Since I have spent a couple of hours today educating myself on this topic, I thought I should share this info with our readers.
Willie Webb brought up the topic earlier by suggesting that Mike Minor be optioned to Gwinnett for a bit of extra work. We’ve written a lot on his struggles lately as Braves’ fans have been holding their breath every time he takes the mound lately. Unfortunately, it seems we haven’t been passing out from that since he’s been giving up copious amounts of runs – early and often.
But frankly, I thought – I knew – that he was out of options. Until about 30 minutes ago.
The Options System
There are two basic reasons for this mechanism in baseball.
One is to prevent teams from having a revolving door to the minors that keeps promising players from having a chance to succeed when blocked by stars. The other is to give security to major league players so they aren’t jerked around by a management not happy with them for some reason or another and ‘punished’ by being sent down on a whim.
There’s a further ‘security’ bit of the ‘5 year service time/veterans consent rule.’ Players with 5+ years of major league service time may refuse a trip to the minors – even if they have options remaining. Dan Uggla, believe it or not, technically still has options remaining – but he also had the 5 year rule on his side. Frankly, he should have taken an assignment, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.
Wikipedia convinced me on this subject, so I will quote liberally from there, with [added comments] about Minor’s current situation:
- Once a player has been placed on a team’s 40-man roster, a team has 3 option years on that player. [that happened in 2010 for Minor]
- A player is considered to have used one of those three option years when he spends at least 20 days in the minors in any of those 3 seasons.
- [2010: definitely; 2011 definitely – 100+ innings both years; 2012-13 No. 2014 – rehab only, doesn’t count]
- [you can skip this bit] A team may have a fourth option year on a player with less than five full seasons of professional experience, provided that both conditions below are met.
- A player has not spent at least 90 days on an active professional roster in a season. Minor leagues that play below Class A Advanced have seasons that are shorter than 90 days, and as such, any player who spends a full season in a rookie or Class A (short-season) league will receive a fourth option year. [fail]
- A player has not spent at least 60 days on an active professional roster AND then at least 30 days on a disabled list in a season. Only after 60 days have been spent on an active professional roster does time spent on the disabled list count towards the 90-day threshold. As with the prior example, this cannot occur with players who spend a full season in a rookie or Class A (short season) league. [fail]
- [no 4th option year for Minor – neither condition applies]
- Once all of the options have been used up on a player, a player is considered “out of options” and a player must be placed on and clear waivers prior to being sent down to the minor leagues.
Okay, great. Also, because Mike now has something around 3.3 years of major league service time, that ‘veterans consent’ rule does not apply.
So… how does he have an option remaining?
Jul 22, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor (36). Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports
I believed that the options count went on a “use it or lose it” basis. If a player stayed in the majors for a full season, then the options clicker down-counted by one at seasons’ end – regardless of whether he was sent to the minors or not.
Not so fast.
Consider the curious case of one Paul Janish. He hit the majors (and the 40-man list) in 2008 with Cincinnati. He spent part of 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013 in AAA… some with Cincy and some with Atlanta. In theory, he should have run out of options after 2010 while still a Red.
But nay, nay: one of those stints – 2011 – lasted only 13 games. That was under the 20-day threshold for triggering the option counter. Additionally, he never saw the minors in 2009-2010.
As a result, the Braves were able to option him to Gwinnett in 2013 – five years after he first cracked the 40-man list. His option years, then, were 2008, 2012, and 2013.
For the record, Janish still has just 4 years+115 days of service time – so he hasn’t dented the 5-year mark yet either as he now plays for the KC Royals AAA club in Omaha.
So I Was Wrong
…and kudos to Willie for both being right and sticking to his guns: Mike Minor indeed has an option year remaining. He’s used up 2 to this point (2010, 2011).
Obviously the Braves would like to get him straightened out via just a skipped start… but if that doesn’t worked, it will be interesting to see if they have the chutzpa to use that remaining option so that we can find the pitcher who’s had these occasional months of brilliance for our favorite team.