What is service time in MLB and how does it work?

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MLB service time is a tricky topic for some fans. But it's one of those topics that is so important to young players and the teams paying those athletes. Unfortunately, it can be manipulated to benefit the teams. If players can stick around for a while, they can make the most of it.

Service time is earned for each day spent on the 26-man roster or the MLB injured list. Each regular season consists of 187 days, and each day spent on the active roster or injured list earns a player one day of service time. Service time is used to determine eligibility for arbitration and free agency.

A player who violates the league's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program does not receive service time during his suspension unless it is reduced by 20 or more games under the mitigation provision of the program.

What is service time in MLB as defined by the CBA?

A player reaches a year of Major League service when they've accrued 172 days in a year. When the player reaches six years of Major League service, they become eligible for free agency at the end of that season unless they have signed a contract extension covering one or more free-agent seasons.

Players who reach between three to six years of Major League service time become eligible for salary arbitration. This means the player can earn a raise similar to a Major League minimum salary.

MLB identifies a group of players that ended the prior season with between two and three years of service and at least 86 days of Major League service in that season. The league designates the top 22 percent as arbitration-eligible.

Those in the top 22 percent are known as Super Two players and are eligible for salary arbitration despite having less than three years of Major League service. The 2022-26 collective bargaining agreement established a $50 million bonus pool for pre-arbitration players.

Service time is also a factor for players further along in their careers. Players with at least ten years of service, having spent the past five consecutive seasons with the same team, earn 10-and-5 rights. This means a player can veto any trade scenario proposed. The 10-and-5 rights are a full no-trade clause.

It may seem confusing, but it is crucial for talented young players looking to enter their service time as quickly as possible. It's also essential for owners who want to manipulate the player's time to maximize the service time for the team's benefit deeper into the player's service time.