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2016 Oakland A's 40-man roster options status and roster rules refresher

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Here's your primer on the roster rules for options, waivers, and the Rule 5 draft, and where things stand for Athletics players at the start of the season.

This is a rule book, according to my image search.
This is a rule book, according to my image search.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With the Oakland Athletics opening day roster set, and a decision on whether Felix Doubront or Jesse Hahn will start on Friday postponed until then, let's do a quick refresher on the A's options and Rule 5 draft rules and then review the options status of the A's 40-man roster and the Rule 5 draft exposure of their top prospects.

Options

Generally, every player on a major league 40-man roster has three "option years" that allows a player to be sent to the minor leagues without having to obtain waivers. A player can be sent between the major and minor leagues as often as the club sees fit during one option year, with the caveat that a player optioned out must stay in the minors for at least 10 days unless he is recalled to replace an injured player. An option year is only charged if the player spends 20 days in the minor leagues on optional assignment.

Even if a player has an option year remaining, he obtains the right to refuse minor league assignment if he has five years of major league service time. If such a player refuses to grant leave to be demoted, the club's only choice is to release him and continue to pay his contract or whatever termination pay the MLB collective bargaining agreement requires.

If a player is out of options and the club wants to demote that player to the minor leagues, it must obtain outright waivers for that player, meaning the other 29 clubs can claim that player's contract if they so desire. If outright waivers are obtained, the player can be removed from the 40-man roster and outrighted to the minor leagues in most circumstances.

However, if the player has been outrighted before in his career or he has more than three years of service time, he can elect free agency (but the club is freed from the player's contract). If the player has more than five years of service time, he can refuse the assignment and the club is forced to release the player, paying him his contract or collectively bargained severance.

You'll sometimes see that a player is "designated for assignment." This is not synonymous with being waived or released, but rather it is an up-to-10-day holding period that allows a player to not count against the 40-man roster limit while the club attempts to obtain waivers for a player, trade him, or release him.

Rule 5 draft

When a prospect is added to the club's 40-man roster often depends on when he first becomes eligible for the Rule 5 draft. In the Rule 5 draft held at each December's Winter Meetings, teams can draft eligible players who are not on the 40-man roster and retain those players so long as they remain on the club's active roster for the entire season, with certain caveats for players with long-term injuries.

Generally, a player is eligible for the Rule 5 draft four or five Decembers after they were first drafted or signed. Players who were 18 or younger on the June 5 prior to signing his first contract, generally high schoolers and Latin America signees, are eligible after five Decembers. Players who were 19 or older, mostly college players, are eligible after four Decembers. For example, a college player drafted in the June 2015 draft will be Rule 5 draft eligible in December 2018 because it is the fourth December after he first signed with the club (Dec. '15, '16, '17, '18).

A's options and rule 5 status

I have sorted out the lists by position players and pitchers. By each name is the player's service time as of the start of the 2016 season in "Y.DDD" format. For example, Danny Valencia has 4.118 years of service time, which is four years and 118 days. A full year of service time is 172 days. The major league season is 183 days, but players cannot earn more than one year of service time in a season. A player earns one day of service time for each day spent on the major league active roster or major league disabled list.

If there are any cases where certain special roster rules may come into play, I also make a special note of it in this section.

Position players

  • Active Roster (13)
    • Out of options: 3B Danny Valencia (4.118), 1B Yonder Alonso (4.116), C Stephen Vogt (2.084)
    • May refuse minor league assignment: CF Coco Crisp (12.158), 1B Billy Butler (8.102), 2B Jed Lowrie (7.111), UTIL Chris Coghlan (5.148), RF Josh Reddick (5.050)
    • One option year left: C Josh Phegley (1.114), CF Billy Burns (1.020)
    • Two option years left: LF Khris Davis (2.104), SS Marcus Semien (1.118)
    • Three option years left: 1B/OF Mark Canha (1.000)
  • 15-Day Disabled List (2)
    • Out of options: CF Sam Fuld (5.140)
    • One option year left: INF Eric Sogard (4.064)
      • Eric Sogard will obtain the right to refuse minor league assignment after 108 more days on the major league active roster or disabled list, when he reaches five years service time.
  • Optional assignment (7)
    • Two option years left: OF Andrew Lambo (1.079), OF Jake Smolinski (1.052), UTIL Tyler Ladendorf (0.132), 3B Max Muncy (0.106), 3B Renato Nunez (0.000), 1B Rangel Ravelo (0.000)
    • Three option years left: 2B Joey Wendle (0.000)
  • MLB.com Top 30 prospects not on the 40-man roster, by first exposure to the Rule 5 Draft (11)
    • Dec. 2016: #1 SS Franklin Barreto, #3 1B Matt Olson, #7 SS Yairo Munoz, #8 SS Chad Pinder, #17 3B Ryon Healy, #21 OF Jaycob Brugman
    • Dec. 2017: #6 3B Matt Chapman, #26 2B Trace Leohr
    • Dec. 2018: #4 SS Richie Martin, #18 CF Skye Bolt, #20 SS Mikey White
Starting pitchers

  • Active roster (5)
    • Out of options: LHP Rich Hill (6.127), LHP Felix Doubront (4.041)
    • Two option years left: RHP Sonny Gray (2.061), RHP Kendall Graveman (1.014), RHP Chris Bassitt (0.127)
  • 15-Day Disabled List (1)
    • Three option years left: RHP Henderson Alvarez (4.051)
      • Henderson Alvarez will obtain the right to refuse minor league assignment after 121 more days on the major league active roster or disabled list, when he reaches five years service time.
  • 60-Day Disabled List (1)
    • Two option years left: RHP Jarrod Parker (4.000)
      • If Jarrod Parker spends all of 2016 on the disabled list, he will obtain the right to refuse minor league assignment.
  • Optional assignment (2)
    • Two option years left: RHP Jesse Hahn (1.086)
      • If Jesse Hahn is recalled and does not spend 20 days of the MLB regular season on optional assignment, an option year will not be charged.
    • One option year left: RHP Raul Alcantara
      • While Raul Alcantara has used two option years, he is likely to make use of a fourth option year in 2017 because his development was interrupted by Tommy John surgery. Fourth options are allowed for players who have used all their options and have fewer than five seasons in professional baseball where the player spent either (1) at least 90 days on an active roster, or (2) a combined 90 days on a minor league disabled list and active roster with at least 30 days active. Short season and rookie leagues are always less than 90 days.
  • MLB.com Top 30 prospects not on the 40-man roster, by first exposure to the Rule 5 Draft (13)
    • Dec. 2016: #2 LHP Sean Manaea, #10 LHP Dillon Overton, #15 RHP Dylan Covey
    • Dec. 2017: #9 RHP Casey Meisner, #14 RHP Daniel Mengden, #19 RHP Heath Fillmyer, #25 RHP Daniel Gossett, #27 RHP Dustin Driver, #28 LHP Chris Kohler
    • Dec. 2018: #23 LHP Zack Erwin, #24 LHP Kevin Duchene
    • Dec. 2019: #11 RHP Dakota Chalmers
Relievers

  • Active roster (7)
    • Out of options: RHP Fernando Rodriguez (4.032), RHP Liam Hendriks (2.038)
    • May refuse minor league assignment: RHP Ryan Madson (10.155), RHP John Axford (5.170), LHP Marc Rzepczysnki (5.132)
    • One option year left: LHP Sean Doolittle (3.122)
    • Three option years left: RHP Ryan Dull (0.034)
  • 15-Day Disabled list (1)
    • Two option years left: RHP R.J. Alvarez (0.091)
  • Optional assignment (2)
    • Three option years left: RHP Andrew Triggs (0.000), RHP J.B. Wendelken (0.000)
  • MLB.com Top 30 prospects not on the 40-man roster, by first exposure to the Rule 5 Draft (1)
    • Dec. 2016: #30 RHP Aaron Kurcz (eligible since Dec. 2013)

Additional notes

Because so many of the A's prospects are at the Triple-A level in 2016, they have few minor league free agents with complicated options histories. One to watch out for is whether a minor league free agent does not have options remaining and has been outrighted off a 40-man roster before, because the club might only use that player for a short time.

Starting pitcher Eric Surkamp has one option year remaining and has been outrighted in the past. If he were added to Oakland's roster and the club wanted to remove him from the 40-man roster, he would need to clear waivers and decline the opportunity to elect free agency to try to pitch elsewhere.

Correction: A previous version of this post stated that Eric Surkamp was out of options.