I Want OptionsBy: Brendan Bilko
In Adam Rubin’s most recent blog update for ESPN New York, it seems as though the final bench spot will not go to Spring Training phenom Chris Carter but rather Long Island’s own Frank Catalanotto. The apparent reasoning behind sending Carter down (and it has not happened yet so technically there is still hope) is that he has an option remaining. Now we’ve all heard the term “option” being tossed around a fair amount this spring. With the amount of players we could potentially lose due to their lack of “remaining options” when the roster is set come Sunday, I figured it might be a good idea to take a look at what this all means.
When a player is added to a team’s 40-man roster for the first time, said club has three separate seasons where they are allowed to pass him back and forth to the minor leagues. Each of these seasons is referred to as an option year. Within said option year, there is no limit to the amount of times you are allowed to call up a player to the bigs or send him down to the minors. The only stipulation is that once you send a player down to the minors, you cannot recall him for 10 days at minimum. The only loophole around this is if a player for the big league club hits the DL and you need a replacement. In that case, the 10-day window is void.
Once these three option years have been used, the player then becomes “out of options.” The next year he must be added to the roster, or else he will be exposed to the waiver wire. To put it as simply as possible, an option essentially makes it permissible for a club to pass a player from the 40-man roster back and forth to the minor leagues without having to put him through waivers first (and thus exposing him to other teams, see: Coste, Chris). Teams cannot send players with more than five years of MLB service time to the minors on optional assignment without their consent (see: Figueroa, Nelson and his talk about playing in Japan should this happen to him).
Per the Biz of Baseball, here is how you count option years:
- If a player is not sent to the minors during a year, an option is not used.
- If a player is on the 40-man roster in spring training but optioned to the minors before the season begins, an option is used.
- If a player’s optional assignment(s) to the minors total less than 20 days in one season, an option is not used.
- A player may be eligible for a fourth option year 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. (If a player is put on the disabled list after earning 60 or more days of service in a single season, his time on the DL is counted.) The 90-day requirement means short-season leagues (New-York Penn, Northwest, Pioneer, Appalachian, Gulf Coast, Arizona Rookie, Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues) do not count as full seasons for the purposes of determining eligibility for a fourth option.
What does this all mean? It means the Mets want to pay Mike Jacobs to play first base (can’t really answer why though) and save Carter’s last option year. For a more in depth primer on options and transactions, check out this old Rob Neyer article for ESPN.