What are the options?
One of the recurring themes of Spring Training is the concept of player options. Options often play a role in position battles, and it’s an aspect of roster management that creeps up into the headlines more during the next two months than it does the rest of the year.
For those a little fuzzy on this whole concept of options, here’s a brief refresher for you before we dive into how this specifically concerns the Cardinals this spring…
When a player is added onto a team’s 40-man roster, he gets three options. A player uses up an option if he is sent down to the Minors during that year. The team then has the flexibility to move that player between the Minors and Majors all season without exposing him to other teams. Once a player uses all three of his option years (those years do not have to be concurrent), he is considered out of options. That means a team would then have to put the player on waivers — and thereby risk another team taking him — to send him to the Minors.
A few things to remember as you count option years:
- A player on the 40-man roster does use a roster if he is optioned during Spring Training.
- If a player does not go the Minors during a season, an option is not used.
- If a player spends less than 20 days in the Minors during a year, an option is not used.
- A player may be eligible for a fourth option if he has been optioned in three seasons but does not yet have five full seasons of professional experience. A full season is defined as being on an active pro roster for at least 90 days in a season.
How does this come into play during Spring Training? Well, you’ll often see options play a role in tight roster decisions. For instance, if player A (who is out of options) and player B (who does have an option left) are fairly even in ability, a team will often start the year with Player A on the Major League club. That’s because Player B can be optioned to the Minors without consequence. That buys the team some time to get a little longer look at Player A.
For the Cardinals this year, options aren’t actually expected to play a significant role in roster decisions. That’s because only two players — Tyler Greene and Skip Schumaker — are out of options. Schumaker is already expected to be on the team, and Greene has been touted as a likely favorite to win the starting second base job. The Cardinals have a sincere interest in letting Greene prove that he can produce at the Major League level.
What will be interesting to watch is what will develop if Greene does not earn the starting job. Since Greene can’t be sent to the Minors without being exposed to other teams on waivers, the Cardinals will likely have to keep him on the roster to serve as a backup infielder. Unless feelings about Greene’s potential change drastically, it seems unlikely that the Cardinals would be ready to lose Greene at this point.
Here is a look at the option status of the rest of the players on the 40-man roster. Keep in mind that option years are inconsequential for players with at least five years of Major League service time because even if that player technically has an option remaining, he cannot be sent to the Minors without his consent.
Out of options: Schumaker, Greene
One option remaining: Bryan Anderson, Mitchell Boggs, Mark Hamilton, Matt Holliday, Kyle Lohse, Shane Robinson, J.C. Romero, Adam Wainwright, Jake Westbrook
Two options remaining: Lance Berkman, Chris Carpenter, Matt Carpenter, Adron Chambers, Maikel Cleto, Zack Cox, Allen Craig, Tony Cruz, Brandon Dickson, David Freese, Jaime Garcia, Jon Jay, Pete Kozma, Jason Motte, Adam Ottavino, Adam Reifer, Marc Rzepczynski, Fernando Salas
Three options remaining: Carlos Beltran, Daniel Descalso, Chuckie Fick, Samuel Freeman, Rafael Furcal, Erik Komatsu, Lance Lynn, Kyle McClellan, Yadier Molina, Eduardo Sanchez
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