Here are some great references out there on roster rules:
There are more included in the bizofbaseball.com link.
I wanted to take some highlights and how this will effect the Tigers' decision making this March.
When a player is added to the 40-man roster, his club has three “options,” or three separate seasons during which the club may to move him to and from the minor leagues without exposing him to other clubs. A player on the 40-man roster playing in the minors is on optional assignment, and within an option season, there is no limit on the number of times a club may demote and recall a player. However, a player optioned to the minor leagues may not be recalled for at least 10 days, unless the club places a Major League player on the disabled list during the 10-day window.
After three options are exhausted, the player is out of options. Beginning with the next season, he must clear waivers before he may be sent to the minors again. See Waivers. Additionally, a player with 5 years of Major League service may not be sent to the minor leagues on an optional assignment without his consent.
- Biz of Baseball
They go on to show how to calculate option years.
# If a player is not sent to the minors during a year, an option is not used.
# If a player is on the 40-man roster in spring training but optioned to the minors before the season begins, an option is used.
# If a player’s optional assignment(s) to the minors total less than 20 days in one season, an option is not used.
- Biz of Baseball
Here you can see when options are used by players. I wanted to point out that only one option can be used per year. In the instance of somebody like Craig Monroe in 2002 or Aquilino Lopez in 2007, only one option is used even though they were each shipped between Detroit and Toledo numerous times. The ultimate problem with running out of options is that a player cannot be sent to the minors without clearing waivers. There is another case when this is true, from Keith Law
There is a rule rarely invoked in baseball that creates a situation where a player who has options remaining still has to clear waivers to be sent on an optional assignment. If the assignment is to begin at least three full calendar years from the date of the player's first appearance on a 25-man roster, then the player can not be sent on an optional assignment without first clearing major league waivers. These waivers are revocable, and players usually clear those waivers without incident.
So, what does this all mean? Ignoring the planned starting lineup, Vance Wilson, the Starting Rotation, Todd Jones, and Fernando Rodney, let's take a look at the option status of those fighting to make the team.
1. Any player who has been sent down on an optional assignment in three seasons is out of options, and will have to clear irrevocable waivers to be sent to the minors.
Three options used:
Denny Bautista (2004, 2006, 2007)
Yorman Bazardo (2005, 2006, 2007)
Tim Byrdak (1998, 1999, 2000)
Francisco Cruceta (2003, 2004, 2005)
Jason Grilli (2000, 2001, 2002)
Bobby Seay (2001, 2002, 2003)
Mike Hessman (2003, 2004, 2007)
Brandon Inge (2001, 2002, 2003)
Ramon Santiago (2003, 2006, 2007)
Freddy Guzman (2004, 2006, 2007)
Marcus Thames (2002, 2003, 2005)
Timo Perez (2001, 2002, 2007)
Two options used:
Macay McBride (2005, 2007)
Jordan Tata (2006, 2007)
Tony Giarratano (2005, 2006)
Brent Clevlen (2006, 2007)
Ryan Raburn (2004, 2005)
One option used:
Zach Miner (2007)
Clay Rapada (2007)
Rick Porcello (2007)
Virgil Vasquez (2007)
No options used:
Out of the above players, barring injury, 15 will have to be sent down to Toledo, leaving a minimum of five players out of options who will have to be exposed to waivers.
I list Joel Zumaya because it would be interesting to see if he is sent on an optional assignment to Toledo to prevent service time from accruing during the injury. He's got three option years left, and could be arbitration eligible after this upcoming season. It's worth considering.
2. Players who first appeared on a 25 man rosters more than three calender years before the start of an optional assignment must clear revocable waivers.
Of the nine players who still have options remaining, only Ryan Raburn falls under this qualification, having made his Major League debut in 2004. Revocable waivers allow a team to pull a player back if they don't want him claimed. The waiver period in question runs from November 11 through April 30. This means the Tigers could have already slipped Raburn through waivers, allowing him to be optioned this Spring.
I'll talk more about the specifics of waivers and the likelihood of players being claimed in Part 2. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please leave them as I would love to answer them and feel they would be informative for anybody out there.