I hadn’t necessarily planned on revisiting this, but it came up in the comments yesterday, so I figured it might be worth an update and a revisit.
During the “dark times” that preceded this site, I remember this would come up on Brian Oliver’s Nationals Farm Authority. Often (usually) in the context of when it came time to make the final cuts, there would angst over why they would be opting for the veterans instead of “playing the kids” (Justin Maxwell, we hardly knew ye). Now, I think most of us understand that (A) the kids weren’t as good as advertised (B) the system’s depth was Kardashian-shallow.
Of course, with a contender and a less barren farm, the Washington Nationals don’t have to consider choosing between youth, 4As, and fringe major-leaguers.
Let’s get to it… once a player is added to the 40-man roster during the 25-man period (a.k.a. Opening Day to August 31), he can be sent up and back to the minors for three seasons (and sometimes four) until the player accrues five years of major-league service, at which point the player can refuse (and become a free agent). Naturally, there are exceptions… a player can be sent down for up to 20 consecutive days without an option being “burned” and rehab assignments are excluded (thus, for example, Cole Kimball did not use an option at all in 2012, but did accrue MLB service time).
Before I go any further, let me give credit to the research of Todd Boss as well our volunteer who runs the Big Board, SpringfieldFan, for making this post easier, if not possible.
The list of players on the 40-man roster who are excluded from this exercise (5+ yrs MLB service) is short:
Not much danger here, most are established veterans and the most vulnerable (Duke) is lefthanded on a team without many southpaws.
The more important list is this one — players with less than five years’ service, without options:
The scenario suggested in the comments that sees Espinosa put on the DL, Lombardozzi sliding into the lineup as the 2B, and Rivero manning the bench certainly seems possible. Unfortunately, the lack of options could keep H-Rod around, too.
Finally, there’s this list — guys with just one option left:
Maya and Perry are interesting cases in that they were added to the 40-man so soon after their acquisition that they appear to be eligible for a fourth option, which is typically granted for players with less than five years’ pro service. Technically, Bryce Harper has one left, too, but with just nine more regular-season games (139) in the majors than the minors (130) from 2011 to 2012, I’m presuming he’d get a fourth option year if it were ever needed.
I think most people would be focused on those first two names in the first row as possible trade bait, as both appear to be blocked — perhaps even by multiple players. Expectations, however, should be severely tempered — Nationals G.M. Mike Rizzo covets “contingencies” and Chris Marrero has yet to prove he’s reverted to pre-injury form.
Next up: A look at the possible pitchers for the full-season affiliates.