Of the many questions that have been asked during a whirlwind Wednesday that saw three significant roster moves, perhaps the most pertinent question is why did the Braves wait until now to bring up Tommy Hanson?
The franchise's number one prospect blew away the competition in the Arizona Fall League, in spring training and so far in AAA Gwinnett. Many felt he was ready to start the season in the bigs, despite having never pitched above AA ball.
So why wait? Cole Hamels and James Shields provide some clarity.
Baseball players are eligible for salary arbitration after three years with one notable exception. Baseball has a rule for players known as "Super Twos." Super Twos come from the group of players who have between two and three years service time and at least 86 days service time the previous year.
The 17 percent of those players with the most service time become Super Twos.
No player has had less than two years, 130 days of Major League service time and been awarded Super Two status. I know it's all confusing, so what does it mean and what does it have to do with Cole Hamels and James Shields?
Both players made their debuts in 2006. In that time, Hamels has made 93 starts, Shields 96. Hamels has a slight edge statistically speaking, but it's pretty even considering there is better offense in the American League and Hamels has played on a better team (in terms of wins and losses).
So why does it matter? Hamels made his debut on May 12. Shields made his debut his on May 31. The cut-off for the two year and 130 day mark comes around the end of May. Hamels was declared a Super Two, Shields was not. So why is that important?
The Rays had tremendous foresight and signed Shields to a four year, $11.25 million contract in 2008, two years before he would become arbitration eligible. The Phillies weren't able to get such a deal done prior to Hamels' arbitration year and they almost ended up in arbitration.
Arbitration would have netted Hamels somewhere around $11 million a season, which was roughly the going rate for a front line starter in arbitration. Philadelphia was able to hammer out a last minute deal with Hamels that came in at three years, $20.5 million.
So to recap, similar number of starts, comparable stats, but one makes twice as much as the other. It's all because of the fluky rule.
By delaying Hanson's debut until now, he won't be arbitration eligible until after the 2012 season. The Braves could lock him up to a long term deal beforehand, or get him cheaply for three years and pony up in arbitration after that.
Does that justify what Atlanta did on Wednesday or how they went about doing it? I don't know, that's for you to decide. However, the answer as to why they waited until now to bring up Tommy Hanson, well it's all about the Benjamins.