Last week we took a look at what the Tampa Bay Rays 2008 40-man roster and 25-man roster might look like. In the comments section of the 25-man roster post, the topic of “options” was brought up and how that might affect the final roster.

Options are a tricky subject that are not easily understood, even by those within the baseball industry. Last year, the Rays optioned Seth McClung back to the minors during spring training even though McClung and his agent were under the impression that the Rays had already exhausted all of their options on McClung.

First let’s try to clarify exactly what “options” are and how they are calculated.

  1. In general, once a player is added to the 40-man roster, the team may exercise up to three (3) options on that player.
  2. Any time a player is on the 40-man roster and he spends 20 or more days in the minors during a season, an option is used. The player is termed to be “on optional assignment”. A player can be promoted/demoted as many times as the team chooses, but only one option is charged in a season.
  3. If a player has been on the 40-man roster for three (or more) seasons and has spent 20 or more days in the minors in three of those seasons, he is said to be “out of options”. If a player is out of options, he would have to clear waivers in order for the team to send him back to the minors.
  4. Once a player accumulates 5 years of major league service, that player may decline an option and become a free agent.
  5. In certain cases, a fourth option year may be granted. If a player has less than 5 years as a professional, a team may use a fourth option. For example, Delmon Young was on the 40-man roster since he signed his first contract after being drafted. He spent his first three seasons in the minors, thus using three options. However, this past season was only his fourth season and the Rays could have used a fourth option last year. They did not, and since 2008 will only be his fifth season as a pro, the team still has an option on Young. A team can also apply for a fourth option if a player misses most of a season due to injury.

In certain cases a team may consider whether or not a player has any options remaining when trying to determine roster spots. Last season, Edwin Jackson and JP Howell were battling for the final spot in the rotation. Despite posting nearly identical Spring Training numbers, Jackson was given the spot. The decision may have been based, at least in part, on the fact that Jackson was out of options and would have needed to clear waivers (something that clearly would not have happened) in order to be demoted to the minors.

Below is each of the members of the Tampa Bay Rays that is out of options along with a quick explanation as to why. In some cases, the reasons are not necessarily obvious. If you think we have made a mistake please let us know, in the comments, which player we have mistakenly included/excluded along with a basis for your conclusions.

  • Edwin Jackson – Was added to the Dodgers 40-man roster when he was promoted to the bigs at the end of the 2003 season. He spent parts of 2004, 2005 and 2006 in the minors, thus using all his options.
  • Carlos Pena – Pena is an example of when the rules get fuzzy (not that it matters with Pena as he is assured of a spot on the 25-man roster). The main difficulty is determining how often Pena has been in the minors while on a 40-man roster. For example, he was not on the 40-man roster for most of the 2006 season, but he was added in September, so no option was used. Still, it appears that he was on optional assignment in 2002, 2003 and 2005.
  • Al Reyes – He has been out of options since 1978.
  • Jonny Gomes – Made debut in 2003. On optional assignments in 2004, 2005 and 2007.
  • Jason Hammel – Even though he did not make his major league debut until 2006, he was on the 40-man roster in 2005. Therefore Hammel was on optional assignment in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
  • Dan Wheeler – Has more than 5 years of major league service.
  • Brendan Harris – Was first added to the Cubs 40-man roster in July 2004. He was then back in the minors (optioned) before reappearing with the Expos. He then spent parts of the 2005 and 2006 seasons in the minors.
  • Gary Glover – Since being added to a 40-man roster for the first time in 2001 (White Sox), has spent parts of 4 seasons in the minors. In 2004, it appears as though he was not on the 40-man roster while in the minors (therefore not an option), but the other three were.
  • Grant Balfour – Was on optional assignment in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Part of the reason the Brewers included Balfour in the trade to the Rays last year for Seth McClung was because the Brewers needed a roster spot for another player and Balfour was out of options.
  • Jon Switzer – First added to the 40-man roster in 2003. After missing all of 2004, was on optional assignment in 2005, 2006 and 2007. It looks like 2007 was a fourth option year for Switzer.
  • Josh Wilson – Was added to the Marlins 40-man roster in 2003. On optional assignment in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
  • Chris Snelling – Since first being added to the Mariners 40-man roster in 2002, has spent more than 20 days in the minors in 5 different seasons. Three of those were while he was on a 40-man roster.
  • Scott Dohmann – First added to the Rockies 40-man roster in 2004. Was on optional assignment in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Thirteen players are out of options. Of those 13, seven seem to be a lock to be on the 25-man roster on opening day (Jackson, Pena, Reyes, Hammel, Wheeler, Harris, Gomes). Hammel may not be a lock for the 5th spot in the rotation, but if he is bumped he will most likely end up as the team’s long reliever out of the ‘pen.

Four other relief pitchers are out of options (Balfour, Glover, Switzer, Dohmann). It is not likely that all four of these pitchers will make the 25-man roster, so one or more will have to be traded, released or clear waivers in order to be sent to the minors. We are leaning towards Dohmann and Balfour not making the roster, but a strong case can be made for the other two.

We believe that Snelling has the inside edge for a bench spot, and being out of options could be a deciding factor, in addition to being the best candidate to be a left-handed bat off the bench.

We do not see Josh Wilson making the roster and will likely be placed on waivers.

 
 

3 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    What about Jonny Gomes? He always seems to be off and on between the majors and the minors.

  2. The Professor says:

    /Fixed

    was in the minors in 2004, 2005 and 2007.

  3. Pete says:

    I’m hoping they keep Balfour. As far as I can tell he was lights out in August. He got beat up a bit in Sept. but several of those runs came from the Red Sox, and they beat up on everyone when the went on a roll.

    I tend to think management will bring him back as well. Jim Hickey spoke well of Balfour and his toughness. If you saw him on tv, every time there was a close-up he was cursing! Also, when a few of the rays and Friedman were on 620wdae, the local sports radio, Balfour was with them.

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