Minor league options are extremely important and often cited, yet remain one of the least understood aspects of baseball. While the rules are fairly simple, exceptions and uncertainty confuse them and there is no great reference to see a list of how many options any particular player has left. They aren’t on baseball-reference, fangraphs or Indians.com. They are, however, in the Indians 2017 Information & Record Book so, in lieu of a Burning River Bookclub entry for March of 2017, I bring you a list of how many options each Indians player has left, according to the media guide.
First, however, a primer. All players are granted three minor league options once they are added to the 40 man roster. These options are used if they spend 20 or more days in a season in the minors while on the 40 man. For example, Erik Gonzalez was added to the Indians 40 man roster in 2014 so his first option year was spent in Carolina and Akron, his second in Akron and Columbus (2015) and his third in Columbus (2016 prior to his MLB call-up in July), so he should be out of options heading into 2017. This would mean in order to be sent to AAA, Gonzalez would have to clear waivers, something unlikely to happen. However, Gonzalez was granted a fourth option during the off-season this year, meaning he has one remaining and could be sent to AAA. This is all part of the confusion surrounding options.
To begin, Andrew Miller, Boone Logan, Bryan Shaw, Carlos Carrasco, Cody Allen, Corey Kluber, Dan Otero, Danny Salazar, Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer, Zach McAllister, Brandon Guyer, Carlos Santana, Edwin Encarnacion, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall and Michael Brantley are all beyond their option seasons. As a Rule 5 draft pick, Hoby Milner doesn’t have any options either as he would need to be offered back to Philadelphia should he not make the 25 man roster. Those players on the 40 man roster with options are listed below:
- With the exception of Milner, essentially every major contender for the Indians final relief role has at least one option left. This gives the team the freedom to chose the best candidate and swap them out later in the season for any of the other options.
- The same is true for many of the Indians starting pitching and bench options as well, although fans should educate themselves before making such statements as “the Indians should just send Bryan Shaw down to AAA to get his head straight.”
- While not very important now, file away for future reference that Francisco Mejia’s option clock has begun. He will definitely play more than 20 days in the minors this year, likely starting in AA or even Advanced A. While he could move to AAA before year’s end, that’s more likely to happen in 2018. Essentially, he now has until 2019 to earn a spot in the Major Leagues.
While options don’t really matter for a player like Lindor, who will most likely never use any, they can be huge in making decisions. The Indians held on to Jesus Aguilar for years without any real plans of using him in the Majors, just holding him as a potential emergency replacement for Santana, but once he ran out of options and couldn’t be stored in AAA, he was designated for assignment and taken off waivers by Milwaukee. The same is true of Austin Adams with Los Angeles, although that was officially a trade for cash. There is a good chance many of the players with a single option remaining will have that option used in 2017 and will be in a similar situation heading into next season if they are not removed from the 40 man roster before then.