Guardians right-hander Tanner Bibee finished runner-up in this year’s American League Rookie of the Year balloting. While the honor went to Orioles infielder Gunnar Henderson, the runner-up placement is an important development for Bibee as he will earn a full year of service time for the 2023 campaign.
In order to disincentivize service time manipulation, the MLBPA and MLB agreed to include a prospect promotion incentive in the collective bargaining agreement that was agreed to prior to the 2022 campaign. As a result of the incentive, players with less than sixty days of service time entering the season receive a full year of service time if they finish in the top two of Rookie of the Year voting, so long as they were featured on at least two preseason Top-100 prospect lists from ESPN, Baseball America, and MLB Pipeline. Bibee met those qualifications, and as such will earn a full year of service time for the 2023 season despite making his big league debut near the end of April. That leaves Bibee likely set to hit free agency after the 2028 season as things stand.
It’s certainly exciting news for Bibee, 24, who looked like a potential front-of-the-rotation arm for the Guardians across 25 starts this season. The right-hander posted a 2.98 ERA that was 40% better than league average by measure of ERA+, alongside a 3.52 FIP that was 17% better than league average by measure of FIP- in 142 innings of work. Impressive as Bibee was during his first season in the majors, there were some potential red flags in his performance, perhaps most notably a whopping 80% strand rate that was ninth-best in the majors among pitchers with at least 120 innings of work this year. His 24.1% strikeout rate and 7.7% walk rate were both right around league average, but his exceptionally low 36.8% groundball rate could leave him vulnerable to major changes in his home-run-to-fly-ball fortunes, particularly if he struggles to replicate his exceptional 6.1% barrel rate.
Still, Bibee figures to be a mid-rotation or better arm for the Guardians going forward even if he’s unable to keep up the incredible production of his rookie season. With Bibee now a year closer to free agency than he otherwise would have been, he figures to have a considerable amount of additional leverage should the Guardians look to engage with him in extension talks. After all, Bibee now figures to hit free agency a few months before his 30th birthday, and free agents who hit the market younger than 30…