Sizing up the (player) options

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

This concept of “player options” is typically one that gets the majority of its publicity during Spring Training. The reason is simple: Options play a role — oftentimes a significant one — in position battles. As it concerns the Cardinals this year, though, player options are poised to be a non-factor.

Before looking into how many option years each player on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster has remaining, let’s go through a quick refresher on what options are all about:

When a player is added to a team’s 40-man roster, he is given three options. For a team to move a player on the 40-man roster to and from the Minors without losing that player, the club must use one of those player’s options. Now, keep in mind that one option covers the entire year, so a team may move a player up and down levels all season and only use one of the player’s three options. If a player stays on the Major League roster for the full season, an option is not taken away from the player.

Once a player is out of options, he cannot be sent to the Minors without first being placed on waivers. While on waivers, that player can be nabbed by any of the other 29 teams. That’s why you’ll often see clubs keep a player who is out of options on the Major League roster over someone who has a remaining option(s) when all else is nearly equal.

A few other tidbits about option years:

  • Once a player accrues five years of Major League service times, options are a moot point. A player with that much service time has to consent before being demoted to the Minors.
  • If a player spends less than 20 days in the Minors during a season, an option is not used.
  • Teams can petition for a fourth option year if a player misses a substantial part of a season due to injury. Players may also be eligible for that extra option year if they have used all three options before finishing five full seasons of professional (Minors and Majors) experience.

OK… with all the details out of the way, how do these option years set up to affect the Cardinals in 2013? Well, not at all.

The Cardinals have 29 players on their 40-man roster with less than five years of service times (remember, option years are meaningless once a player logs more service time than that) and none of those players are out of options. That means the Cardinals can send any of these players to the Minors out of Spring Training — or at any point during the season — without the risk of losing the player on waivers.

Here is a rundown of how many option years everyone on the Cardinals’ roster has going into the season:

PITCHERS:

  • Michael Blazek (3)
  • Mitchell Boggs (1)
  • Keith Butler (3)
  • Maikel Cleto (1)
  • Eric Fornataro (3)
  • Sam Freeman (2)
  • Jaime Garcia (2)
  • Joe Kelly (3)
  • Lance Lynn (3)
  • Victor Marte (1)
  • Shelby Miller (3)
  • Jason Motte (2)
  • Jorge Rondon (3)
  • Trevor Rosenthal (2)
  • Marc Rzepczynski (2)
  • Fernando Salas (2)
  • Eduardo Sanchez (2)
  • Kevin Siegrist (3)

CATCHERS:

  • Tony Cruz (2)

INFIELDERS:

  • Matt Adams (2)
  • Matt Carpenter (2)
  • Allen Craig (2)
  • Daniel Descalso (3)
  • David Freese (2)
  • Ryan Jackson (3)
  • Pete Kozma (1)

OUTFIELDERS:

  • Adron Chambers (1)
  • Jon Jay (2)
  • Shane Robinson (1)

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

7 Comments

I had always wondered how options worked. Thanks for e planning it so clearly.

Thanks for EXPLAINING it so well.

Thanks for explaining. I’ve always wondered how options worked and never understood!

Thanks for the info concerning the current roster. I thought that maybe Robinson, Kozma and Marte were out of options

This is great info. Thank you for the very clear explanation.

What happens in the instance of a free agent who signs a minor league contract with a spring training invite?

If a player signs a minor league contract, there is no need to option him to the minor leagues as he is only on a minor league contract. He is not on the major league, 40-man roster like all the above players are. If he makes the team out of spring training, the team would have to clear space on their 25-man active roster by placing a player on the disabled list or designating him for assignment. The 40-man roster primarily exists to protect players who have been in the system for a few years from the Rule 5 draft, if I’m correct. That’s why someone like Carlos Martinez isn’t listed above as he hasn’t been under contract long enough with the Cardinals to be eligible for the Rule 5 draft and the Cardinals gain nothing from adding him to the 40-man roster until he’s eligible for that draft.

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