2010 Cardinals Options & Outrighting: Part 2

The unique situations of St. Louis Cardinals players Josh Kinney, Ruben Gotay and Rich Hill with respect to potential minor league assignments.

In a recent article, "Cardinals No Option Players Not a Big Factor", I outlined those members of the St. Louis Cardinals 40-man roster who could not be easily moved to the minor leagues this spring. Specifically, that could most likely be due to the player having already been optioned the three allowable years in his career or by having been outrighted (removed from the 40-man) once previously.

One very knowledgeable reader noted one unique situation that I did not call out and two others, that while not directly issues today, could influence their possible addition to the 40-man roster as soon as the end of spring camp.

Josh Kinney

Despite first coming up in 2006, reliever Josh Kinney has been injured so much of the time that he has accrued fewer than three years major league service time. As such, he has not yet even reached arbitration eligibility. That actually could have saved his job this season as the Cardinals may not have wanted to risk paying the inconsistent righty the larger salary likely if driven though the arbitration process.

A not-well-understood part of the option rules also applies to Kinney. Because more then three calendar years have transpired since his MLB debut, Kinney would need to clear "option waivers" before reporting to the minor leagues despite him having an option remaining.

Option waivers are generally not contested by other organizations as a courtesy and perhaps as an acknowledgment that its implementation can cut both ways. In addition, because these particular options can be pulled back, the original organization is not at risk of losing the player, if they want to keep him badly enough.

Recently, this situation applied to Brad Thompson, who quietly passed through option waivers when sent down to Memphis last April.

Bottom line, while this is a risk with Kinney if the Cardinals want to option him out, it is minor. A bigger concern is his sore right shoulder, which required an MRI recently. Of course, an option is not required if Kinney returns to his home away from home, the disabled list. He has pitched just one official inning this spring on March 7 and another inning in a "B" game on the 13th.

Rather than use an option, the Cardinals could also choose to remove Kinney from the 40-man roster by outrighting him to the minors. Because he has not been outrighted previously and has less than three years service, 2.122 (years.days, where 172 days equals one season), Kinney would be required to report. The catch is that he would first have to clear irrevocable waivers.

If they want to send him down once, this might be the way to go – the first time only. Subsequent attempts to outright a player gives him the right to declare immediate free agency or at the end of the current season.

There is also the possibility that Kinney could be placed on the disabled list to start the season, depending on his recovery from a shoulder ailment serious enough to require a pair of cortisone shots.

Further, the Cardinals have two players with significant major league experience who are in camp as non-roster invitees. While perhaps the primary factor in any decision to put them on the major league club to start the season will be their March performance, their options and outrighting history may also come into play.

Rich Hill and Ruben Gotay

While neither has yet earned a spot on the 25-man, and therefore the 40-man, roster, understanding their option and outrighting status could be important in forecasting their respective futures starting in early April.

Ruben Gotay has MLB service time of 2.170, which would have been enough to make him arbitration eligible had he been on a 40-man roster during the past off-season. Having debuted in the majors in August 2004, he has since then exhausted all of his options and was outrighted once as well.

If Gotay is added to the 40-man roster, there is no way to send him down without his agreement, giving him the option to declare free agency first. In other words, he may be a "one and done" player in terms of major league use.

With service time of 3.041 following a MLB debut back in June 2005, Rich Hill has used up his allowable options and was outrighted by Baltimore this past October. He would be arbitration eligible next fall if under a major league contract.

As a result, if Hill was added to the 40-man, but later the club wanted to send him down, Hill would be in the same situation as described for Gotay above – he could instead ask for his release.

He may never get that far. Without being specific, Hill acknowledged that his agent negotiated terms in his deal with the Cardinals that entitle him to declare free agency if he is not in the majors on certain predetermined dates.

"I have those kinds of outs in my contract, but let's see what happens ahead (in spring training) before getting into that," Hill told me in camp last week.

Felipe Lopez

For completeness, the newest Cardinal is included here. While he is out of options but does not have a prior outright, they are both moot. Lopez isn't going anywhere. His service time is 7.027.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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