The Process Starter (Photo by Minda Haas)

It’s a happy day as The Process officially kicked off. Mark the date: May 6. The day Eric Hosmer arrived in Kansas City to lead the Royals to the promised land. (Yes, it was great that Tim Collins and Aaron Crow were on the Opening Day roster, but I can’t have a pair of relievers jump starting The Process. Just can’t happen.)

I expected Mike Moustakas to be the first, but I’ve been telling everyone who would listen that Hosmer is a better prospect. The guy has that classic smooth lefty swing (think Will Clark) with quick wrists and explosive power. He’s the complete package.

It’s a shame that Kila Ka’aihue was collateral damage in this move. Still, I can’t be too upset that the Royals number one prospect will be making his major league debut on Friday. Hosmer improves this lineup. That’s the bottom line to this move.

While this is great news for the team and especially the fans, there are a couple of things to consider. Moves like this are never clean, and this one will leave a bunch of debris in its wake.

The Service Time Bugaboo

Here’s the deal on service time and how it effects Hosmer and the Royals. A player accrues service time for every calendar day he is on the major league roster (or disabled list.) This year, the season ends on September 28. From Friday, to the end of the season, there are 146 days remaining in the season. Therefore, if Hosmer stays on the roster for the rest of the year, he will have 146 days of service time.

Free Agency

This isn’t even a question. For a player to earn a full year, he must be on the roster for 172 of the 183 calendar days. Or, he must spend less than 20 days on an optional assignment to the minors. (Remember, this came up with Alex Gordon, who spent about 21 days in the minors in 2009. That one day bought the Royals an extra year of control. Manipulative? You bet.)

Assuming Hosmer never returns to the minors, he will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season.

Arbitration

Here’s where it gets tricky. A player with three years of service time becomes eligible for salary arbitration. Every year, there are a number of players who become eligible with less than three years. These are known as super-two players. Here’s how you become a super-two:

A player with at least two but less than three years of Major League service shall be eligible for salary arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and he ranks in the top 17 percent in total service in the class of Players who have at least two but less than three years of Major League service.

Basically, we won’t know who qualifies for a super-two until the end of the season when MLB throws all the eligible players into a pot and determines the top 17 percent. However, thanks to MLB Trade Rumors, they’ve crunched the numbers and discovered a few facts about super-two.

– For the 2007 and 2008 seasons, no player had less than 2 years, 130 days of service time and qualified as a super-two.

– Since 2007, the average super-two has 2 years and 148 days of service time.

Again, if Hosmer never returns to the minors, at the end of the 2013 season, he will have 2 years and 146 days of service time. He will almost certainly become a super-two.

Knowing what we do about super-two status, it seems odd the Royals would bring Hosmer up now and not keep him in Omaha for another two weeks. That would knock about 15 days off his service time and would keep him closer to the bottom of the super-two threshold, identified by MLB Trade Rumors as being 130 days.

The cost of this move is millions of dollars in future salary. I’m excited as everyone about the start of The Process, but would it have hurt to have waited a few weeks? You know where this could payoff… If Scott Boras realizes the Royals have done right by his client at every turn and allows him to sign an extension. Maybe I should stop now… I’m sinking into Crazy Town.

That brings us to the next point…

The Royals Feel The Central Is In Play

The Indians are in first and they were expected to finish in the bottom of the division. The Twins are hurting. The White Sox were described as a $125 million pile of dung. (Really.) And the Tigers don’t do any one thing that would lead anyone to peg them as favorites. This division historically is weak, but this year all bets are off.

Hosmer is a hitter and a plus defender. Adding his bat and glove to the lineup is an upgrade.

Still, the Royals can’t be serious about the division until they address the starting pitching. Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery are close. I would expect them to be about three weeks out. Or after they are safely out of super-two status. Think about that… That’s just three starts. It’s easier for the team to manage a pitcher’s service time this way because they are out there only every fifth day. The Royals can tread water for that long.

But there’s more to ponder about the super-two issue…

Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Royals

The current CBA expires after the 2011 season. (December 11, 2011 to be exact.) That’s still a ways off, but there will be some changes made. Free agency is the sacred cow… That’s not going to be discussed, although arbitration has some wiggle room. It’s conceivable that the eligibility for super-two status changes. It’s also possible that it disappears completely. (That’s unlikely, but you never know.)

The point is, nobody knows what’s going to happen in December. It’s a risk the Royals were willing to take. With Hosmer at least. The club has payroll flexibility, but GMDM doesn’t want to jump start a service clock if he can avoid it. He’ll take the hit on an everyday player like Hosmer, but the pitchers will have to wait.

Clint Robinson’s Farewell Tour

Robinson is hitting .323/.409/.635 with eight home runs. Plus, he’s on the 40-man. If this move wasn’t about the future, the call would have gone to Robinson. The guy has done everything to earn a shot, but there’s no place for him on the big club. Billy Butler has the DH role locked up and now Hosmer is a fixture at first. This makes Robinson trade bait.

Should the Royals find themselves still in the race in July, Robinson will undoubtedly be flipped… Probably for pitching.

Farewell, Kila

I hoped it would work out and felt he deserved at least half a season. Now, there’s no way he returns to Kansas City wearing a Royals uniform. If Hosmer or Butler goes down, I’d think Robinson has moved ahead in the pecking order.

Stinks, but it’s difficult to complain about that.

Endgame

Hosmer did his part and forced the issue. A guy hitting .439/.525/.582 with 19 walks and 16 strikeouts can’t be ignored. Especially when he’s your top prospect. The timing is a little suspect… would it have killed GMDM and the Royals to old off for a couple of weeks to ensure control. There’s always the possibility they could sign him to an extension – although the presence of the Boras Corp would certainly seem to frown on that. Still, this is a great day to be a Royals fan. And it feels like the start of something special. Judging from my Twitter feed, the crowd for Friday’s game is going to be massive. And for good reason. Hosmer is just the first as the pipeline figures to start to flow in earnest… Hosmer today. Moustakas, Duffy, Montgomery, Lamb, Myers… Coming soon.

Can’t wait.