Minnesota Twins: Breaking down Service Time and its Impact for the Twins

Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins fields during game one of the Wild Card Series (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins fields during game one of the Wild Card Series (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

Service time and arbitration can be a very confusing process. We break down terms to know and how they effect the Minnesota Twins.

Major League Baseball is one of the most confusing sports to follow sometimes, as terms like service time and arbitration often make baseball very confusing. We break down these terms and add some players who fall into each category for the Minnesota Twins

In all cases, a player’s service time determines how much leverage they have or a team has over them. Service time is accumulated when a player is on an active MLB 26 man roster. A player must be on the 40 man roster to be added to the 26 man.

To take a look at service time, we’re going to break down players into three categories: Pre-arbitration/option players, arbitration eligible players, free agency players and then take a look at the pros and cons of both. Here we go.

Minnesota Twins Group One: Pre-Arbitration/Option Players:

Twins Examples: Willians Astudillo and Alex Kirilloff

Players with less than 3 years of service time fall into this category. They’re property of the MLB team that signed them up to 3 years of MLB service time unless they’re released by the parent club or picked up by another club in the Rule 5 draft after 4 or 5 years in the minors.


  • Can be sent back and forth from the minors with out worrying about being picked up by other teams.
  • These players are relatively inexpensive and are only guaranteed the MLB minimum salary, which is currently about $560K. In the case of a talented player the MLB club would want to be cautious not to underpay them to burn later bridges.
  • Can be valuable as role players, offering depth to a team.


  • Teams will often times off wait on calling up the most talented players until they know they have a strong role for them to keep control of their options.
  • Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff are good examples. Both may have more talent than a roster player, but the Twins may hold off on calling them up to save on starting their service time clock until they’re ready to be a contributing starter to save money.
  • The player hasn’t proven themselves at the MLB level and often doesn’t get a lot of opportunity to do so.

A player with modest talent can also find themselves in this role. This can be a curse or blessing. If we look at Astudillo, this is a nice role for him. He is a versatile, but lacking a lot of talent, has options, and is a great team mate, perfect to be kept in pre-arbitration.

Once he reaches his arbitration years, will a team pay him more money for his services? That remains to be seen, but for a player like La Tortuga, pre-arbitration can be a comfortable spot of employment.

Alex Kirrilloff on the other hand has shown talent and is looking to be the starting left fielder. He appears to be ready and his salary around the MLB minimum will save a ton of money, which is a reason they didn’t offer a contract to Eddie Rosario.

Minnesota Twins Group Two: Arbitration Players

Twins Example: Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton

These players are going into their 4th year of service or more and have less than 7 seven years of experience. Arbitration means an impartial 3rd party can determine if the team is offering a fair contract based on past performance.

There’s rules to the process that benefit the player and team. The team that originally signed the player gets the opportunity to offer a contract to their player. If they do not, that player becomes eligible to other teams.


  • They’re generally not as expensive as free agents
  • Good players will get their money guaranteed


  • This player is no longer able to be optioned back to the minor leagues without clearing waivers, so the MLB team may lose that player
  • Negotiations can get contentious as a player usually wants more $$ and the team wants to offer less

Byron Buxton is a player who is now in his 2nd year of being arbitration eligible and was in line for a bigger payday. It would be foolish for Minnesota not to offer a contract.  The Twins made a strong offer of $5.125 million (up from $3.075) for 1 year and he accepted without bringing the case to an arbitrator. Had the Twins tried to low ball Buxton, he could have asked for arbitration.

Rosario on the other hand was/is looking for likely $9-11million. His past performance would likely dictate such a deal from an arbitrator. The Twins decided they didn’t wanted to commit, releasing him rather than offering any contract. The Twins had unsuccessfully tried to trade him earlier, but teams knew he’d be available.

Some players in this category may sign a 2 way-split contract. This is a contract that pays the player their MLB salary only when they’re on the MLB 26 man roster and is pro-rated if they get sent to the minors. Arbitration players on split contracts must still clear waivers.

Minnesota Twins Group Three: Free Agency/Veteran Players:

Twins Example: Nelson Cruz and Trevor May

These players are going into their 8th year of service or more. They’re free to negotiate for as much money as they can garner from any and all MLB teams who compete for their services.


  • The player has generally proven themselves at the MLB level
  • They’re generally the leaders or superstars of the team
  • Once a good player reaches free agency they looked to get paid as teams outbid each other, generally they’re in line for a big pay raise. Trevor May chose familiarity elsewhere as he cashed in with the Mets.


  • The most expensive players on a roster. All their money is generally guaranteed, eating up a lot of a teams payroll.
  • Player can refuse a trade or any minor league assignment depending on contract.
  • An under-performing veteran can be quite costly both on and off the field.

Nelson Cruz had an offer from the Twins to sign but he decided to wait until the National League decides if they’re going to instate the permanent DH rule. If they do, that would be for good him as more teams can compete for him. Free agent veterans have that ability.

The Minnesota Twins have made some early moves in the off season and it remains to be seen who will all stay and go. I look for the Twins to add another starter to go along with their rotation. The bull pen will also need to be shored up as well. So begins the hot stove action of the winter!! Hopefully you have a bit of a clearer picture.

Next. Minnesota Twins: Why GM Thad Levine decided against leaving Minnesota. dark