Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Nationals Players’ Service Time and Option Status for 2013


Jesus Flores achieved 5 full years of service time in 2012, complicating his roster status going forward. Photo Toni Sandys/Washington Post

In the process of opining on some preliminary Nats hot-stove moves this coming off-season, I found myself asking certain service-time/options questions about players on the 40-man roster.

So, I took the time to create a Spreadsheet of all Nats 40-man roster players with Options status for the coming season (well, actually update a version I had of this information from last year).  I also tried to update everyone’s service time to what it should stand at at the end of the 2012 season (though honestly some of the service time calculations, especially for someone bounced up and down this year like Corey Brown, can be tricky).

I know that Luke Erickson‘s Nats Big Board has an “Options Status” tab, and I didn’t mean to circumvent the work there; i’m just not sure whether it has been updated for the coming season.  The big board Options tab also has some helpful links to decipher some of the options ramifications, especially the tricky 4th option (which will notably come into play for several of our guys very soon, as discussed below).

Nonetheless, if I have the Options statuses and Service time calculations correctly done, there are some interesting roster management moves on the horizon.  The below analysis includes a disputed 4th option for Ryan Perry; I’m pretty confident I’m correct in determining his option status but will caveat that opinion (and this whole article) by reminding the reader that I’m not in fact a professional baseball executive and may have a couple of these calculations wrong.

Here’s a full list of our current 36 40-man players (this is where we stand as of today, post FA declarations of our seven free agents plus the reverting of our former three 60-day DL guys to the 40-man roster).  I’ve got these players divided into four categories, with some discussion after each:

Category 1: Vets who can refuse demotion (5 or more years of service)

Players in this category and their service time at the end of 2012:

Name Svc Time First Added to 40-man Option Years Used # Ops Left
Gorzelanny, Tom 5.16 Sept 2005 2006, 2008, 2009 0
Flores, Jesus 5.079 Dec 2006 2008, 2011 1
Suzuki, Kurt 5.113 Jun 2007 none 3
Tracy, Chad 7.000 Nov 2004? ? ?
Zimmerman, Ryan 7.032 Sep 2005 none 3
Morse, Michael 5.114 Nov 2004 2005, 2006, 2007 0
Werth, Jayson 9.102 Nov 2002? ? ?

Discussion: Most of the guys on this list are no-brainer core pieces of the team in 2013 and beyond, but two names in particular raise interesting questions.  First Tom Gorzelanny has now achieved enough MLB time so that he cannot be sent down without his permission, but that was largely irrelevant based on his lack of options anyway.  He remains a non-tender candidate because of his expected raise from his 2012 $3M salary given his role as long-man/mop-up guy for the team (well, that is unless you’ve seen the price of left-handed relief on the FA market this off-season … maybe he’s NOT a non-tender candidate).  The bigger surprise on this list is Jesus Flores, who I believe achieved his 5th full service year in 2012 and now (despite having a minor league option left) can refuse an assignment to AAA.  This represents an interesting decision for the team, who clearly has Suzuki and Ramos as its #1/#2 catchers.  Most think he’s also a clear non-tender candidate for 2013, but I tend to think that he’s a valuable commodity worth tendering a contract.  Despite his poor batting in 2012 (slash line of .213/.248/.329) there is a market for backup catchers in this league, especially ones that once showed the hitting promise that Flores has (a slash line of .301/.371/.505 in the early part of 2009 prior to his injuries).  Maybe this service time issue becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back of his tendering decision; if we tender him, we’ll immediately have to trade him because he’ll likely refuse an assignment and be declared a free agent if he doesn’t make the 2013 team.  Perhaps the team cuts bait on him before having their hand forced.

Category 2: Players with Options but who are entrenched on the 25-man roster for 2013

Name Svc Time First Added to 40-man Option Years Used # Ops Left
Gonzalez, Gio 3.162 Aug 2008 2009 2
Mattheus, Ryan 1.111 June 2011 none 3
Storen, Drew 2.140 May 2010 none 3
Strasburg, Stephen 2.118 Aug 2009 2010 2
Zimmermann, Jordan 3.154 Apr 2009 2010 2
Ramos, Wilson 2.047 Nov 2008 2009, 2010 1
Desmond, Ian 3.027 Nov 2008 2009 2
Espinosa, Danny 2.033 Sep 2010 none 3
Lombardozzi, Steve 1.023 Sep 2011 none 3
Harper, Bryce 0.152 Aug 2010 2011, 2012 1
Moore, Tyler 0.113 Nov 2011 2012 2

Discussion; the likelihood of seeing any of these guys optioned to the minors in 2013 seems slim; mostly they are starters and key players for the team going forward.  That being said, John Lannan‘s surprise demotion in 2010 while he struggled was enabled by his options availability, and a struggling player like Moore or Lombardozzi could be sent down to make room if need be.

Category 3: Players whose Options almost guaranteed to be used in 2013

Name Svc Time First Added to 40-man Option Years Used # Ops Left
Kimball, Cole 0.138 Nov 2010 2011, 2012 1
Maya, Yunesky 0.070 July 2010 2010, 2011, 2012 1?
Perry, Ryan 2.142 Apr 2009 2009, 2011, 2012 1?
Purke, Matthew 0.000 Aug 2011 2012 2
Leon, Sandy 0.096 May 2012 2012 3
Solano, Jhonatan 0.092 Nov 2011 2012 2
Marrero, Chris 0.033 Nov 2010 2011, 2012 1
Rendon, Anthony 0.000 Aug 2011 2012 2
Perez, Eury 0.030 Nov 2011 2012 2

Discussion; This list is where some of the 4th option availability comes into play.  First Yunesky Maya has already used 3 options but clearly isn’t in the plans of the team for 2013 (the final year of his 4yr/$8M wasted contract).  But, if I read the options rules correctly his lack of achieving 5 professional seasons will give him a 4th option, which is likely to be used for 2013.  The same goes with Ryan Perry, who was drafted in 2008 but made the Tiger’s MLB roster in 2009, nearly out of Spring Training, meaning he’s just finishing his 4th professional season.  This means (as was pointed out by a reader a few posts ago) he’s eligible for a 4th option, which is likely to be used as Perry continues to remake himself as a starter.  (Note: the 4th option validity for Perry has been questioned here and there and revolves around 2010, when I don’t believe he was optioned).  I see him being in the AAA rotation and serving as injury insurance for the MLB rotation.  Marrero and Kimball are both in the same boat; they both missed all (or most) of 2012, burning an option in the process, and unless the organization makes the decision to designate them to make room on the 40-man they will each burn their last minor league option in 2013.  The rest of these players are working their way up the minor league system, or in the case of Matthew Purke, hopefully working their way back into 100% health.

Category 4: Players with Options available, jeopardizing their 25-man status in 2013

Name Svc Time First Added to 40-man Option Years Used # Ops Left
Christian Garcia 0.027 Sep 2012 none 3
Lannan, John 4.045 July 2007 2010, 2012 1
Stammen, Craig 2.160 May 2009 2009, 2011 1
Brown, Corey 0.059 Nov 2010 2011, 2012 1

Discussion: I probably should have put Stammen into the 2nd category of players, based on his breakout 2012 performance.  Lannan is a likely non-tender after getting the surprising option to Syracuse in 2012 and demanding a trade; however if he’s offered arbitration he can have the same thing happen to him again in 2013, serving as a multi-millionare AAA starter/insurance policy.  The question is whether or not the team wants to spend money in that fashion.  It remains to be seen what the team does with Garcia; numerous reports talk of him converting to a starter.  If so, his options availability would allow the team to send him to AAA to hone his craft were he to not be ready for a rotation spot out of spring training.  Lastly Brown seems stuck in 4-A status right now, having cleaned up in AAA but struggled at the MLB level.  Perhaps he’s also a “guarantee” to be optioned in 2013 and belonging in the 3rd category; I put him here only because the Nats outfield situation remains in so much flux.  If LaRoche walks, Morse likely moves to first, Moore likely starts in left (absent another FA outfielder signing or other acquisition), Bernadina continues as the 4th outfielder and the team may possibly need a 5th outfielder candidate.  Brown is a lefty though, and the team has already invested in a lefty bench bat in Chad Tracy, so perhaps this works against him.  There’s so much yet to be decided though, its hard to guess how it will shake out.

Category 5: Players with no options left

Name Svc Time First Added to 40-man Option Years Used # Ops Left
Clippard, Tyler 3.148 May 2007 2007, 2008, 2009 0
Detwiler, Ross 3.002 Sept 2007 2008, 2009, 2011 0
Rodriguez, Henry 2.114 Nov 2007 2008, 2009, 2010 0
Rivero, Carlos 0.000 Nov 2009 2010, 2011, 2012 0
Bernadina, Roger 3.146 Oct 2007 2008, 2009, 2011 0

Discussion: The main player that has a worry here is Carlos Rivero, claimed off waivers from Philadelphia and who burned his last option in 2012 without even getting a Sept 1 call up.  He had a decent season in AAA (.303/.347/.435) but seems to be without a position (he played 3rd primarily in AAA and doesn’t seem to have another position).  I’m guessing he’s DFA’d this off-season and the team attempts to re-sign him to a minor league contract.  Henry Rodriguez‘s lack of options has resulted in some dubious DL-trips several times for this team, as he clearly could use some minor league time to fix his Jeckyl-and-Hyde performances.  But he can’t be optioned, so in some ways the team is stuck.  Honestly, I think its just a matter of time before they run out of patience and DFA him as well.

Thoughts?  Corrections?  Any and all feedback is welcome.

15 Responses to 'Nationals Players’ Service Time and Option Status for 2013'

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  1. Lannan is certainly in an incredible position. He could make around $5-6 million with the Nats this year and spend much of the season at Syracuse, or half that amount (or maybe less) to compete for a 5th starter position elsewhere. Thanks to how lousy the Nats’ pitching was in his early years, his career arc is completely backwards.


    14 Nov 12 at 10:54 am

  2. Point of clarification: I inherited the Big Board (and the Draft Tracker) from Brian Oliver after he shuttered NFA in 2010. The same volunteer (SpringfieldFan is her handle on my site) maintains both and she’s been extremely reliable, enabling me to concentrate on the day-to-day and content creation. I really can’t take any credit for either.

    Luke Erickson

    16 Nov 12 at 4:48 pm

  3. My apologies; i thought it was you that was doing the grunt work now. I didn’t know it was still “springfieldfan” doing the updating. I’ll start giving credit as such.

    Todd Boss

    16 Nov 12 at 8:04 pm

  4. No need to apologize – I just want to give credit where credit is due. I will still continue to blame my mistakes on my new copyeditor.

    Luke Erickson

    17 Nov 12 at 7:46 am

  5. […] TIME Todd Boss over at has done the hard work on trying to break down the options and service time of the current Nationals roster. With the Nationals ascendancy, this has become less of an issue than it was a few seasons ago, but […]

  6. Thank you so much for the service you provide. Because of my qwerky schedule I seldom access in time to make germane comments so I just read and move on.
    You have probably proivided the key decision variable for this off-season’s activities, along with the budget, of course.
    With our old GM I knew that I could come up with better decisions, but with Mike Rizzo, praise be to your favorite diety that we have him, this allows me to try to anticipate what he might do, but after Gio last year I am out of my depth.
    We can do nothing and be the best, but with another Rizzo coup we could DOMINATE.
    How fun.
    Let’s Play Two!


    17 Nov 12 at 11:50 am

  7. Davey Johnson is a big fan of Henry Rodriguez, FWIW. Between that and the fact that Rizzo has some investment in him, I don’t see him DFA’d just yet.

    John C.

    17 Nov 12 at 12:03 pm

  8. I’m glad you got a new puppy. My heart went out to you when hearing the news about your previous little guy. We have two labs ourselves and I just can’t imagine losing one of them right now. Here’s a shot of our two labs, from my wife’s business website.

    Todd Boss

    18 Nov 12 at 10:53 am

  9. Thanks for the kind words! I love talking shop and arguing about the Nats. Possible moves for next year: I agree with the old adage that you “constantly have to improve.” I don’t think you can stand pat; even if you think your team is perfect, it can always be improved. Right now you can look at our 98 win team and still identify areas where we could improve. Its fun to try to match up FA targets like all the baseball columnists do, but honestly Rizzo seems more likely to pull off another trade right now, which can come from anywhere. The logical starting point is to see who may be trading away starting pitching, and 3 teams come to mind; Tampa, Arizona and Oakland. Would it surprise anyone to see another deal with Billy Beane to acquire someone like Brett Anderson or Dan Straily? I’d love a move like that, instead of spending the farm on Greinke or Sanchez.

    Todd Boss

    18 Nov 12 at 11:03 am

  10. Totally agree. And, after writing what I wrote here I read a quote from Davey Johnson saying something along the lines of, “Henry was my best pitcher in spring training.” So maybe his collapse was entirely injury related. He was pretty lights out in April before blowing in in May. Of course, small sample sizes, especially with relievers, make it really tough to pass judgement in this say. You throw a third of an inning, give up a run and you’ve got a 27.00 ERA.

    Rizzo has been slow sometimes to pull the plug on a mistake (Matt Stairs), but fast other times (Brad Lidge). If H-Rod starts crapping the bed yet again in 2013, which way will Rizzo go?

    Todd Boss

    18 Nov 12 at 11:07 am

  11. Hi Todd,
    Sorry, I’ve been on work travel, so just seeing this now, but yes, I had largely updated the big board page a while back (but hadn’t gotten to the ML service time/right to refuse demotion part, so thanks for that). It never hurts to have more discussion of options, though, as nothing’s obvious or easy on this topic, and your thoughts made me go back and look again at some of the guys. I looked again at Stras and Storen and realized that the team had played a different game with options than I’d realized, and fixed what I had written. Also, you’re right that Lannan didn’t burn an option in 2007 because he was optioned back down right before the end of the season, and therefore didn’t meet the 20-day requirement. And now I am left in shock that the man STILL has an option remaining.

    A few notes, none of which would affect your analysis, which, as always, is very interesting.
    – Mattheus used options in both 2009 (with the Rockies) and 2010 (with the Nats) (optioned in March, and stayed down all year), so his balance is quite a bit lower. That may start to be a factor in the team’s decisionmaking, though you’re probably right that he’s entrenched on the roster.
    – Kimball was on the DL for all of 2012, so it wasn’t necessary to use an option this year.
    – You show Leon as getting a 4th option year, but I don’t know about that. Even if we assume that he wasn’t active for 90 days in 07 or 08, he won’t use up his other 2 options before he gets to 5 years of pro service time.
    – I don’t see where Stammen was sent back down in 2009 after being added to the 40-man. I don’t think an option was used for him that year. That would mean that he still has 2 option years remaining, which gives the team a lot of flexibility.


    27 Nov 12 at 5:14 pm

  12. Hey there SpringfieldFan! The Lannan question came up in Zuckerman’s article on non-tenders yesterday and he claimed Lannan has no options left. Where’s he getting his information? Because that to me is a massive part of the Lannan tender discussion.

    I will fix my own spreadsheet with your fixes. The one that i’m also curious about is Leon; the way i read the 4th option rules is a professional with less than 5 years pro experience at any level who burns 3 options. For example, Harper/Strasburg/Rendon/Purke will all be eligible for a 4th option presumably, since they started burning options immediately upon signing a mlb deal. I’ll revisit Leon’s sign date.

    Todd Boss

    28 Nov 12 at 11:58 am

  13. I had thought that Lannan burned an option in 2007. But if he was only added to the 40-man when he came up, and then was optioned a few days before the end of the season, he wouldn’t have burned an option year if the season ended less than 20 days after he was sent back down. Because the time in the minors before you’re added to the 40-man doesn’t count toward the 20 days. But if Mark is getting his info from someone in the organization, then that’s the final answer. I don’t know how all of this is tracked by the league, though I think it must be in MLB HQ. When I asked Rizzo (in 2011) why Henry didn’t get a 4th option year, it became clear that Henry’s options aren’t the first thing that Mike thinks about in the morning.

    Re: Leon — whether or not a 4th option year is awarded is only determined when the first 3 are used up, right? So, for instance, if Harper isn’t optioned again before he hits 5 professional seasons, then he won’t earn a 4th option year, even through the first two options were burned quickly. I don’t think Leon can burn the rest of his regular options without hitting the 5 year mark.


    28 Nov 12 at 12:22 pm

  14. Fair enough on Lannan’s 2007 situation. I’ve often wondered how MLB execs track this themselves. I’m envisioning a massive white board in Rizzo’s office with all the same stuff we track on google spreadsheets :-)

    True on Leon and that’s also my understanding on 4th year options, so yes clearly a guy like Harper will never get one. Purke on the other hand seems likely to need one eventually, since the odds of him getting to the majors by his 5th pro year seem slimmer and slimmer. Maya; perfect example. 4th pro season he’ll need his 4th option.

    Todd Boss

    28 Nov 12 at 1:15 pm

  15. […] 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 […]

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