New Library Section: Contract Details

While contractual details may not be sabermetric statistics or concepts, they can still be really confusing. I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable baseball fan, yet I still get baffled with details about player options and service time. Baseball is one of the more complicated sports in terms of rules, and so it only makes sense that the many transaction rules surrounding the game are just as intricate and tedious.

As a result, I’ve started a new hub over at the Library for contract details. You can find the hub underneath the “Sabermetric Principles” drop down tab, and I’ll be adding pages to it throughout the next week. At the moment, the first page up there is on Player Options. I also have planned articles on waivers, service time, and a few miscellaneous topics like the Rule 5 draft. If there are any other topics that you would like to see covered, please contact me either on Twitter or using the “Contact” link provided in the sidebar at the Library.

After the jump, you’ll find the write-up on player options that can now be found at the Library.

In and of themselves, options aren’t a confusing concept. The idea behind them is simple: to keep teams from hording minor league talent, and to provide minor leaguers more of a chance to reach the majors. If a minor league player is placed on a team’s 40-man roster – which must be done to protect that player from being selected in the Rule 5 draft – then they are given three option seasons. This means that if a team sends a minor-league player on their 40-man roster to the minors at any point during a season, they use one of that player’s options. After all three of a player’s options have been used, that minor-leaguer can no longer be freely sent to the minors – they must first be placed on waivers, giving other teams the chance to claim them.

The key word in the above section is “option seasons“. A team can call up and send down a prospect multiple times in the same season, yet they still only use one of that player’s options. In other words, this means that if a player doesn’t stick in the majors three years after being placed on a team’s 40-man roster, they have to either be kept on the 25-man roster or be placed on waivers before going to the minors again.

That’s the basics, now for some caveats and details.

– Players with fewer than five professional seasons will be given a fourth option year. This comes into play mostly with marginal players, as you need to be good enough to get added to a team’s 40-man roster at some point, but not good enough to reach the majors and stick within the next three season. Also, this typically affects players who sign major league contracts right after the draft.

–  An option isn’t used if a player is injured all year or they spend less than 20 days in the minors during the course of the season.

– Once a player is sent to the minors, they are must remain there for at least 10 days before being recalled (with the exception of if they need to return due to an injury). This is to prevent teams from bouncing one or two players up and down depending on the day of the week.

Links for Further Reading:

Options – Biz of Baseball

The Quick Rundown of Options – FanGraphs

Death, Taxes, and the Major League Waivers – Baseball Analysts

Understanding Option Years – River Ave. Blues

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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.

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