Because MLB’s math works a little differently.
To qualify as a rookie for MLB purposes, a player cannot have more than 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched or 45 non-September days of service time on the active roster total in previous seasons.
Mike Trout would seem to have none of those things. He finished 2011 with 123 at-bats and 38 non-September days on the Angels’ active roster.
Trout’s rookie status, however, will be a casualty of one of MLB’s most obscure transaction rules. Trout’s midsummer demotion last year lasted 17 days, which is short of the 20 days MLB requires for the demotion not to count against service time.
So while Trout only spent those 38 days on the active roster, he’ll be credited with an extra 17 days of service time, which, for these purposes, is counted as being the same thing.
Hopefully, MLB will look at its rookie rules one of these years and clarify them. This technicality shouldn’t be held against Trout. The league could also tweak it so that the position player cutoff is based on plate appearances, rather than at-bats, and so that a reliever called up right after the All-Star break who pitches 30-40 innings doesn’t qualify as a rookie the next year.
But there’s also a bigger concern for the Angels here. Instead of having 66 days of service time (the original 38 plus the 28 days in September), Trout now has 83 days. That’s not going to be an issue for arbitration and free agency if Trout opens 2012 in the majors and goes on to establish himself as a star, but it could if the team follows through with its plan to have Trout begin the season in the minors.
Hat tip to the Orange County Register’s Sam Miller, who has the official word from MLB over on his blog.
The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.
The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.
For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.
The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.
St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.
The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.
Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?
Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.