cost controlled years. Of course, with the team rolling right now it's better to having them honing their skills in the minors anyway.