As is usual for this time of year, the Super Two deadline is a major topic of conversation. This has been especially important for the Pirates the last few years, as the fact that they’re in contention has made decisions about the merits of early callups and the cost of said callups viable topics of conversation. I’m not here to argue for the Pirates calling anyone up before the deadline, as clearly isn’t a legitimate strategy for a small market team and no matter how much the public and press clamor for it, they aren’t going to give in. For those not familiar, Super Two is a deadline in early June in which players won't have enough service time to qualify for arbitration a year earlier than usual. There's a good primer on it at Fangraphs, so I won’t rehash the details here, but will instead look at how this affects the Pirates both in terms of decision making based on the current rules and why those rules are bollocks.
The Pirates clearly have some issues with their pitching at the Major League level. But look at these pitching lines for the season so far for Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow in AAA Indianapolis:
Those are outstanding numbers, the numbers of guys who have nothing left to prove in the minors. Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon are obviously candidates for promotion (although the rest of the AAA rotation hasn’t been filled with slouches, either), yet they’re languishing in the minors for about another month-plus until the Super Two deadline passes.
This has nothing to do with the time that a team controls a certain player, but simply the amount of money that player makes before becoming a free agent. While this functions as a way for teams to control the cost of their players, it’s effectively a tax on the smaller market teams in the league; either shell out a bunch of extra money to have players in the Big Leagues earlier in the season or don’t promote your guys until after the deadline. The problem with this is that teams like the Cubs can promote their players whenever needed because they aren’t particularly concerned about the additional cost, whereas teams like the Pirates can’t afford to do this and unnecessarily hold players down in the minors until the deadline passes.
That brings us back to the Pirates this year. The pitching at the Major League level could clearly use an upgrade; calling Glasnow and Taillon could allow Juan Nicasio and either Jeff Locke or Niese to be moved to the bullpen to replace some of the lesser used arms there; a future injury to a starter would force the Pirates’ hand here as well. Overall, this would be a big upgrade for the Pirates. Rather than do this, though, the team is going to muddle through the next month and seemingly just hope things work out and they aren’t impossibly behind in the standings.
This is really frustrating. Glasnow and Taillon both have nothing left to prove in the minors and clearly deserve their shot in Pittsburgh. Furthermore, they can help the Pirates win right now, which is huge when you consider the type of race for a playoff spot the Pirates are going to find themselves in. You can make arguments both ways about whether having the money is worth it or having the perceived upgrade of either of these guys (or both) in the rotation right now, but the Pirates always fall on the side of saving money.
I understand the Pirates’ rationale and I’m not upset with them; I’m more upset that this stupid rule exists. The Super Two rule is basically making the Pirates put inferior players on the field for the first two months of the season in order to save money at the cost of winning a few games. This is a bad rule that’s bad for business and hopefully it’s addressed in the next CBA in a way that makes it more fair for the smaller market teams. Getting the best players on the field should always be the goal. MLB loves to tout the parity that the league has; getting rid of the Super Two rule would help to further that parity and put a better product on the field.