Every day the folks in the Cincinnati Reds media relations department put out a set of notes detailing what’s going on in spring training today, tomorrow, some past information, etc. It’s to be used by the media members to help them have readily available information that is probably useful for them to get their job done. One of the sections is “Out of Options”. This first appeared when camp began, and at that point it was only listing pitchers. Only pitchers and catchers were in camp, so I didn’t think much about it. But when position players arrived, it still only listed five pitchers. Maybe it was an oversight? If it was, it was not updated or corrected.

With games set to begin on Sunday, I reached out for more information just to be sure that I was not missing something. There was one player, Aristides Aquino, who should have been listed there – at least in my mind. He used his first option in the 2017 season. His second option was used in the 2018 season. He didn’t use any options in the 2019 season as he was designated for assignment after the 2018 season, re-signed a minor league deal, and then wasn’t added back to the roster until the day he was called up in early August and he was never sent back down during the season. But in 2020 he was optioned and spent more than the 20 days in the minors that are required for an option to actually count as an option. Players only get three option years in almost all cases.

What I learned was that Aristides Aquino, and many other players around the league, including Reds José De León and Cionel Pérez, may actually be players who get a 4th option year. This gets a bit tricky, and hopefully I can explain it well enough, but here goes: Sometimes players can qualify for a 4th option year if during a normal option year they do not play enough in professional baseball. This usually applies in situations where a player is injured and misses most of or all of a season while already optioned. Travis Jankowski, for example, qualified in this manner for a 4th option in the 2020 season.

A player needs to be active for a certain period of time during the season. With the shortened season in 2020, and no minor league season, that has Major League Baseball in a bit of a strange place here. Usually, as I was told, Major League Baseball rules on these things in November following the season. As of Sunday they had still not ruled on exactly how this was all going to play out. That means that there are teams all around baseball who aren’t sure if they have guys playing right now that do or do not have options this season. I was told that teams are hoping to get the resolution to this within a week or two.

For the Cincinnati Reds specifically this could be a big deal. Aristides Aquino is playing for a spot in the outfield rotation. He’s probably not playing for an every day role with all of the depth that the team does have. But if he were to qualify for a 4th option year, it certainly would be beneficial for his continued development to get every day at bats in the minor leagues rather than get sparse playing time while trying to share at bats with four other every day-ish outfielders, and being a pinch hitter when the situation arises.

José De León, like Aquino, was presumed to be out of options. He’s competing for a spot in the rotation, but if he doesn’t land there, a spot in the bullpen could have his name on it as well. There seems to be a clearer path to a more regular job for him than Aquino, but it’s also possible that he could qualify for a 4th option year and if the team were to feel he needed additional time in the minors, that he could get it.

For now, we, and the teams around baseball simply don’t know how this is going to play out. But it certainly does add a little bit of intrigue from a roster discussion standpoint right now.

26 Responses

  1. Hotto4Votto

    That would be good news. A bit ago I was looking at the bullpen guys and their options. Considering 2 of Lorenzen, Antone, Miley, DeLeon appeared destined for the bullpen, and Garrett, Sims, Hoffman, Ramirez, and Romano are all out of options and guys like Doolittle and Bedrosian had more than 5 years of service time, the only guy that could be sent down of that group was Antone. Adding DeLeon to that mix as either starter or reliever would be big in adding flexibility.

  2. Sliotar

    Good explanation, Doug, of a confusing situation.

    Is it fair to say that Aquino is much more valued by the Reds fanbase … than the Reds front office?

    -Aquino has been in Reds organization since 2011. They should know what he is.
    -Finally, gets a shot to play RF in Cincinnati for the last couple of months of 2019
    -Castellanos is signed to play RF for the Reds in 2020

    If can he stay in Reds organization … fine, I guess. Feels like a AAAA guy now, waiting for a injury to be called up. Turns 27 in April … at his peak.

    If Castellanos opts to stay in Cincinnati after 2021 … what future does Aquino have?

    Being everday DH has a lot of “what ifs” to be reality … including actually approving it for NL and Aquino cutting down on MLB K% rate.

    • Doug Gray

      I think two things really come into play for Aquino beyond just the “does he get a 4th option”. First is if Nick Castellanos opts out. Second would be if the NL gains the DH in 2022, as is expected. That could open up some or a lot of playing time for him if he were to perform.

      That said, I do think that *some* of the fanbase values Aquino more than the front office. That’s not to say the front office doesn’t value him, but some of the fanbase seems to think he is still the same guy that showed up in August of 2019. I don’t think the front office thinks that (if they did, he’d be playing a lot more over the last year).

  3. Rednat

    i have been watching baseball 7 decades for now and it seems i understand it less and less everyday. i don’t understand why Aquino isn’t the everyday right fielder. i mean he can field the position well and has a great arm, runs the bases well and can hit for tremendous power, he seems very durable. yes he strikes out a lot but so does everyone else in the league. just seems to me he has much greater upside than guys like Jessie Winker who is a terrible outfielder and baserunner, hits into double plays all the time and is often injured.

    just very confusing to me

    • Frankie Tomatoes

      Winker and Castellanos may be the best hitters the team has and they play the spots that Aquino plays. They aren’t the defender that Aquino is but they are far more likely to hit and they’ve proven so over multiple years in the big leagues.

      • Optimist

        Perhaps Aquino is simply in the wrong era – he strikes me as a Dave Kingman type, but much better in the field. Looking at Kingman’s 162 game average seems about where Aquino would be – top-10 in HRs, plenty of RBIs, lousy avg. and obp. Still a 1-2 WAR player at worst. Adam Dunn much better plate discipline, but like Kingman, much worse in the field. Seems the Reds are both afraid to play him and afraid to trade him.

    • MuddyCleats

      Agree to a pt. One, have the Reds ever been wrong on a player eval — Have Winker, Shogo and Senzel proved they R the guy Reds said or believed they would be? IMHO, they have not. Two, Kinda hard for AA to prove he is that guy IF he doesn’t get a chance to play. Three, if not AA for the 4th OF, who’s better w/ more upside? I think Shogo, Senzel and even D. Gordon have proved they can play CF, so I wouldn’t say NO to AA simply bc he is more of a corner OF. He has and could play CF especially in a small park like GABP. Of course answering all these questions is what ST is all about!

  4. IndyRedsFan


    in the article there is a statement to the effect that “Major League Baseball usually decides these things in November……….but haven’t yet…”

    My question….is this solely the league’s decision?

    It would seem to me that this is something the Player’s Association would claim to have to agree to (as it impacts player’s earning potential, etc)

    if that’s the case, no wonder there is a delay…just as with the DH decision.

    • Doug Gray

      I don’t know for certain, but was told “MLB makes that decision in November”. It could have simply been an easier way to explain it rather than diving into more of a complicated situations of explaining it in much more detail. That said, I do think that there are rules in place that makes the decision making process easy in a normal season. But with how things played out last year…. who really knows? I mean, someone does – but apparently it’s not a simple answer.

  5. TR

    Optimist: Your comment regarding Aquino hits it right on. He’s a Dave Kingman type hitter with streaks of power hitting and then streaks of not hitting with strikeouts taking over. Confusion is central with Aquino. He will not be a regular with the Reds current management.

  6. Jimbo44CN

    I think the one comment that stands out to me is the statement about current Reds management. He’s an excellent defender, and had a tremendously good month, then one that was not so good in 2019. What do they do? Bring in Castellanos. Poor defender, and a good hitter at times. What does that say to this kid? You had a bad month so your out? Then last year, keep him in Prasco while they bring in a string of has beens and wanna bes. Up down, up down. He has never had the chance to prove himself, whereas Winker, Billy when he was here, etc, were given time to develop. Give him some regular playing time, put him in left , whatever. If he develops, great, if he does’nt well thats the way it goes, but he deserves a shot.

    • Hotto4Votto

      It’s more than just the one bad month, it’s about a consistent track record. 2017-2018 in the upper minors he was pretty mediocre. So much so that he was cut from the roster and resigned as a minor league FA. And to say “not so good” to describe his September 2019 is putting it mildly. His OPS was .619 (for the record Billy Hamilton has a .621 career OPS) and he struck out 34 times in 110 PA. As good as he was in August he was that bad in September. Plus, when your best season comes with the juiced ball, it’s going to come with a side of skepticism.

      Castellanos is more than a good hitter sometimes. He’s been a consistently good hitter throughout his career. He has a career .796 OPS, and that’s weighed down significantly from his first three seasons as a 21-23 year old. Outside of that he owns a .835 OPS through the past 5 seasons.
      Winker hit at every level through the minors and since being called up to the majors. In his 4 seasons in the majors he’s posted a .859 OPS (123 OPS+). He’s been above average offensively every stop of the way. He wasn’t given time to develop, he was developed when he arrived because he was consistently good in the minors and has been since breaking into the majors.

      So it’s not that he had a bad month and he’s out. It’s the other corner OF guys have had consistently good seasons and one spectacular month with a bunch of mediocre seasons along the way doesn’t outweigh that.

      • Roger Garrett

        Good points Hotto and you are right about Nick and Wink because numbers don’t lie.However I disagree with your last paragraph.He is out becuase of the bad month and if it had been a good one he would have been in and two months good or bad is not enough time to make a decision.Every hitter has good or bad months and that will continue as long as they get the chance to play which is and will always be my argument.You brought up Billy and his career OPS of .621 over 6 years and compared it to one month for Aquino.Look I agree that Nick and Wink are better hitters but the point I think is that Aquino never got a legit shot.Sure with Nick and Shogo being signed he will get shoved out and probably out of the organization.With Nick leaving after this year and Senzel and Wink’s track record of injury the Reds may wish sometime next year they still had him.

      • Jimbo44CN

        Well, you could get your wish as the Reds may very well trade him before the season, and if he’s in the National League I would look out if I were the Reds. I think he has the raw talent to be something special. Maybe so, maybe not, but two months is not a fair trial.

      • Hotto4Votto

        Roger – I will agree that if he had a good September he likely would have had a longer opportunity, though the Reds may have still signed Castellanos in an effort to improve the roster. I do not agree that we only have two months worth of data points on Aquino. He’s been with the organization since 2011. That’s 10 years of development time where he’s been pretty inconsistent. In A ball in 2015 he was below average, in 2016 in A+ ball he was very good. In his first go at AA he was once again below average before repeating the level in 2018 where he was above average but not dominant. The Reds thought enough of his development that they cut him from their roster. Sure, we have 2019 but we also have to consider the juiced ball and the career years for several AAA/major league players due to the ball. In 2020 he was once again below average, granted in a small sample size. He had opportunities in 2017/18 being on the 40-man and in the upper minors to play his way into the majors. His play simply did not warrant it, even on some very poor Red’s teams. Those 4 years, IMO, were his make or break time, not just the two months at the end of 2019.

  7. Rednat

    good points Hotto. i guess the way i look at it though is the game is more than just about hitting. there is base running ,and defense too. ideally you would like players that can do all 3 (or as us old timers like to call it ,5 tool players) but the reds seem not to be able to develop these guys anymore. the reds seem to put a lot of value on players that can hit, even if they cannot do anything else and i guess that just confuses me to an extent.

    i don’t know i guess i like guys that “can do it all”. i liked Puig and felt he was a breath of fresh air. and i think Aquino has similar qualities.

    • Hotto4Votto

      I agree, it’s more than just hitting and we’d all prefer players that were good at every aspect of the game. It’s just that true 5-tool players are fairly rare. And to be fair, Aquino is not a 5-tool player. His hit-tool is below average and fielding tool is pretty average. Fangraphs, FWIW, has given Aquino negative marks for fielding and defense. Base-running is only valuable when you’re on base, as evidenced by the Hamilton era. For his career he’s been below average at getting on base, with a below average BB% and a K% on the high side. And while Aquino may offer better defense in the OF corners than what we currently have, that’s an area where teams willingly sacrifice defense for offense and it’s the up the middle positions (C, SS, 2B, CF) where defensive value is going to stand out. And he’s not the offensive player that either Castellanos or Winker have proven to be.

      • jazzmanbbfan

        @Hotto: just a small compliment. I think you consistently have some of the best posts on this site day in and day out.

      • Roger Garrett

        Hotto,you brought up the 2 months of data points not me.I am just saying he never got a legit shot and he didn’t.He has been in the organization since 2011 as you said but he doesn’t turn 27 until April and I am not disputing any of his numbers from when he begin as a 17 year old in the minors.I am not even saying he deserved to be called up in August of 2019 at age 24 but he was and for one month well he was great and for one month he was awful.Who is he?We will never know.In all honesty if the Reds don’t sign Castellanos,we would know more about Aquino.Two opt out years at 16 mil per and a promise to play right field is what go him as we all know.Enjoy your posts as well.

      • Hotto4Votto

        I brought it up in response to Jimbo saying “you had a bad month so you’re out “. My entire point in bringing that up was that it wasn’t just about the good month and bad month, but an entire minor league track record vs the track record of Winker and Castellanos. Hence why I mentioned his 2017/18 seasons in my initial response.

    • Hotto4Votto

      And thanks Roger, I enjoy discussing the Reds and this has generally been a good spot for that. Appreciate you guys and your input.

  8. Jimbo44CN

    Well we will find out. I am an optomist and rely more on what I see than on boatloads of statistics. I am not arguing with the numbers, just on what I see, and I pretty much watch every single game. I dont’ think I have missed one in the last 3 years. I just don’t see it in Castellanos, sorry. Can’t tell if the guy is really happy to be here or not, and when he had his little fit last year and Bell had to go out and talk to him( baby him) it really turned me off. I hope I am wrong, but you never know. I want to see the best team on the field for the Reds, and I think that Aquino could be a part of that, but we will see.

    • TR

      I think Castellanos has been pleased with the very generous contract he got, but I’m not so sure he’s pleased with playing in Cincy, although maybe it’s just his personality. I’d be pleased if Aquino was given a real shot at one of the outfield positions.

  9. SteveO

    FanGraphs is showing that both DeLeon and Aquino have an option.
    Has MLB already made a decision? It would be great for both the organization and the players.

    • Doug Gray

      It is possible, but I’ve heard nothing official. Here’s what I know: Derrick Goold wrote about the same thing this morning for the St. Louis Dispatch, so at least as of this morning, it wasn’t official. In the Reds game notes that came out after noon today, the wording they’ve been using still seems to imply that things aren’t official.

      That said, I don’t know that the players will be thinking it’s great. Being out of options almost guarantees that they get a big league paycheck this year, as well as big league service time. That goes a very, very long way.