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  1. Finer Points: Options, part one

    We’ve all heard it. “Coach, are you making any transactions?” “Yeah, we’re going to option Vasquez to Rochester and recall Tyler Duffey.”

    So what does that mean?

    Well, this transaction the Twins made recently is the simplest form of making a transaction involving options. Both Andrew Vasquez and Tyler Duffey are on the Twins 40-man roster, so “optioning” Vasquez means that while he’s still on the 40-man roster, he’s no longer on the 25-man roster. It also means the he is not out of options. (More on that later.)

    The word “recall” means that Duffey, who was on optional assignment is now on the active roster.
    Easy peasy, right?

    Well, yeah… sorta. But what about all the other transactions that involve options? Or transactions that don’t happen because of a lack of options?

    Over the coming weeks we’ll look at how the 40-man is composed and the rules behind it, but with this piece we’re only going to focus on the players on the 40-man roster. All teams are allowed to carry 40 players with major league contracts, but only 25 can be on the “active” roster. The rest must be on the injured list or, if playing in the minor leagues, on an optional assignment. That means that teams are allowed to carry 15 players on major league contracts, who are not in the major leagues.

    Most players get on the 40-man roster the same way: The team is forced to add them in November prior to the Rule 5 Draft in December. (Again, we’ll talk more about what that means later in this series.) These players, usually guys who are playing A- or AA-ball, don’t make it long in spring training before being “optioned” to minor league camp.

    This past November, the Twins added LaMonte Wade, Nick Gordon and Luis Arraez to their 40-man roster. All three were optioned at the same time - in the second round of roster cuts - and were the first position players sent out.

    Upon being “optioned” to minor league camp, all three players are on their first year of “optional assignment.” And now, because they have all spent at least 20 days on “optional assignment,” it’s official: They have used an option. That’s it.
    There will be times through the course of a season where a player is optioned and recalled repeatedly. If his stints - short or long - on optional assignment add up to 20 days, that counts as an option. Their 2019 season counts as a season they spent on optional assignment.

    If a player spends a majority of a season in the major leagues, is optioned on the first of July and recalled on July 17th, while spending no more time in the minor leagues after that, that option would not count because it was less than 20 days. Additionally, he would receive major league service time for the entire season.

    I've said “first option” or “first year of optional assignment,” so that must mean that they get more than one, right? Exactly. The widespread belief is that players get three options. And that is true 99% of the time. (Sadly, very few people - including some in baseball - understand why and when players are granted that rare fourth option. We’ll cover that in depth next week.)

    After a player has spent three years on optional assignment, it becomes much more difficult to send him to the minor leagues. We'll discuss this more in-depth soon, but Tyler Austin is a prime example of a player that is out of options... which, in turn, limited the Twins options when they needed his roster spot.

    And as simple as it's sounded so far, there’s more. While teams can place players on optional assignment for parts or all of three seasons, there are actual limits in place that prevent that, in some cases.

    Injured players cannot be optioned. Otherwise, it would have made sense to option Gabriel Moya to the minor leagues during spring training. He will likely be activated and immediately optioned when healthy (This happened earlier today.) Miguel Sano is a similar case. If it would have been allowed, optioning him and stopping his service clock would be a way to manipulate service time. So it’s simply not allowed.

    Players who have five or more years of experience cannot be optioned without consent. This came into play in 2012 with Jason Marquis. Marquis signed a major-league contract but missed a significant amount of spring training due to a family emergency. Unable to get into game shape - and with an option remaining - he accepted a minor league assignment to get ready for the season despite having the ability to reject it. (He struggled upon his re-arrival to the big leagues and was released before the end of May.)

    (Jeremy’s note: At one point, there was a such a thing called “optional assignment waivers.” Players that had amassed a certain amount of service time had to clear this set of waivers to be sent on optional assignment to the minor leagues. It was understood among teams that anyone placed on this set of waivers had given consent, so other teams would not claim them. This forced teams to DFA players - this happened to Andrew Albers once - before optioning them. This was eliminated before the 2017 season.)

    If you have more questions about options, please ask. Until then, put the following into your baseball vernacular. (If you have leave a question about an upcoming topic, I’ll weave the answer into that particular story.)


    “Option” is the act of sending a player on the 40-man roster to the minor leagues.
    “Recall” is the act of bringing a 40-man player from the minor league to the major leagues.
    “Calling up” is the act of adding a non-40-man player to the 25-man roster.
    “Purchasing/selecting (the contract)” is the act of adding a non-40-man player to the 40-man roster… and can also be used when adding to the 25-man roster.

    “Optional assignment” is a yearly thing. You could be optioned/recalled an unlimited number of times each year.

    Once you’re optioned, you cannot be recalled for 10 days (unless you’re replacing someone on the injured list).

    You have to spend 20 days on optional assignment for it to count. If you spend less, the option does not count and you receive service time for the days you were “on option.”

    (Let's take a closer look at the players on the 40-man roster with less than five years of service time.)

    INF Ehire Adrianza
    1B C.J. Cron
    OF Max Kepler
    P Matt Magill
    P Trevor May
    P Adalberto Mejia
    P Blake Parker
    SS Jorge Polanco

    LAST OPTION (cannot be optioned after this season)
    P Chase DeJong (technically, DeJong has not been on optional assignment for 20 days yet this season)
    P Tyler Duffey
    SS Ronald Torreyes

    2B Luis Arraez (used: 1)
    UTIL Willians Astudillo (used: 1)
    P Jose Berrios (used: 2)
    OF Byron Buxton (used: 2)
    OF Jake Cave (used: 1 -- 2019 could be his second, if he's not recalled within 20 days)
    C Mitch Garver (used: 1)
    SS Nick Gordon (used: 1)
    P Stephen Gonsalves (used: 2)
    P Ryne Harper (used: 0)
    P Trevor Hildenberger (used: 0)
    P Zack Littell (used: 2)
    P Gabriel Moya (used: 1 -- 2019 could be his second, if he's not recalled within 20 days)
    P Fernando Romero (used: 3 -- should qualify for fourth, if needed*)
    P Taylor Rogers (used: 1)
    SUPERMAN Eddie Rosario (used: 2)
    3B Miguel Sano (used: 2)
    P Kohl Stewart (used: 1)
    P Lewis Thorpe (used: 2)
    P Andrew Vasquez (used: 1)
    OF LaMonte Wade (used: 1)

    *We will do this in more depth next week, but Romero is on his third optional assignment. What is noteworthy is that Romero blew out his elbow in 2014 and didn't pitch again until 2016, which was his first season with the 90 days necessary to account for a "professional season." That means that 2019 is only his fourth season and he would be eligible for the elusive fourth option in 2020.

    You're welcome.

    • Apr 24 2019 11:11 AM
    • by Jeremy Nygaard