Baseball’s minor league options are one of life’s great mysterious. Who has them, how are they calculated, and why did Josh Tomlin have one forever? Literally know one knows the answer to these questions; baseball executives just ask to option a player and hope they don’t get a mean-spirited rejection letter.
For the rest of us, we’re required to use great websites like Roster Resource to get an idea of who on our favorite teams have options and who doesn’t. For the Indians, it’s not exactly a pretty situation.
Most of the Tribe roster is settled in or just out of options. Francisco Lindor still has a bunch, in case he gets bored with dominating the majors and wants to kick it in Columbus for a few weeks, but some key players on the fringe of sticking with the 25-man roster are on the edge of getting designated for assignment or not getting any playing time stuck on the bench.
Let’s break this down into a few groups.
Players with three or more options
A distant voice once told me that every player has a maximum of three options under normal circumstances, meaning most MLB players will carry three with them until they start being used. The Indians actually have a couple of those.
As previously mentioned, Lindor has three options, but they’re unlikely to ever be used. Bradley Zimmer has three as well, and it’s not out of the question that he could be optioned at some point if he struggles again like he did at times in 2017. Particularly if he can’t stop striking out and if Greg Allen impresses in the minors, there may be a swap at some point.
The final Indians player with three options is Roberto Perez, who will probably be cut or traded before the Indians bother optioning him. We know what Berto is and isn’t — no amount of time in Triple-A will change the fact that he’s a great backup defensive catcher who can’t hit.
Players with one option
There is a bit of a misconception about options, particularly players with only one remaining. Having just one option doesn’t mean they can be sent down once and that’s it. Options apply to a full season, which means a player with one option in 2018 can be optioned any number of times within the season. They just won’t be able to optioned in 2019 and beyond.
Mike Clevinger has one remaining, and I could see it being used if walks are still an issue when Danny Salazar returns. If not, there’s no reason to send Clevinger down when he’s dealing, so he might just keep it indefinitely.
Relievers Nick Goody and Tyler Olson each have an option remaining, which will provide Terry Francona some flexibility with the bullpen if there are a couple bullpen heavy games in the midst of the season. Look for one of these two to be leaned on heavily when things go awry with the starting pitching, then be optioned to bring up someone else as a placeholder while everyone recovers.
Cody Anderson and Danny Salazar are both injured to start the season, and both have exactly one option.
Players who are fresh out of options
Whether they’ve been bounced between the majors and minors a lot, or they have more than five years of service time and can no longer be optioned with consent, these are the players who can no longer be sent to Columbus on a whim.
Utility infielder Erik Gonzalez is officially out, so he’ll be getting a lot of bench time with the Tribe when he’s not filling in at various spots around the infield. Gonzalez played in 20 fewer Triple-A games last season, but he had 55 more plate appearances with the Columbus Clippers (170 total) than he did with the Indians (115 total). He’s a versatile bench option for renowned Versatile Bench Lover Terry Francona, so I wouldn’t imagine he’s going anywhere soon.
Giovanny Urshela is out as well, and it could make or break the decision to call up him or Yandy Diaz if a third baseman is needed at some point. Yandy has two options left.
Reliever Ryan Merritt quietly ran out of options last season, despite not even accruing a full year of service time, and now he’s either on the team or not. His pinpoint control has kept his ERA under 2.00 in 31.1 major-league innings, but his 10.3 percent strikeout rate doesn’t exactly make him a scary threat in the bullpen. Still, as a longtime starter in the minors he can be a solid innings eater in the pen, which is something the Indians need sans Bryan Shaw.
In general, the Indians don’t have a lot of flexibility with relievers. Only Good and Olson have options among the expected bullpen arms, unless the Indians use starting pitchers Adam Plutko (two options) or Shawn Morimando (one option) in more robust bullpen roles this season.