Explaining the options situation for Major Leaguers.

WE have mentioned recently that a couple of Aussie Major Leaguers, Luke Hughes[above] and Rich Thompson, are now ‘out of options’ and that this will affect [improve] their chances of staying on the team for Opening Day.   On the Twins’ blog Pucket’s Pond  explains in more detail just what this all means.

It’s good to have options, whether you’re Tim Tebow deciding to run or throw, or you’re a normal person at the grocery store choosing between Coke and Pepsi. In baseball, options have a more urgent meaning. If a player is out of options, his team has to either keep him on the Major League roster all year or risk losing him.

What do we mean by “options.” It’s the kind of baseball jargon that can make a casual fan’s eyes glaze over, and to be honest, even quite a few students of the game aren’t 100% sure how this concept works.

When a player is added to the 40 man roster, which usually happens when he’s at the AA or AAA level if he’s a promising prospect, he receives three options. If he plays all year for the Big League club, he keeps all three options. But if the team assigns him to a minor league team for more than 20 days, that uses up one option. The good news is, that one option covers the whole season. So even if the Twins call up Brian Dozier and send him down 10 times this year, that will only eat up one of Dozier’s options.

But if they send him to the minors three seasons in a row, he’ll be out of options. That means if the Twins want to demote him to the minor leagues, they have to place him on waivers first. And that’s bad because it gives the 29 other teams a chance to steal him from the Twins. This often forces a team to keep players on their roster who aren’t quite Major League ready because they don’t want to lose them for the future.

Hughes might be the toughest decision of any of the Twins’ out of options players. He showed some power last year (on the 2011 Twins, seven home runs actually counted as “power”), but he hit a meager .223 with a .289 OBP. The good news is that he’s versatile enough to play first base, second base, and third base, which makes him a good backup candidate. His out of options status may give him an edge in the battle with Tsuyoshi Nishioka for the utility infielder job – the Twins will have more incentive to keep Hughes on the roster so they don’t lose him.

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