Even though Robinson could be optioned to the minors in 2013, he is competing in the roster battle for the reserve centerfield spot with St. Louis as if there is no tomorrow. Through eight games of the 32-game spring schedule, Robinson is acting like he has no intention of letting the job he held for most of last season go.
After all, over his first six games played, Robinson is 10-for-18 with three doubles, two home runs, 19 total bases, eight runs scored and seven RBI. The right-handed hitter leads the club in all of those offensive categories.
Arguably the best defensive outfielder in the organization already, Robinson made several strong plays in the field during week one. They include a running catch into the wall in support of Eduardo Sanchez late in Friday's game. Though he did make a fielding miscue on Sunday, Robinson also went 2-for-3 with a home run.
Injury created options
A reason some may be confused about Robinson's option status is that while he did exhaust his third option last season, he is among a special few who have been granted a fourth minor league option year.
In a bit of an unusual situation, Robinson's ongoing bid to remain in the majors received a bit of an extension in recognition of his injury-wrecked 2010 season.
After using an option in 2009, he was optioned to Memphis again to open 2010. In his 26th game of the season, Robinson dislocated his shoulder. The May 8 injury required season-ending surgery.
However, Robinson would eventually qualify for a fourth option based on a rule that allows it because he did not did spend at least 90 days on an active roster that season.
In 2012, Robinson used his third option. He made St. Louis' opening day roster, but was sent down to Memphis last May 13 when Lance Berkman was activated. Just two days later, Jon Jay was placed onto the disabled list and Robinson was recalled.
During the period from July 14 to August 3, Robinson once again had to give up his roster spot to Berkman, only to take it back when Lance hurt his knee again. In the interim, Robinson was playing in Memphis and in fact, did use up his third option.
An option expires at 20 total days spent in the minors during any one season. Robinson's first stint was two days. The second was exactly 20 days. It appears that had the Cards been a bit more creative in calendar management last August, they could have avoided even using the third option.
With the fourth option being granted, however, there is less immediate concern. The organization has through at least 2014 spring training to make a final decision on Shane's major league status.
Outrighting would not be the answer
In addition to Robinson's options status, there is another roster-related consideration. He has also been outrighted once, removed from the Cardinals 40-man roster in October 2010 and returned to it the next September.
In between, Robinson had a second straight season derailed by serious injury. He been returned to Memphis to open 2011, but things went terribly wrong in April when he and teammate Andrew Brown collided in the outfield. Carried off the field and into an ambulance, Robinson suffered facial fractures and a broken hand.
Robinson did make his way back before Memphis' 2011 schedule ended and in a truly inspiring recovery, finished the season with St. Louis, where he had last appeared in 2009.
The key point here is that a player cannot be outrighted for a second time without his consent. After the first outright, the player may either choose to accept the subsequent assignment and report to the minors or he can refuse the assignment and opt for free agency. He can either become a free agent at the time of the outright or at the end of the season, if he has not been returned to the 40-man roster by then.
There is a prior consideration as well. Before any of the outrighting steps noted immediately above can complete, the player must first clear irrevocable waivers. If Robinson would be made available via waivers, some organization with room to keep him on their 25-man and 40-man rosters might choose to select him.
For those reasons, the Cardinals outrighting Robinson again seems unlikely unless/until they are prepared to potentially lose his ongoing services.
If Robinson continues to play even close to as well in the rest of March as he has through March 3, options and outrighting may be irrelevant. He should probably keep his job on the major league roster to open the 2013 season despite what competitors Adron Chambers or Justin Christian do.
Of course, a lot can happen over the final two dozen spring contests, but right now, for a number of reasons, Robinson is looking a lot better off than the 50 percent odds I gave his 25-man roster candidacy a few days ago.
To see the Cardinals entire 40-man roster and 17 non-roster spring training invitees, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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