One of the benefits of growing your own talent is getting 3 years of quality production at or near the league minimum. Joel Zumaya was a bargain in 2006. In 2007 he didn’t cost the team much, but he didn’t contribute a whole lot either due to the exploding finger. In 2008 he figures to again be affordable, but not particularly productive for a big chunk of the season. Therein lies the problem. The Tigers and Zumaya are poised to waste a good portion of his pre-arb years on the DL.
As a general rule, players become arbitration eligible after 3 years of service time. There’s another caveat where the top 17% (based on days of service) of those players with more than 2, but less than 3 years of time are also eligible. These players are called Super 2’s. Last year the cutoff was 2 years and 131 days of service.
I bring this up because Joel Zumaya is a lock to miss at least two months of the season, or at least 60 days. Which means he’s a near lock to not actually be able to contribute enough days to equate to a Super 2. Zumaya still has 3 options left, never having used one. If the Tigers were to option Zumaya to Toledo for the duration of his DL stint they could delay arbitration by a season.
Now last year when the team had a full 40 man roster, it was advantageous to keep Zumaya on big league roster and place him on the 60 day DL freeing up a spot on the 40 man. It’s why Tony Giarratano was placed on the 60 day DL last year. This year the team has several spots open thanks to THE TRADE and it’s not a consideration.
Now the downside of this type of tactic is that it can be perceived as a jerk move by the player. You not only cut into his earnings in the current season, but it also pushes back his big payday a year. Also, the general impression is that the organization tends to take care of its players. Certainly an image worth maintaining when your ace is about to get more expensive and you’re trying to lock up one of the game’s preeminent hitters long term. Still, from an immediate pure dollars and sense standpoint it does warrant some consideration.