Mr. Scanlan, Throughout the off season and even more in Spring Trainng I keep hearing that Tim Stauffer and Sean Gallagher are out of minor league options. So that brings me to my questions what exactly is an option, how many does a player get, and how many options can a player have before they run out? I appreciate if you can clarify this for me. – Robert
Once a player is put on a team’s 40 man roster 40 man roster, he automatically has 3 “Options” during his career. An option is the ability of the club to send the player down to the minor leagues without having to expose him to the waiver wire, where another team can claim him and take over his contract with no compensation for the original team. An option is used up when a team sends a player on the 40 man roster down to the minor leagues, so for example that happens to 15 guys during spring training (only 25 men make the team). If the player then spends 20 consecutive days on that minor league assignment that counts as using up one option (if he does not spend 20 consecutive days the option is not burned up). Now, during that season a guy can then be called up and sent down as many times as the team wants, but that still only counts towards his first option – an option used applies to that entire season. So, essentially a team has 3 seasons (using one of the options each season) to send a guy up and down as much as they want. Once those 3 options are used up, the player will then need to go through waivers for the team to send him back to the minors. If a player is perceived to have value for another team, the team in possesion of the player may not send him down for fear of losing him through waivers to another club. This plays a factor in many player moves during spring training and the season as teams like to hold on to as many players as they can, so they may send a better player back to the minors because he has still has an option(s), and keep a lesser player on the active 25 man roster who is out of options simply because they don’t want to lose him through waivers.
In some rare circumstances a player may have a 4th option if he has used up his first 3 options but has not yet amassed 5 full years of professional (not MLB, but minors or majors) service time.
I hope that sheds some light on player options and how they are used. If you need more clarification, or have other questions about options or other player moves please let me know.