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.