Infielder Ruben Tejada is considering filing a grievance against the New York Mets, accusing the team of shortchanging him one day of service time that would have allowed him to become a free agent after the 2016 season instead of 2017, two sources with knowledge of the situation told Yahoo Sports.
While teams regularly manipulate service time to keep players from reaching arbitration early, Tejada's case is unique not only in keeping him from free agency but the Mets not trying to hide it.
The Mets planned on calling up Tejada from Triple-A Las Vegas once it lost in the playoffs, and in late August manager Terry Collins said Tejada would "play quite a bit."
On Sept. 1, the Mets summoned relievers Vic Black and Tim Byrdak and utilityman Zach Lutz from Las Vegas. On Sept. 7, they brought up reliever Sean Henn. Las Vegas lost its final game that day. On Sept. 9, outfielder Mike Baxter, starter Aaron Harang, catcher Juan Centeno and reliever Greg Burke arrived.
One day after that, the Mets finally recalled Tejada. He was their last September call-up.
Should Tejada follow through with a grievance, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz – currently overseeing the Alex Rodriguez case – would decide whether the Mets were within their rights to leave Tejada with two years, 171 days of service time. A full season of service time is considered 172 days. While the actual baseball season is 183 days, players can accrue a maximum of 172 in a season, leaving Tejada one day short of three full years.
The consequences for him could be significant. If Tejada remains on a major league roster for at least 172 days in 2014, 2015 and 2016, he would end up with five years, 171 days – one day shy of free agency, which he would not receive until after the 2017 season.
Should the case go to grievance and Tejada be awarded the extra day, the beneficiary would be Seattle Mariners reliever Charlie Furbush, who would jump into the top 22 percent of players with two-plus years of service time and reach arbitration as a Super 2. With his current service time, Tejada would be a Super 2.
Mets officials are aware of a potential grievance. Through a spokesman, the team declined comment. When reached by phone, Chris Leible, one of Tejada's representatives at the Legacy Agency, declined comment.
Tejada, 24, took over as the Mets' starting shortstop in 2012 after Jose Reyes left for Miami as a free agent. After a disabled-list stint for a strained quadriceps in May 2013, the Mets sent him to the minor leagues for nearly 3½ months. Upon his return in September, Tejada played every day before breaking his leg on a spectacular catch. He finished the season hitting .202/.259/.260 with no home runs and 10 RBIs in 227 plate appearances.