Who has minor league options left (and how many)?

Dissecting the Great City Subway Race
2011 Season Preview: Curtis Granderson

Minor league options are one of baseball’s weird little quirks. Every player gets three, and they’re used whenever a guy on the 40-man roster is sent to the minors. Once you burn all three, the player has to pass through waivers to go back to the minors. Oh, and sometimes a player can qualify for a fourth option depending on some special circumstances. Yeah, it’s weird like that.

A player can only use one option a year, regardless of how many times they go up and down. That’s why you’ll see them referred to as “option years.” If a player is in the minors for more than 20 total days in a single year, it counts as an option. Anything less and it does not. To learn more about this stuff, I recommend Keith Law’s classic Death, Taxes and Major League Waivers post at Baseball Analysts. I’ll let him bore you with the details.

Obviously, options are important because they can dictate who can and who can’t be sent back to the minors. That information isn’t publicly available, at least as far as I know, so I figured I’d compile it myself. We don’t need to look at everyone on the 40-man roster simply because a bunch of guys aren’t ever going back to the minors, like CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez. A few others are on the bubble, so let’s recap them and a could of notable young regulars…

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Andrew Brackman
Although 2011 will be his fourth full season since signing his Major League contract out of the draft, Brackman still has two minor league options remaining. He signed right on the August 15th deadline in 2007 but did not spent the required 20 days in the minors because the (minor league) season ended. The Yankees then carried Brackman on the 60-day disabled list all year in 2008 (Tommy John surgery), so he collected a year of service time instead of using a minor league option. His first option was used in 2009 and his second in 2010. Brackman will qualify for a fourth option because he will have used his three original options within his first five pro seasons. That’s one of those weird rules/ So yeah, the Yankees can send him down to the minors in each of the next two seasons without consequence.

Joba Chamberlain
Joba has all three options left. He was added to the 40-man for the first time in August 2007, when he was called up to the big leagues, and he hasn’t gone back to the minors since.

Colin Curtis
The Yankees added Curtis to the 40-man for the first time this past July, when he was summoned to the big leagues because the team was dealing with injuries and needed an extra position player during the NL park stretch of their interleague scheduled. Lil’ CC hung around a while but was eventually sent back down. He remained in Triple-A for more than a month later in the year, using his first option. He has two left.

Robert Fish
Added to the 40-man roster for the first time this offseason as a Rule 5 Draft pick, Fish has all three options left. Doesn’t matter though, he’ll be offered back to the Angels before the end of Spring Training.

Brett Gardner
After starting the 2008 season in Triple-A, the Yankees called Gardner up and added him to the 40-man roster for the first time that June 30th. He was with the team for about a month, ultimately sent down on July 26th because they had to make room on the active roster for the just acquired Xavier Nady. Gardner stayed in the minors until August 15th, so he was there for exactly 20 days. That’s not an accident, it prevented an option from being used. Gardner hasn’t been back to the minors since (not counting a very brief rehab stint in 2009), so he has all three options remaining.

Steve Garrison
Claimed off waivers from the Padres last year, Garrison was added to the 40-man (by San Diego) for the first time last (2009-2010) offseason. He used an option in his injury-riddled 2010 season, so he’s got two left.

"You might be using that last option this year, Greg." (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Greg Golson
Golson’s been around the block, having first been added to the 40-man roster by the Phillies after 2008. He spent basically all of 2009 and 2010 in the minors (save for the occasional cup-of-coffee, nothing major), using up his first two options. Golson has one left, which will inevitably be used this season.

Phil Hughes
Called up as a 20-year-old in what really was an act of desperation by the Yankees, Hughes was added to the 40-man for the first time in April 2007 and then went back to the minors after blowing out his hamstring. He spent a little more than three weeks in the minors that July but it was a rehab assignment, so it didn’t count as an optional assignment. The Yankees called him back up in August, so they didn’t burn an option that season.

Hughes began the next year with the big league team, but eventually hit the disabled list and then did the rehab thing again. The Yankees kept him in the minors for close to 40 days, however the first 30 were the rehab assignment. He did not eclipse the 20-day limit and did not use a minor league option in 2009. Hughes did use his first option in 2009, when he began the year in Triple-A and was called up in late April. He hasn’t been back to the minors since and has two options remaining.

Boone Logan
Logan’s out-of-options. He was first added to the 40-man by the White Sox in 2006, when they took him north out of camp because he had a great Spring Training despite having a total of 5.1 innings at the Single-A level to his credit. Yep. Boone spent considerable time in the minors in 2006, 2009, and 2010, burning all three options.

Justin Maxwell
Joel Sherman confirmed that Maxwell has one option remaining when he was acquired last month.

Sergio Mitre
The Experience has been out-of-options for a year now.

No need to look over your shoulder David, you aren't going back to the minors anytime soon. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

David Robertson
Called up and added to the 40-man roster for the first time on the same day as Gardner, Robertson went back to the minors on August 28th (in favor of Al Aceves) and then resurfaced 16 days later, preserving an option. He bounced up and down in April and May of 2009, burning an option. Robertson hasn’t been back to the minors since late May of 2009, so he still has two options at his disposal.

Romulo Sanchez
Chad Jennings confirmed with the Yankees this past December that Romulo is out-of-options.

Daniel Turpen
Same exact deal is Fish, so just re-read his comment and change “Fish” to “Turpen” and “Angels” to “Red Sox.”

Frankie Cervelli
Believe it or not, the Yankees added Cervelli to the 40-man roster for the first time after the 2007 season. That’s when he was first eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, before he ever got out of A-ball. Anyway, he spent most of 2008 in the minors, burning one options then spent the first five weeks of 2009 in the minors, burning another option. Frankie hasn’t been back to the minors since, so he still has that one option remaining.

Ramiro Pena
Pena was added to the 40-man roster for the first time in 2009, when he surprisingly broke camp with the big league team as the utility infielder. He went back to the minors for 43 games that summer, burning one option. Ramiro hasn’t been back down since, so he has two left.

* * *

Dellin Betances, Brandon Laird, Melky Mesa, and Ryan Pope were all added to the 40-man roster for the first time this offseason, so all three guys have all three options remaining. Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova, Reegie Corona, Eduardo Nunez, and Kevin Russo were each added to the 40-man roster for the first time last offseason, and since they all spent most of 2010 in the minors, they all have two options left.

Standard disclaimer here: I can’t guarantee the accuracy of the above info. MLB has some weird rules, and what is and what is not an optional assignment is one of them. I do feel pretty confident though, the only real question is Gardner. Does exactly 20 days in the minors count as an option, or does it have to be more? Either way, it shouldn’t become an issue. Fish, Turpen, and Romulo are goners and probably soon, before the end of camp. That’ll free up three 40-man roster spots, at least one of which will go to Jesus Montero at some point. Let’s hope he never uses any of his minor league options.

Dissecting the Great City Subway Race
2011 Season Preview: Curtis Granderson
  • Jerkface

    Option Joba to AAA, stretch him out.

    • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

      keep dreaming

      • Jerkface

        I will, thanks, and maybe one day my dreams will come true.

    • The Big City of Dreams

      I’d like to see it happen but it won’t

    • MannyGee

      seriously, how shitty do Colon, Garcia and Mitre need to be before Cashman and Girardi realize what we all kinda know.

      • Jonathan

        How long until people realize his shoulder is obviously worse than we all know? So you could have a very good reliever for the rest of his career, or you could have a pretty good starter for 1/2 a year until he needs shoulder surgery and maybe never throws again. I’ve had 6 shoulder surgeries done by some of the best doctors in the world. There are no guarantees with the shoulder.

        They have so much more info than we all do and i’m sure they didn’t take it lightly and have had numerous doctors check on his arm and give their opinions.

        Now, if your argument is that as a middle relieve he is replaceable and we should see how long he can go as a starter before surgery, that’s a different story. Perhaps he could go a year as a pretty good starter, maybe like Phil was last year; then have the surgery in the offseason and be what he used to be, but they’ve done the studies and weighed the options. They’d rather have a sure thing RP than maybe get something out of him as a starter.

        In my opinion as soon as the Texas incident happened I would have shut him down. Then if he was having trouble next year and couldn’t complete 5 innings while losing a ton of stuff and in pain I would try the surgery and hope he came back close to his original form. But that’s another story. I’m sure being on pace to not make the playoffs in the last season of the stadium didn’t help the decision. Seems like a shitty deal considering we still didn’t make it and we’re missing out on what he was before the injury.

        Imagine the difference if he turns out to be what we hoped…We probably don’t sign AJ and the rotation this year looks just fine. Maybe Andy comes back because we already have 2 aces and he could just be icing on the cake…It’s too bad it’s all speculation. We’ll never know.

        • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

          Why wouldn’t we have signed AJ in that case?

        • pete

          I buy that Joba may have health concerns that we don’t know about. What I don’t buy is that pitching out of the bullpen is any better for the arm/shoulder than pitching out of the rotation. I actually think that the lack of routine and quick warm-ups could even be more detrimental, which is backed up to a certain extent by the number of relievers who go out and dominate for a couple of years before falling back to earth or getting hurt.

        • Ted Nelson

          I think you’re making a lot of assumptions about the nature of Joba’s shoulder health. I agree that us fans shouldn’t jump to conclusions that the Yankees made the wrong decision without all the info, but you are doing the same thing by jumping to the conclusion they did the right thing without all the info.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        Lol all three of those pitchers you mentioned could be in a body cast and Joba still wouldn’t see the mound as a starter.

      • Ted Nelson

        Yeah, Cashman and Girardi are both so stupid. They know nothing about baseball or Joba, and us fans all know so much. Good points.

  • Rick in Boston

    Mike – doesn’t Joba have to be exposed to waivers to be sent down since he’s been in the majors for a certain amount of time?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Yes, but those kinds of waivers (optional waivers) are a) completely revocable, and b) never an issue. Basically there’s a league-wide handshake agreement that no one claims a player off them.

    • Jerkface

      As Mike said, whenever players are put on optional assignment they pass through optional waivers. But no one takes players off of them or else prospects/players would never get optioned. If you look in the CBA and the rules there is no such rule that means Joba would get claimed off of waivers for having service time.

      At 5 years of service time he can refuse assignment though!

  • David

    I had a question when reading about Gardner getting called back up exactly 20 days after being sent down. Sure he was probably happy to be coming back to NY, but he was probably pretty pissed that they couldn’t just wait one more day, no? Would management ever take this into account when deciding what to do (keeping players happy)

    Similar, somewhat related situation is when teams keep guys in the minors until May/June to delay their service time clock from starting. Makes sense from the organization perspective, but, to borrow a quote from Helen Lovejoy, ‘Won’t somebody please think of the players??’

    • Ted Nelson

      “Would management ever take this into account when deciding what to do (keeping players happy)”

      I’m sure that teams generally want to keep players happy, but not at the expense of running a good organization and doing what they feel is in the organization’s best interest. The Yankees tend to have the highest payroll in baseball every season and have made the playoffs 15 of the past 16 seasons, so they keep more players happier than any other team.

      “‘Won’t somebody please think of the players??’”

      The players themselves are organized in a union to think of themselves and collectively bargain with ownership. I’m not losing any sleep over guys getting paid hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars annually to play a game. Not that I’m losing any sleep for the owners of lucrative monopolies who get revenue sharing even if their organization is a failure either.

      • pete

        also, the MLB Players Union is one of the most successful unions in the country, if not the world, at getting its way.

  • kosmo

    What happens to Romulo since he´s out of options ?

    • Jerkface

      Makes the team or he gets sent through real waivers and is cut/traded

  • UncleArgyle

    This might be a dumb question but I’ll ask anyway. Since Brackman is in the 4th year of a MLB deal, is he a free agent in 2 years? Or would the Yankees still have arbitration options on him since he would have less than 6 years MLB service time after his contract is up?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Nope, still needs six years of service time to become a free agent, and right now he only has one (and a handful of days following last year’s call-up) thanks to the Tommy John surgery/DL stint.

      • UncleArgyle

        Thats what I thought, thanks Mike!

  • Mike Myers

    I still dont get why they didnt use Aceves option. Even if there is a 90% chance he cant make the team due to injury….whats the harm?

    • Rick in Boston

      I think there might be a rule around optioning out injured players. Instead, Aceves would have spent 2011 on the 60-day DL, accumulating service time.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        There definitely is. Glen Perkins and Tony Abreu filed grievances for that exact reason. The Twins and Dodgers, respectively, sent them to the minors and put them on the minor league DL rather than just putting them on the ML DL to keep them from getting service about two years ago (maybe three).

        Both guys won and were credited with the service time.

        • Ed

          I don’t remember Abreu’s case, but Perkins was kinda weird. They settled rather than going to a hearing. The Twins pulled their stunt because Perkins needed to spend every remaining day of the season in the majors to be arbitration eligible. They ended up settling with Perkins getting the service time he was fighting over, minus one day. As a result, he still wasn’t arbitration eligible, but just gained a few weeks service time. I can’t see why he’d agree to that. At that point I think it would be better to take your chances at a hearing and hope to win.

        • Plank

          The A’s were accused of that maybe 8-10 years ago too.