In the minutes after we posted our annual list of out-of-options players earlier today, several readers pointed out players they believed to have been omitted. In following up with various team and agency sources around the league, it became clear that there’s some uncertainty as to how the 2020 season will impact some players’ number of minor league options.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explores the situation at greater length, reporting that Cardinals outfielder Justin Williams isn’t even sure whether he has a minor league option remaining. Neither, according to Goold, are the Cardinals themselves. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register writes that the Angels are in a similar spot with right-hander Jaime Barria. Goold lists the Cubs’ Adbert Alzolay as another player currently in this state of limbo.
The reason? The commissioner’s office, the MLB Players Association and Major League teams still need to determine whether last year’s shortened slate of games counts as a full season under the league’s option structure. An arbiter is expected to make a final decision sometime this month, per Fletcher. Goold writes that a decision is expected “any time now,” adding that the Cardinals have been awaiting clarity for weeks.
By rule, players are given three option years after being selected to a team’s 40-man roster. Being optioned to the minor leagues, even if it’s out of Spring Training, counts as an option year — so long as the player spends 20 days down on the farm. Players are granted three option years, but there’s no limit to the number of times they can be optioned back and forth throughout the course of one of those individual option seasons.