As a result of his domestic violence arrest on October 31, Mets closer Jeurys Familia will almost certainly be facing a suspension at the start of the coming season. Despite all charges against the 27-year-old being dismissed soon after the arrest, Major League Baseball is still expected to hand down a sizable suspension to Familia, as it did to Jose Reyes and Aroldis Chapman under similar circumstances in 2016. Beyond the obvious impacts that such a suspension would have on Familia’s 2017 earnings and the Mets’ performance during the time in which he is suspended, perhaps the biggest impact of the looming suspension could be felt by both parties in 2019.
Jeurys Familia has 4.030 years of major league service time and is on pace to gain free agent eligibility following the conclusion of the 2018 season. In order to gain a full year of service time in a given season, a player must be on a major league active roster or disabled list for at least 172 days in a given season. Being that 182 days will elapse between the Mets’ first game of the season on April 3rd and last game of the season on October 1st, Familia and any other player on the team will be given a 10-day cushion towards reaching a full year of service time. For example, if the Mets decided to call up Paul Sewald from Triple-A four or nine days into the season and keep him in the major leagues for the remainder of the year, he would be given credit for a full year of service despite not opening the season on the major league roster. Since days suspended do not count towards major league service time, a similar rule would apply to Familia this season. He gets a built-in 10-day cushion before his service time is affected in by a suspension.
Given that Familia has a current service time of 4.030 years, he would need to reach at least 5.000 years of service time by the end of the 2017 season to remain on pace for free agency following the 2018 season. Since it is impossible to accrue more than one full year of service time in a single year, reaching that five-year plateau in 2017 is Familia’s only hope of remaining on schedule. For that not to happen, Familia would have to suspended for the entirety of his 10-day cushion plus one more than the 30 days of “extra” service time he currently has on top his four years of service time.
In total, this means that a 41-day suspension would push Familia’s free agency back a year, while a suspension of 40 or less days would keep Familia on schedule to reach free agency following the conclusion of the 2018 season. The 41st day of the Mets’ season in 2017 comes on May 13, when they will be in Milwaukee playing their 37th game of the season. Familia’s service time and free agency schedule will depend on whether or not he is active for that game. A suspension of 37 or more games that leaves him inactive on May 13 will lead to Familia’s free agency being pushed back until after the 2019 season. Anything less than a 37 game ban would result in no change to Familia’s free agency schedule.
Whether or not Familia’s suspension will end up being 37 or more games remains to be seen at this point. It is quite possible that the prospect of Familia’s free agency being postponed a year and the attached MLBPA challenge that would almost assuredly arise as a result could pressure Major League Baseball into handing down a suspension that is no more than 36 games long. A year ago, when a suspension of 45 games or more to Aroldis Chapman would have pushed back his free agency a year, the league decided to give the Yankees closer only a 30-game ban. Meanwhile, in a case with similar circumstances to Familia’s arrest but no service time concerns attached, then-Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was given a 51-game suspension last season. A lot will depend on Familia’s level of cooperation with the league’s investigation, but MLB might have to choose between handing down a suspension to Familia that would postpone his free agency a full season–and possibly provoke a dispute with the union–and a lesser suspension that might not punish him appropriately for his actions.
(Special Thanks to Jeff Euston.)
Photo Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports