Nationals Arm Race

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

Option Status of the Nats 40-man roster


The closest Wang has ever come to pitching for our franchise. Photo Nats320/Jeff Saffelle

After asking myself the question, “Does player XYZ have any more options?” several times this year I decided to update Brian Oliver’s 2010 version of this post (available on his cherished yet idle website) for this year’s version of the Nats 40-man roster.

Here’s the key rules when it comes to Options (read here for a longer narrative form missive).

  • If a player is on the 40-man but not on the 25-man (active) roster, then they have to be placed on “optional assignment” to the minors for the year and they “burn” an option year.
  • If a player spends 20 days or less in the minors in a given year, then an option is not “burned.”
  • A player only gets three such “option years” while under contract to a given team; if they have been on optional assignment 3 years and are attempted to be optioned to the minors a 4th time, they are subject to waivers.
  • If a players has less than 5 years of professional service (at any level), the club can petition and usually obtain a forth optional year.  See this link at Baseball America for clarity on this (Thanks Sue Dienem).  The only way this really happens is if a guy gets added to the 40-man immediately after the draft and doesn’t languish in the minors, or if a player has a ton of injuries that eat up his minor league seasons.
  • If a player spends the entire year on the DL, or if the only minor league time is on a rehab assignment, then an option year is NOT burned.
  • If a player has MORE than 5 years of service, then according to the Basic Agreement that player can only be optionally assigned with his written approval.  In other words, the player can refuse such an assignment and immediately become a free agent.

And, before we go any further, here’s a great link defining how service time is calculated on  This is important, because the credited years of service directly impacts whether or not a team can request a fourth option year.  The policy for both service time and Optional assignments are defined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Section XXI, though further details about Optional assignments are located in attachments, letters from attorneys and other sections of the CBA.

We’ll divide the 40-man roster candidates into several sections.  In all cases the service times listed are at the beginning of 2010, since Cot’s site has not  yet updated them for the 2010 season.  I didn’t bother to try to do the calculations, since they’re incredibly complex.  Years of service are listed in years.days, and a “year” of service is exactly 172 days.  So for example Pudge’s 18.109 means he has 18 full seasons plus an additional 109 days.

Section 1: Veterans who can refuse demotion based on Service Time.

Once a player has 5 or more years of Major League Service, the can refuse assignments to the minor leagues.  Therefore options are irrelevant on our older players; if they perform badly enough to be removed from the 25-man roster, odds are they’d demand to be released and would not accept an assignment to AAA.

Rodriguez, Ivan 18.109
Hernandez, Livan 11.097
Hairston, Jerry 9.127
Marquis, Jason 9.012
Werth, Jayson 6.102
Ankiel, Rick 6.033
LaRoche, Adam 6
Coffey, Todd 4.024

The only real 25-man question mark for me is Todd Coffey.  I’m listing him here assuming that the full season in Milwaukee put him over the 5 year threshold for service.  This is notable though; it virtually guarantees him one of the 7 bullpen spots and means the likelihood of someone like Cole Kimball, Adam Carr, Colin Balester, or Craig Stammen making the roster is significantly lowered.

Section 2: Players who have Options available but are MLB entrenched

Player Service Time per Cots as of beginning of 2010 First Added to 40-man Option Years Used Options left?
Zimmerman, Ryan 4.032 Sep 2005 none 3
Espinosa, Danny 0 Sep 2010 none 3
Storen, Drew 0 May 2010 none 3
Zimmermann, Jordan 0.168 Apr 2009 2010 2
Desmond, Ian 0.027 Nov 2008 2009 2
Strasburg, Stephen 0 Aug 2009 2010 2
Lannan, John 2.04 July 2007 2007, 2010 1
Morgan, Nyjer 1.12 Nov 2006 2007, 2008 1
Player Service Time per Cots as of beginning of 2010 First Added to 40-man Option Years Used Options left? Notes
Zimmerman, Ryan 4.032 Sep 2005 none 3 never used an option.
Espinosa, Danny 0 Sep 2010 none 3
Storen, Drew 0 May 2010 none 3
Zimmermann, Jordan 0.168 Apr 2009 2010 2 Arguable; 2009 may not have counted b/c he only had 2 starts.
Desmond, Ian 0.027 Nov 2008 2009 2
Strasburg, Stephen 0 Aug 2009 2010 2 Probably eligible for a 4th based on lack of svc time. Did 2009 count?
Lannan, John 2.04 July 2007 2007, 2010 1 Believe the 9 days in 2009 spent in minors did NOT burn an option year.
Morgan, Nyjer 1.12 Nov 2006 2007, 2008 1

Strasburg is a special case; he’ll move immediately to the 60-day DL and probably stay there til september, at which point he’ll make some rehab starts and likely not ever get to use an optional assignment.  As for the rest,  theoretically any of these guys could be sent down mid-2011 without any say, much as we did with John Lannan mid last year.  However, they are all slated to be starters and to be important members of the 2011 team.  I could see Espinosa or Morgan hitting a rough patch at the plate and getting sent down to work on their swings, but the rest should be fixtures at the MLB level going forward.  Zimmerman may have graduated to the first section but his option status is pretty much irrelevant; he’s our marquee player and won’t be optioned to the minors.  He’s halfway to being a 10 and 5 guy (meaning he gets automatic no-trade status).

Section 3: Players who have Options Available and thus will Jeopardize their ability to make the 25-man roster out of spring.

Player Service Time per Cots as of beginning of 2010 First Added to 40-man Option Years Used Options left?
Flores, Jesus 2.158 Dec 2006 2008 2
Maya, Yuneski 0 July 2010 2010 2
Stammen, Craig 0.137 May 2009 2009, 2010 1
Balester, Collin 0.125 Jun 2008 2009, 2010 1
Atilano, Luis 0 Nov 2008 2009, 2010 1
Ramos, Wilson 0 Nov 2008 2009, 2010 1
Detwiler, Ross 0 Sept 2007 2008, 2009 1
Mock, Garrett 1.007 Oct 2007 2008, 2009 1

First off, I believe Luis Atilano is going to be the next 40-man victim, but even if he was retained in favor of another he has little shot of making the team out of the spring, and will eventually be cut loose from the 40-man roster.  Maya‘s status will depend on his spring training but in all likelihood he’s starting the year in AAA (see the next section for some reasoning as to why).   Whoever loses the backup catcher role will burn the last of their remaining options, making a trade even more likely in the near future for one of Ramos or FloresDetwiler‘s well timed injury last year allowed him to pitch in the minors on an extended rehab assignment, then get called back up to the Majors without burning an option; that last option probably gets burned in 2010 as he seems 7th or 8th in line for 5 rotation spots.  Similarly to Detwiler, Garrett Mock‘s injury diagnosis so soon after being optioned (after blowing his first start) allowed the Nats to cancel the option, put him on the 60-day DL and save his services for one more year.

Lastly both Balester and Stammen have options left and both may end up using them this year; I see these two players competing for the long man/spot starter position with Coffey and Henry Rodriguez, which is bad news since Rodriguez is out of options (see next section).  2/11/11 update: Stammen may not have burned an option in 2010 by virtue of spending fewer than 20 days in the minors, per Sue Dinem.

Section 4: Players who have No Options available

A caveat before moving on; while some of these players have no options left, some of them have so little service time that the team may petition the league for a fourth option year.  Such petitions (if i’m reading the rules correctly) do not occur until the end of spring training and thus we do not know who may be subject to this rule.

Player Service Time per Cots as of beginning of 2010 First Added to 40-man Option Years Used Options left?
Wang, Chien-Ming 4.159 Mid 2003 2003, 2004, 2005 0
Burnett, Sean 3.085 Nov 2003 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 0
Gorzelanny, Tom 2.16 Sept 2005 2006, 2008, 2009 0
Morse, Michael 2.114 Nov 2004 2005, 2006, 2007 0
Slaten, Doug 2.067 Nov 2005 2006, 2008, 2009 0
Gonzalez, Alberto 1.135 Nov 2006 2007, 2008, 2009 0
Bernadina, Roger 1.041 Oct 2007 2008, 2009, 2010 0
Clippard, Tyler 0.148 May 2007 2007, 2008, 2009 0
Rodriguez, Henry 0.016 Nov 2007 2008, 2009, 2010 0

Now, here’s where the roster decisions become rather interesting.  Lots of these players listed here are in open competitions for spots this spring and their lack of options may be telling.  Lets go section by section:

  • Chein-Ming Wang:  He’s seemingly just a few days short of the 5 year requirement to refuse assignment, but the Nats wouldn’t possibly have given him a major league deal if they were out of options and essentially had to guarantee him a major league spot.  My guess is either the Nats are going to look to start him on the DL, claiming some post-rehab injury if he doesn’t make the starting rotation or peitition the league for a fourth option year.
  • Tom Gorzelanny: he has no options left, is signed to a $2M contract and will be either the 5th starter or a long man out of the bullpen.  This fact pretty much guarantees that he makes the opening day roster and almost certainly guarantees that Maya, Wang and Detwiler (barring spring training injury or huge shock) are starting the year in the minors.
  • Burnett, Morse, Bernadina, Clippard: All four of these guys are expected to make the roster rather easily, so no option issues should exist.  The one question mark could be Morse, who despite hitting the cover off the ball last year watched the Nats systematically bring in player after player to compete with him for his bench role in 2011.  We signed Ankiel, we traded for Corey Brown, and then invited four other outfielders to spring training.  My guess is that the Nats will keep 5 outfielders though and he’ll be safe.
  • Slaten signed a relatively modest deal for $695K for the year, and really only faces competition from one guy for the loogy spot (Severino, who has never pitched in the majors before).  So the odds are high that he makes the team in that role.  He’s out of options, has been DFA’d in the past and passed through waivers with our team once before, but his performance last year would probably result in his being claimed this year.
  • Alberto Gonzalez: He also settled pre-arbitration for $700k but hit badly last year, made noise about wanting to be a starter, and watched the Nats bring in Hairston, Cora, and Cintron to compete with him for the utility infielder.  If he doesn’t have a good spring, there is little value in keeping him on the 40-man roster.
  • Henry Rodriguez: out of options, and someone we gave up Willingham to get, so he’s basically guaranteed a 25-man spot.  This (as noted above) essentially eliminates the possibility of someone like Kimball, Carr, or Stammen to make the team.

2/11/11 update: Sue Dinem points out that Bernadina did NOT burn an option in 2010, having only spent a few days in the minors.  This is important as it may lead to him to be sent down if we decide to keep one extra outfielder.

Section 5:rule 5 pickups that have no chance of making the team

The two remaining players on the 40-man right now not previously mentioned are our two rule5 pickups Elvin Ramirez and Brian Broderick.  I feel neither guy has any chance of making our 25-man roster, and both will be either returned or a trade negotiated.  Because both were never on a 40-man, they both have zero service time and all 3 options remaining at this point.

Coincidentally, here’s my prediction on the opening day 25-man roster, based on the above analysis:

  • SP: LHernandez, Zimmermann, Lannan, Marquis, Gorzelanny
    RP: Burnett, Slaten, Clippard, Storen, Balester, HRodriguez, Coffey
    C: IRodriguez, Flores
    INF: Desmond, RZimmerman, AGonzalez, Espinosa, LaRoche, Hairston
    OF: Bernadina, Morgan, Morse, Werth, Ankiel

5 outfielders, Flores over Ramos and Gorzelanny over Maya and Detwiler.

Written by Todd Boss

February 10th, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Posted in Nats in General

12 Responses to 'Option Status of the Nats 40-man roster'

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  1. By my calculation, both Stammen and Bernadina spent less than 20 days in the minors in 2010 and therefore did not use an option. Detwiler did use an option in ’10 according to press reports, but by my calculation gets a 4th option year. None of that changes the your bottom line conclusions for any of them.


    10 Feb 11 at 6:04 pm

  2. Also, if you want to consider the non-roster invitees — some of whom are probably worth incorporating into this analysis — I have their option status on the option status page of the Big Board with the others… don’t start from scratch. Except for Barker. His history is utterly confounding.


    10 Feb 11 at 7:02 pm

  3. As I was doing this analysis, I had to change several of the classifications I initially had for these guys; i’ll add in the Stammen/Bernadina thoughts. Bernadina’s extra option could be crucial; I think we have an OF glut and I keep wondering why everybody thinks he’s so vastly superior to the other options he’ll be competing with (Ankiel and Morse). Morse crushed the ball last year, his splits weren’t bad, and its left field for crying out loud; you don’t need Willie Mays out there in terms of defensive capabilities. Having an option means he can be stored away if Ankiel pans out.

    Thanks for the updates.

    Todd Boss

    11 Feb 11 at 9:37 am

  4. Yeah, ran out of time for deeper analysis of all the ST invites. You’re right; someone like Cora or Cintron could absolutely beat out Gonzalez, and maybe maybe we could see a shock in terms of the pitchers. But somehow i doubt it. I think a guy like Matt Stairs got a ST invite as part of some weird club/unwritten rules that teams have out there to give Vets winding down ST invites to keep them involved a bit longer/give them free meal money for a few weeks 🙂

    Just saw the updated big board; i’m really glad you’re keeping this up! The big board and draft tracker are absolutely two of the biggest resources I use and constantly refer to them.

    Coincidentally, did you see the predictions I did for ML rotations? That’s one of my favorite things to do and i’m glad I have an outlet (the blog) this year for my thoughts. I’m curious if you agree with my guesses. I see on the big board you definitely have (for example) Tatusko and Roark still in AA; is that because you’re guessing that or because it isn’t worth doing the minor league big boards until the season starts?


    Todd Boss

    11 Feb 11 at 9:48 am

  5. The 4th option year comes into play for those with less than 5 seasons of “professional service.” This is different from major league service measure on Cot’s site. For instance, Wang has more than 5 seasons of professional service, even though he has less than 5 years of ML service, so a 4th option year isn’t possible. This is a good explanation of the 4th option year:

    The team should be in position to get a 4th option year for Ramos, making the idea of trading either Ramos or Flores less urgent


    11 Feb 11 at 9:48 am

  6. It’s great to have someone to talk to about options. As I was working on it, I started to wonder if I was crazy. If you can figure out why Rizzo says Henry Rodriguez is out of options, please tell me. I don’t understand why he wouldn’t get a 4th option year.


    11 Feb 11 at 9:50 am

  7. Tatusko and Roark are still on the Harrisburg roster. I’m trying to just play it straight with what we know…. which is one of the reasons that I’m itching for ST to start!


    11 Feb 11 at 9:57 am

  8. Yeah I saw this written two different ways in two different places. Once said < 5yrs "professional" service can reqest a 4th option year, another said something along the lines of "if a player has never been called up to the majors and has used all three options then they can get a fourth." But that 2nd statement clearly isn't right if you look at what happened with Burnett, who did get a 4th option.

    But the BA article makes it clearer. So lets say someone plays 3 full years of minor league ball, gets put on 40 man, burns 3 options splitting time between the majors and AAA. This person would NOT then be eligible for a 4th option because they have nearly six professional seasons. That makes a ton more sense to me. I read it to be < 5 years major league experience … which is nearly impossible to achive if you have been optioned back and forth 3 straight years.

    I may re-figure my options xls as a result, looking at the draft dates and minor league service.

    Todd Boss

    11 Feb 11 at 12:33 pm

  9. Henry Rodriguez. Per cots he was put onto Oakland’s 40-man roster 11/20/07. He then plays the entirety of 2008 in the minors (option year #1). He appears in 40 games in the minors in 2009 and he gets a late season callup to appear in 3 games in september (option #2) And in 2010 he got optioned out of spring training, called back up in May and then bounced around (option #3).

    Since he was drafted and played most of 2006, he now has played 5 professional years and so he can’t get a 4th option.

    That’s my thinking. What do you think? That espn page is awesome for figuring out options since it lists every transaction for every team going back to 2002.

    Todd Boss

    11 Feb 11 at 12:38 pm

  10. He only played Rookie league ball in 2006, and the BA page says that playing a Rookie league season isn’t enough to get you a “season” of pro experience because it’s less than 90 days. shows that the AZ Athletics played 55 games that season. So he should be at less than 5 years … so what am I missing?

    The other site I’ve found with really good, detailed listings of a player’s movements is The player pages are great for this purpose. Except for someone like Barker, whose history is just too long.


    11 Feb 11 at 2:39 pm

  11. I saw that caveat about the short seasons … but you have to get *some* credit for playing pro ball right? If you play 85 days in short-A you should get your first “year” of credit a few weeks into your subsequent season right? Perhaps the way it works is, you don’t get charged for the short season but then if you finish a full season you jump to 2 pro seasons. who knows. I’ll check out the link.

    Now we know what assistant GMs for major league teams do all day 🙂

    Todd Boss

    11 Feb 11 at 5:07 pm

  12. Terrific stuff, all. I’m in complete agreement with you both on Morse.
    The option status on Rodriguez is key; if he’s not good enough to make the club, then there’s a lot of mud to go around. Let’s see.

    Mark L

    13 Feb 11 at 7:29 pm

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