The Tigers have some roster decisions looming with the imminent return of Jeremy Bonderman and Marcus Thames. In both cases there aren’t clear cut performance based decisions on who gets sent down so things like options come into play. There has been some confusion about the option status and service time of various players so let’s clear that up.
MLB roster rules are never simple and chuck full of exceptions. While salary data and service time data is generally findable, options are harder to find and often requires combing through transaction lists. Fortunately for Tigers fans Eddie Bajek compiled this information during the offseason.
When a player is on the 40 man roster and on neither the disabled list or the 25 man roster, they are on OPTIONAL assignment to another club. There is a limit to the number of years that a player can be on optional assignment and these are commonly refered to OPTIONS or OPTION YEARS. If said player is using an option in a given year, they can be recalled an optioned to the minors repeatedly without burning additional options. For example, Wilkin Ramirez was added to the 40 man roster prior to the season. During spring training he was optioned to Toledo so he used an option. When the Tigers recalled him while Magglio Ordonez was on bereavement leave and subsequently optioned back to Toledo, he didn’t use an additional option. It is still just one option.
Players typically have 3 options. This is to keep a team from burying a player in the minors forever which helps the player and helps distribute talent around the league. There are some exceptions where a player can have a 4th option year, based on when they were added to the 40 man roster but this is fairly rare.
Those are options in their simplest terms, now let’s take a look how it applies to a couple of Tigers:
Zach Miner: Zach Miner was added to the 40 man roster when he was called up by the Tigers during the 2006 season. He then spent the rest of the year on the active roster meaning that no option was used. In 2007 he split time in the minors and the majors meaning he used his 1st option year. Last year Miner was optioned to Toledo on July 2nd. So you’d think he would use an option, but to actually use the option you need to be on optional assignment for at least 20 days. Miner was backing pitching for the Tigers by July 21st and remained up the rest of the year. So he has 2 options remaining.
Armando Galarraga: This one had me fooled. The Rangers purchased his contract ahead of the 2006 season and he spent the bulk of that season and 2007 in the minors meaning he had used 2 options when the Tigers acquired him. He was assigned to Toledo to start the 2008 season but he was recalled prior to the 20 day rule meaning he has one option remaining.
Dontrelle Willis & Nate Robertson: Both players came up and when they were added to the 40 man roster earlier in their careers they pretty much stuck. Nate used one option early in his career but Dontrelle had his full slate going into 2008. Well last year Willis used an option but it was completely at the club’s discretion. It a player has more than 5 years since their debut the player has the right to refuse the assignment. So Willis has 2 options, Nate has 3, but both could theoretically refuse optional assignment.
Ryan Raburn: Raburn started the year in the minors initiating his last option year. There is another caveat (and one that applies to Willis and Robertson as well) is that if it is more than 3 years after the debut a player must pass through revocable waivers before being optioned down. This shouldn’t be an issue though.
Clete Thomas & Jeff Larish: This is their second option year meaning that he’ll have one left after this year.
The above are the main candidates who could be bumped with the return of Thames and Bonderman and perhaps you learned something along the way. Big thanks to Eddie who captured all the information and presented it so succinctly. To see the option status for the rest of the Tigers be sure to check out his site.
There has been some misinformation being floated around that Edwin Jackson is set to become a free agent. Seeing as we are talking about roster business I figured this should be addressed as well. To become a big league free agent you need 6 years of service time. Jackson came into this year with 3 years and 70 days (often seen as 3.070 years). He will be arbitration eligible in both 2010 and 2011 and won’t become a free agent until 2012.