Congratulations are in order for 29 professional baseball players. No, not because they reached 3,000 hits or 200 wins, but because they have reached or will soon reach 10 years of Major League service time. Service time is a touchy subject when it comes to its manipulation and a tricky concept when it comes to its calculation. I will not get into many of the specifics here, but I will lay out its basic calculation and the benefits of the pension.
Take Xander Bogaerts, for example, to whom Baseball Reference attributes 9.042 years of service time as of January 1, 2023. Bogaerts has fulfilled nine complete years of service time and 42 days out of one service time year. That’s right, the fractional number is not out of some never-ending decimal, but instead out of .173, or 173 days that make up one full year of service time.
Most players on this year’s list are pretty much guaranteed to make it to ten this season barring suspension, but I have marked anyone with an asterisk that is in jeopardy of not making it this season.
The full pension that players begin earning when hitting ten years of service time gives players an average of $7,500 per month. However, if players wait to cash in on their pension until age 62, it can top out at an annual rate of around $200,000.
Cy Young Chasers
- Gerrit Cole: 1669.1 IP, 133 W, 1952 K, 3.21 ERA, 1.098 WHIP, 34.8 bWAR
- Zack Wheeler: 1202.1 IP, 74 W, 1207 K, 3.43 ERA, 1.205 WHIP, 25.1 bWAR
It is a short list of elite pitchers earning their pensions this year, but that list nevertheless contains an abundance of talent. Gerrit Cole has led a career that only seems to be improving as he nears his mid-30s.
First drafted by the Yankees in the 2008 draft’s first round before opting to attend UCLA instead, the righty has made it full circle to become to the leader of New York’s starting rotation. The Pirates selected Cole first overall in the 2011 draft, and Cole soon developed into a great starting pitcher even coming in fourth for National League Cy Young in 2015.
It was not, however, until 2018 and 2019, which Cole spent in an Astros uniform, that he became consistently one of the best starters in the game. He combined for a 164 ERA+ between those two seasons. In pinstripes he has continued down that road, consistently giving the Yankees a chance to win every fifth day.
Cole has benefited from a relatively healthy career for a starting pitcher, but the same cannot be said about Zack Wheeler. Wheeler has admitted to pitching through elbow pains throughout his early career prior to landing on the injured list for all of 2015 and 16. The righty finished out his time in Queens as a slightly above-average starting pitcher, but things changed when he had a change of scenery.
Wheeler received Cy Young votes following his first two seasons in Philadelphia, even finishing second for the award in 2021. He fought the injury bug again last year but still has proved that when healthy, he is one of the best starting pitchers around.
MVP Ballot Hitters
- Nolan Arenado: .880 OPS, 301 HR, 981 RBI, 811 R, 23 SB, 52.6 bWAR
- Starling Marte: .799 OPS, 143 HR, 570 RBI, 763 R, 320 SB, 38.9 bWAR
- Christian Yelich: .840 OPS, 176 HR, 635 RBI, 809 R, 159 SB, 36.8 bWAR
- Xander Bogaerts: .817 OPS, 160 HR, 693 RBI, 764 R, 75 SB, 36.4 bWAR
- Anthony Rendon: .847 OPS, 156 HR, 642 RBI, 643 R, 47 SB, 33.2 bWAR
- José Abreu: .857 OPS, 243 HR, 868 RBI, 700 R, 11 SB, 31.7 bWAR
- Nick Castellanos: .821 OPS, 181 HR, 664 RBI, 608 R, 21 SB, 13.1 bWAR
Nolan Arenado and his wins above replacement of already over 50 stand atop this portion of the list. The former Rockie has the clearest trajectory to Cooperstown. Arenado’s fellow infielder in Xander Bogaerts has some more of a ways to go before making a concrete Hall of Fame case, but he nevertheless has a lot to show a decade into his career. Bogaerts has consistently produced at the plate, all while holding down a premium position on the daily.
Anthony Rendon, on the other hand, has not exactly managed to hold down third base on the daily for the last few years and has instead played in just 105 games between 2021 and 2022. Though, before his injuries, the doubles machine led an impressive several years, regularly receiving MVP votes.
Speaking of MVP votes, José Abreu has gotten some of those following seven of his nine seasons, coming in first for the award once. His highly decorated resume is also comprised of a Rookie of the Year Award, three Silver Sluggers, and three All-Star Game appearances.
It feels like the perpetual story surrounding Christian Yelich is whether he can rediscover his power; there were a couple of years there when Yelich was one of the best hitters on the planet. As for Starling Marte, he has never been one of the best hitters out there, but between his stellar hitting, defense, and baserunning, he has earned himself the second-most bWAR on this list.
Nick Castellanos, however, possesses the lowest bWAR among the MVP ballot hitters despite his impressive hitting statistics. Adjusting to a new city last year, the outfielder experienced a down year, but he appears poised for a resurgence with an MLB-leading nine doubles this year.
The Survivors: Pitchers
- Sonny Gray: 1404 IP, 92 W, 3.53 ERA, 1.209 WHIP, 25.6 bWAR
- Julio Teheran: 1360 IP, 78 W, 1207 K, 3.80 ERA, 1.224 WHIP, 20.1 bWAR
- Kyle Gibson: 1527.2 IP, 92 W, 1215 K, 4.51 ERA, 1.383 WHIP, 14.6 bWAR
- Jake Odorizzi: 1253.1 IP, 74 W, 3.99 ERA, 1.248 WHIP, 13.4 bWAR
- Alex Wood: 1128.2 IP, 71 W, 1074 K, 3.67 ERA, 1.229 WHIP, 13.3 bWAR
- Michael Wacha: 1170 IP, 76 W, 1036 K, 4.08 ERA, 1.309 WHIP, 10.5 bWAR
- Ryan Pressly: 533.1 IP, 77 SV, 3.26 ERA, 1.153 WHIP, 9.4 bWAR
- Brad Hand: 723 IP, 131 SV, 731 K, 3.61 ERA, 1.246 WHIP, 7.9 bWAR
- Will Smith: 559.2 IP, 92 SV, 673 K, 3.57 ERA, 1.235 WHIP, 6.4 bWAR
- Brad Boxberger: 463 IP, 82 SV, 568 K, 3.42 ERA, 1.261 WHIP, 4.5 bWAR
It appears Sonny Gray has once again found his elite stuff through three dominant starts this season, but the same cannot be said about Julio Teheran who has not seen success in MLB since 2019. Although never elite, Kyle Gibson has proven to be able to consistently make 25 to 30 starts per season while holding down a mid-rotation spot on a mid-to-small market club.
Jake Odorizzi has also settled into being a mid-to-backend rotation guy when healthy over the past several years, consistently giving his team a chance to win every fifth day. Odorizzi and Alex Wood hold largely similar career numbers with Wood having had an impressive peak with the Dodgers during the 2017 season.
Michael Wacha and his first-round draft pick status have never lived up to the hype largely due to the righty’s injury history. Last year, however, Wacha experienced his most dominant season yet and earned himself a multi-year deal with the Padres.
Since joining the Astros in 2019, Ryan Pressly has made two All-Star appearances and closed out last year’s World Series. Brad Hand made his fair share of All-Star appearances between 2017 and 2019, but the southpaw still seeks a World Series ring after playing for eight different teams.
Like Pressly, Will Smith also found himself as the closer for a World Series winner later in his career in 2021, and now Smith seeks to be an integral part of the Rangers’ bullpen as they hope to contend.
Brad Boxberger was an All-Star and led the American League with 41 saves in 2015. Although a closer no more, Boxberger is still a useful right-handed arm out of the pen that can pitch leverage innings.
The Survivors: Hitters
- Kolten Wong: .727 OPS, 82 HR, 381 RBI, 491 R, 117 SB, 22.1 bWAR
- Jonathan Schoop: .726 OPS, 174 HR, 537 RBI, 544 R, 15 SB, 20 bWAR
- Marcell Ozuna: .779 OPS, 198 HR, 678 RBI, 585 R, 28 SB, 19.6 bWAR
- Wil Myers: .771 OPS, 155 HR, 530 RBI, 530 R, 106 SB, 13.7 bWAR
- Corey Dickerson: .805 OPS, 134 HR, 452 RBI, 471 R, 30 SB, 13.7 bWAR
- Aaron Hicks: .715 OPS, 100 HR, 352 RBI 421 R, 65 SB, 13.6 bWAR
- Avisaíl García: .737 OPS, 136 HR, 511 RBI, 487, 49 SB, 9.7 bWAR
- Travis d’Arnaud: .740 OPS, 97 HR, 356 RBI, 306 R, 2 SB, 7.3 bWAR
- Wilmer Flores: .748 OPS, 128 HR, 452 RBI, 410 R, 5 SB, 7.1 bWAR
- Brad Miller: .731 OPS, 123 HR, 402 RBI, 392 R, 43 SB, 6.5 bWAR
Kolten Wong’s strongest tool has always been his glove which has earned him two Gold Glove awards at second base. There have been times throughout his career though that he has flashed some above-average production at the plate. Jonathan Schoop on the other hand has been a second baseman with a much higher offensive upside, even receiving MVP votes in 2017.
Most remember Wil Myers for his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2013, and although the outfielder has never sustainably replicated his rookie statistics, he’s managed to remain a solid MLB hitter and defender.
Both Corey Dickerson and Aaron Hicks have seen some better days, but back in the mid-2010s, both outfielders were posting some fairly impressive numbers at the plate. The peak of Avisaíl García’s career was his 2017. And even for a peak, his 138 OPS+ was quite impressive.
Travis d’Arnaud had a rocky start to his career but has since found new life in Atlanta where he earned the starting catcher role as a rare offensively productive catcher. Wilmer Flores flies fairly under the radar, but he has offered above-average production at the plate for seven straight years in addition to being able to play almost anywhere in the infield. Brad Miller is another guy that has stuck around, albeit as a bench player. He offers similar position versatility to Flores along with some occasional pop.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)