Four Nats qualify for early arbitration as Super Two players

Four Nationals players will qualify for salary arbitration this winter despite having yet to accrue three full years of major league service time because each has crossed the lower threshold used to designate each year’s so-called Super Two players. reported Saturday the cutoff for Super Two qualification this winter is 2 years, 116 days of service time. That means Ryne Harper (2 years, 135 days), Austin Voth (2 years, 127 days), Tanner Rainey (2 years, 127 days) and Andrew Stevenson (2 years, 125 days) all have spent enough time in the big leagues to qualify for arbitration and thus are due raises for 2022 beyond what they would have received had they not qualified.

In general, players with fewer than three years of service time make at or near the league minimum ($570,500 this season), with no real ability to negotiate terms with clubs. Players with at least three years but fewer than six years of service time are eligible for arbitration, which means they can negotiate terms with teams or submit salary requests to a panel of judges to make the final decision. Once a player accrues six years of service time, he becomes a free agent (unless he’s already agreed to a long-term extension).

Thumbnail image for Citizens-Bank-Park-Sidebar.jpgThe current collective bargaining agreement, though, allows for another group of players to qualify for arbitration before reaching three years in the majors. The top 22 percent of those with at least two years of service time are granted an early, extra year of arbitration as Super Two players.

The Nationals typically have one, possibly two players who fall into this category, but this is a rare case of four players qualifying. Those four join six other teammates with between three and six years of service time (Josh Bell, Joe Ross, Juan Soto, Erick Fedde, Wander Suero, Victor Robles) as arbitration-eligible this winter, and that could lead to some tougher decisions for the club in the coming days.

Teams have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. Those who aren’t tendered before the deadline immediately become free agents.

Harper, Voth, Rainey and Stevenson all figure to earn 2022 salaries in the neighborhood of $800,000 to $1 million, based on experience and performance. It’s quite possible the Nationals will decide one or more of them aren’t worth that much and non-tender them Tuesday. Fedde and Suero also could be non-tender candidates based on their struggles this season.

All of this, of course, is being decided as the clock ticks down to the expiration of the CBA at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, with a lockout by owners looking more and more likely as each day passes without news of progress toward a new deal with players. A new CBA, whenever one is signed, probably will include changes to the arbitration process, but that will come too late for the players who qualify under the current system and must learn the fates by Tuesday.

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