Oakland A's options & service time: A primer

I'd like to request Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man." - USA TODAY Sports

Warning: spreadsheets.

As the rain washed away the Oakland Athletics' final game of the Bay Bridge series against the San Francisco Giants, we shed many tears seeing clubhouse favorite Stephen Vogt sent to Sacramento. Should Daric Barton have gone instead?

When Ryan Cook returned from his rehabilitation assignment, we sent Evan Scribner up Interstate-80. Why not Drew Pomeranz?

When A.J. Griffin returns from his flexor tendinitis, which player will manager Bob Melvin have to call into his office for yet another difficult talk?

Good answers to these questions consider many factors like baseball skills and options status, as OmahaHi offered yesterday. I would like to introduce some longer-term thinking each time we look at moving guys on-and-off the 25- and 40-man rosters by first giving you an introduction to the concept of options, Major League service time, and "super two" arbitration eligibility. Next time, we'll look at how these considerations factor into a potential roster move.

If these concepts are not familiar to you, may I suggest Bluebird Banter's excellent recent article on it as well as this brief primer.

The "options clock"

An "options clock" is a bit of a misnomer. In general, a player has three seasons after he first joins a Major League club's active roster where a team can send a player on "optional assignment." During those years on optional assignment, the team can more or less send their player up and down from its farm system as often as it likes, except that a player cannot be recalled from optional assignment to a minor league team within ten days of being sent there, unless he is recalled to replace a player going on the disabled or other inactive list.

If a player has an option year, but his first day on a Major League active roster was more than three years ago, a team must request revocable optional waivers on that player before he can be sent to the minor leagues on optional assignment. Claims are rare because of the revocability of the waiver request, but the need to request waivers can result in some funny transactions like a player getting designated for assignment first because the league office does not process waivers on weekends. The 2012 Basic Agreement implements weekend waivers for the first time.

Defining an option year and qualifying for a fourth option year

One of a player's three option years is only charged if a player spends at least twenty days on the minor league club's roster. Evan Scribner, for example, spent only eleven days of the 2011 season on optional assignment, and therefore did not use an option year. Josh Reddick only spent nineteen days of 2009 on optional assignment, and so has an option left for people to debate over using.

A player can be eligible for a fourth option year if he has been on the active roster of a Major or minor league club for four seasons or fewer at the start of that season, with a season on an active roster defined as ninety days or more. Rookie and Short-Season A League baseball do not have long enough seasons to count against this limit. A player that qualifies has either reached the Major Leagues quickly or has spent a great deal of time with season-long injuries.

Drew Pomeranz is such a player. His first full season in the minor leagues was in 2011. In 2012 and 2013, the Colorado Rockies burned his first and second option years. If he is sent down to Sacramento this year for more than twenty days, 2014 will be his third option year. But at the start of the 2015 season, he will only have spent four seasons in professional baseball, and therefore can be optioned again in 2015.

Options and the Rule 5 Draft

Adding a player to the 40-man roster does eventually limit a team's ability to retain a player in the minor leagues. Daric Barton, one Athletic that is "out of options," must clear waivers before he can be sent "outright" to a minor league team. Major League organizations, however, must add players to the 40-man roster within four Decembers of them being signed after the amateur draft (five if the player was 18 years old or younger on the June 5 immediately preceding the player's signing), otherwise those players can be selected at the Rule 5 draft in December of each year.

The flip-side of the Rule 5 draft is that a player drafted must remain on the drafting club's Major League 25-man roster for the entire season or else be sent on waivers to the other Major League clubs and then offered back into the sending club's minor league system. San Diego took the chance that no team would select Nate Freiman in the December 2012 draft, but Houston did. Then, late in spring training, Houston tried to send him through waivers to return him to San Diego, but Oakland claimed him instead, keeping him in the big league club for the year.

Major League service time

The number of days a player spends on a Major League active roster or disabled list has an enormous impact on his rights as a player. For example, a player with five years of service time has the right to refuse any assignment to the minor leagues, meaning the team must either keep him on the active roster or else release him and continue to pay his contract salary. A player with three years of service time can elect free agency if he is outrighted to the minor leagues, but he does not continue to receive salary.

FanGraphs tells me a year of service time is 172 days, and there are typically 183 days in the Major League season. A player cannot earn more than 172 days of service time in one year. When you see a player's service time written out as 2.048, that represents two years, and forty-eight days of service time.

Arbitration and Super Twos

Teams have complete discretion on the salaries they pay to the players that on their 40-man roster, subject to the league minimum salary ($500,000 in 2014) until that player reaches three years of MLB service time. After the season in which he reaches three years of service time, a player and his team must submit their opinions of a player's salary each year for the next three years, based on an analysis of their skills as a player. A panel of arbitrators chooses either the player's figure or the team's figure, and cannot choose a compromise figure. In recent years, most teams and players have settled on a salary number instead of going to the arbitrator.

In addition to automatic arbitration after three years of service time, the top twenty-two percent of players that accrue eighty-six days of service time this season and end with more than two but less than three years of service time are also eligible for arbitration. For this season, these "Super Two" players received as little as $560,000 (Frank Hermann, Cleveland Indians) to as much as $3,850,000 (Mike Minor, Atlanta Braves). If you want to give someone a good heckling, yell "Super Two" when Seattle's Charlie Furbush warms up in the bullpen, he was last season's bubble player for Super Two eligibility.

MLB Trade Rumors projects this year's Super Two line will be two years, 128 days. Josh Donaldson is the only Athletic projected to become Super Two arbitration eligible this year, starting the year with 1.158 years of service time.

The Options & Service Time Chart

With the above in mind, I'm going to offer you a couple of charts derived from service time information at Cot's Baseball Contracts, transaction information from Canada's TSN (a tip of the hat to rudirules for pointing me that way), and minor league season information from Baseball Reference. Next time, I'll offer my observations on specific players, but I invite you to take a look at the charts as well as the more detailed options status spreadsheet I will keep updated (Dropbox link). When you look at this data, does anything stand out this year? What sort of transactions should you expect that will serve the team in 2014, 2015, and beyond?

Batters

Last updated 4/17/14 POS Roster Status Summary MLB Service Time (start of 2014)
Punto, Nick IF Active Out of options
May refuse outright assignment
11.051
Barton, Daric 1B Active Out of options
May elect free agency if outrighted
4.030
Moss, Brandon 1B Active Out of options
May elect free agency if outrighted
3.160
Donaldson, Josh 3B Active Out of options
Must accept outright assignment
1.158
Crisp, Coco CF Active May refuse optional assignment 10.158
Callaspo, Alberto 3B Active May refuse optional assignment 6.135
Lowrie, Jed SS Active May refuse optional assignment 5.111
Jaso, John C Active Optional waivers required 4.032
Gentry, Craig OF Active Optional waivers required 3.084
Reddick, Josh RF Active Optional waivers required 3.050
Sogard, Eric 2B Active Optional waivers required 2.064
Cespedes, Yoenis LF Active Can be freely optioned 2.000
Norris, Derek C Active Can be freely optioned 1.102
Elmore, Jake IF 15-day DL (April) Can be freely optioned 0.155
Freiman, Nate 1B 40-man (optional)
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 1.000
Vogt, Stephen C 40-man (optional)
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.136
Peterson, Shane OF 40-man (optional)
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.002
Matthes, Kent RF 40-man (optional)
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Taylor, Michael OF Outrighted
(AAA Sacramento)
Out of options
May elect free agency if outrighted
0.059
Nakajima, Hiro SS Outrighted
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Fuld, Sam OF Designated for Assignment Out of options
May elect free agency if outrighted
3.140
Montz, Luke C Minor League
(extended spring training)
Optional waivers required 0.058
Martinez, Jose 2B Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Aliotti, Anthony 1B Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Carrithers, Alden 3B Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Ladendorf, Tyler 3B Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Ortiz, Ryan C Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Goebbert, Jake OF Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Pohl, Philip C Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Starters

Last updated 4/17/14 Roster Status Summary Option 4 eligible MLB Service Time (start of 2014)
Chavez, Jesse Active Out of options.
May elect free agency if outrighted.
3.108
Kazmir, Scott Active May refuse optional assignment 7.119
Milone, Tommy Active Can be freely optioned 2.018
Pomeranz, Drew Active Can be freely optioned yes (2015) 1.050
Straily, Dan Active Can be freely optioned 1.031
Gray, Sonny Active Can be freely optioned yes (2016) 0.061
Griffin, A.J. 15-day DL (late April) Can be freely optioned 1.102
Parker, Jarrod 60-day DL (2015) Has options, but injured for 2014 2.000
Lindblom, Josh 40-man (optional)
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 1.100
Leon, Arnold 40-man (optional)
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Walden, Marcus 40-man (optional)
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Alcantara, Raul 40-man (optional)
(AA Midland)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Murphy, Sean Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Buschmann, Matt Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Neal, Zach Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Relievers

Last updated 4/17/14 Roster Status Summary Option 4 eligible MLB Service Time (start of 2014)
Johnson, Jim Active Out of options.
May refuse outright assignment.
5.165
Abad, Fernando Active Out of options
May elect free agency if outrighted.
2.073
Gregerson, Luke Active May refuse optional assignment 5.000
Doolittle, Sean Active Can be freely optioned yes (2015) 1.122
Cook, Ryan Active Can be freely optioned 2.036
Otero, Dan Active Can be freely optioned 0.169
Rodriguez, Fernando 15-day DL
(AAA Sacramento)
Optional waivers required 2.142
O'Flaherty, Eric 60-day DL
(Midseason)
Out of options.
May refuse outright assignment.
6.062
Scribner, Evan 40-man (optional)
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 1.088
Savery, Joe 40-man (optional)
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 1.056
Ynoa, Michael 40-man (optional)
(A+ Stockton)
Can be freely optioned yes (2017) 0.000
Humber, Philip Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Out of options.
May elect free agency if outrighted.
3.093
Nieve, Fernando Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Out of options.
May elect free agency if outrighted
< 5 years
Berger, Eric Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Flores, Jose Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Hooker, Deryk Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
McBryde, Jeremy Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
Smyth, Paul Minor League
(AAA Sacramento)
Can be freely optioned 0.000
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