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MLB's Ten Year Service Time Explained

Over the past few years, baseball has received scrutiny from the media and fanbases for multiple reasons. To set the record straight, we love baseball anyway we can get it. However, hotbed topics like eliminating the shift, creating a universal DH, and most recently, the change in the foreign substance policy has cast a shadow over the league for quite some time. 

But we aren’t here to bag on our beloved game. We’re here to shed light on one particular thing that Major League Baseball continues to do better than any other sports league in the world. Apart from guaranteeing every dollar within a player’s contract, the league has made a deliberate effort to financially and medically support their employees long after they’ve retired. And today, we’re going to look at how the ten-year MLB pension program works.

Who is Eligible to Qualify?

It does not take long for an MLB player to begin receiving lifetime benefits. Once a player has spent 43 days on an active roster, they will be eligible to receive pension benefits up to $9,000 annually for the rest of their life. Looking at an even earlier benefit for players, you will earn full comprehensive medical benefits if you spend one day(!) on an active MLB roster. It’s an incredible program that doesn’t just take care of the multi-million dollar former superstars but also the guys that worked their way through the minors just to have their cup of coffee in The Show.

For MLB players to qualify for the fully vested portion of the pension program, they must complete 10 years of service - with a minimum of 173 days annually on an active roster or the injured list (IL). Unfortunately, some of the game’s most prominent players have fallen short of the 10-year mark due to injury or diminished performance. Nonetheless, those that have successfully spent a decade on an active roster deserve their kudos.

As we dug deeper into the program, it became evident that the MLB goes above and beyond to take care of all of their employees, not just the players. Any player, coach, manager, or trainer that has worked within the league for at least 10 years will receive a pension payout for the rest of their life. Everyone is allowed to start withdrawing $68,000 annually by the age of 45. However, if you wait until you turn 62, the annual payout bumps up to $220,000. When you think about a trainer or coach that hasn’t made millions of dollars throughout their careers, the impact of this payout becomes even more impressive.

The MLB pension program is the most well-funded in professional sports, with an estimated amount north of $2 billion. 

10 Year Rule

Player’s Clock

A player’s “clock” begins to tick the day they begin their career on an active roster. It serves as the measure to determine a player’s rights and eligibility. Players are under their team’s control and the rookie contract they signed for the first three years of their career. 

After three years, they can begin salary arbitration with their team. This allows them to make an argument for why they deserve more compensation than they were previously making. However, most teams and players opt to settle outside of arbitration to avoid the ugliness of a team arguing why a player should not receive more money. 

What is a Super Two in baseball?

The Super Two designation is given to a player in the top 22% of service time, among players that have amassed between two and three years of service. The general cutoff provided by Major League Baseball is two years and at least 130 days on an active roster. Players given the Super Two designation will be allowed to enter salary arbitration a year earlier than typical.

After six years of service, an MLB player has the right to hit free agency. This allows them to field offers from any club in baseball without restrictions. Teams will typically work to extend their best players before allowing them to hit the high-paying open market of free agency. 

MLB Career Timeline

  • 1 Day: Eligible for full comprehensive medical benefits
  • 43 Days: Players can receive $9,000 annually from the pension
  • 3 Years: Salary Arbitration
  • 3.75 Years: Average length of an MLB player’s career
  • 6 Years: Players can hit free agency
  • 10 Years: Pension Program becomes fully vested
  • 27 Years: Longest career in MLB history (Nolan Ryan & Cap Anson)

Baseball continues to prove that they care about their players and their employees. We want to take this moment to applaud all of the efforts they have made and the conversations they continue to have with the Players Association to make sure everyone is taken care of after they leave the game. Massive shoutout to Major League Baseball and their work to set the standard in professional sports.

We’re JustGloves, and we’re with you from Click to Catch!

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