Options and Outrighting – Part Three of Four

The third in a four-part series as Brian Walton looks into a couple of important, but not well-understood areas that may have a significant impact on the makeup of the 2006 Cardinals.

As one thinks ahead to how the 2006 Cardinals roster (or any roster, for that matter) may ultimately be constructed, the answers to several questions must be understood. They include:


1)     Which members of the 40-man roster could be sent down to the minor leagues without being at risk of losing them to another team? (options)


2)     If the Cardinals need to make room on their 40-man roster for non-roster players who make the team out of Spring Training, which players can be removed from the 40-man roster without being at risk of losing them to another team? (outrighting)


This is complicated stuff, but it should make sense by the conclusion of this series as we look at the specific situations of all 38 players on the current Cardinals' 40-man roster.


Here in Part Three, we will review outrighting, addressing the second of the two questions above, following our previous two reports on options. Tomorrow, we'll bring it all together.


Outrighting – removal from the 40-man


It should be noted that as of this date, the Cardinals have two openings on their 40-man roster. So, as many as two non-rostered players could potentially be added to the team (25-man and 40-man) as a result of a strong showing this spring without the team having to remove a player.


Non-roster invitees (or NRI's) with at least a fair chance of making the team out of spring training include first baseman/outfielder Brian Daubach, infielder Dave Berg and pitchers Dennis Tankersley and Jeff Nelson.


One year ago, unheralded infielder Abraham Nunez plus left handed pitcher and faded phenom Bill Pulsipher were added to the 40-man and 25-man opening day roster after coming to camp as NRI's.


But, what happens if three or more non-roster invitees make the 2006 team? Room will have to be created.


As noted previously in the Options article, the difference between 40 and 25 players has to be made up of players with options remaining (or those injured).


When a player is removed from the 40-man, if the organization wants to keep him, he can be assigned outright to the minors. However, that maneuver is assured of being successful at most only once during a player's career.


If a ballplayer has less than three years of major league service time, he can be outrighted the first time without his consent and must report. After that first occurrence, 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.


If a player is outrighted any time after achieving three years service, then the situation is the same. Rather than report to the minors, he can elect to become a free agent, either at the time or at the end of the season if he has not been returned to the 40-man roster.


When looking at the 38 players on the Cardinals' 40-man roster, a lot of them have not yet been outrighted in their career. In fact, there are only four who have ever been outrighted.


However, that doesn't mean that most of the 34 others could actually be outrighted anymore without losing them. To fully unlock this, you also have to know their time spent in the majors, otherwise known as service time.


Again, in every case where the player has over three years' service time, he cannot be outrighted without being given the choice to become a free agent. Of course, the player can waive that right and agree to report to the minors if they so choose. But, most often when put in this situation, the player will instead simply choose to take his services elsewhere in hopes of landing on another team's 25-man.


And, here is the clincher. Even if the three-or-more-year player actually agrees to go down to the minors, if he is still any good, he probably wouldn't make it. The reason is that every player removed from the 40-man must pass through irrevocable waivers first.


This differs from when players are optioned. In the optioning case, the team can pull a waived player back if another team claims him. However, that is not the case here with outrighting. With irrevocable waivers, if a player is claimed by another organization, he is gone and there is nothing the waiving team can do to stop it.


The list of Cardinals names that apply in this case will tell you that if put on irrevocable waivers, they would likely all be claimed and never actually make it to the minors. So, in most cases, this is not really a viable option for the team.


17 Cardinals players are in this situation. Yet, it doesn't really matter much. Most all of them, with the exception of Rick Ankiel and perhaps Deivi Cruz and Larry Bigbie, are mainstays of the major league roster who the team would never consider outrighting in the first place.


Options and outrighting are mutually exclusive


When a player is outrighted, one option year is not used up in the process. For example, Tyler Johnson has had a prior outright, but still has all three option years remaining coming into the 2006 campaign. 


Johnson's outright was used as he was returned by Oakland after being selected in the Rule 5 draft. Technically, Johnson could have been claimed by another team before returning to the Cardinals, but that new claimant would have had to keep him on their major league roster the entire season, just as the A's would have.


Hector Luna, another former Rule 5 draft returnee, has also been outrighted for the same reason. In December, 2002, the year prior to his selection by the Cardinals, Tampa Bay claimed Luna via Rule 5, but returned him to Cleveland the next spring.


The other two Cardinals players previously outrighted are catcher Gary Bennett and pitcher Randy Flores. Flores was outrighted by the Rangers after the 2001 season, while Bennett has been outrighted at least twice, by the Padres in 2003 and the Brewers in 2004.


John Vuch, Cardinals Manager of Baseball Operations, explained it to me this way. "An outright does not count against a player's available options. If a player has already been optioned three times, but has not yet been outrighted, he could potentially be sent back to the minors - the only catch is that he would need to clear irrevocable waivers to do so. So, if any other team was willing to keep him in the majors, they could claim him, and he would become their property."


Vuch went on to explain a recent case in which the Cardinals were the beneficiary of another team's outrighting a player. "That's how we re-acquired Chris Narveson - via a waiver claim, when Boston was trying to outright him."

So there you have it. When assembling their roster, the Cardinals have many options (and outrights) to consider.


Before we go, here are MLB's outrighting rules in tabular form.

Objective: Send player down, remove from 40-man     Prior Outright?  
    No, < 3 years service No, > 3 years service Yes
    Player must report Player can declare free agency now (or at end of season if not returned) or can report Player can declare free agency now (or at end of season if not returned) or can report
    Player must clear irrevocable waivers to be assigned Player must clear irrevocable waivers to be assigned Player must clear irrevocable waivers to be assigned

Tomorrow's final installment will show all the Cardinals lined up by their options and outrighting status, along with each player's service time and what I call the "Least Impact" 2006 roster.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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