First, what does it mean if a player is out of options? Per the glossary page on MLB.com (which is a pretty good place to look), "a player is given three Minor League 'options'. An option allows that player to be sent to the Minor Leagues ('optioned') without first being subjected to waivers. When a player is optioned to the Minors for a span of more than 20 days, he loses an option." These options cover the entire season, so if a player opens the season with two options and gets sent to the minors, they'll have one option remaining the following season.
Options are fairly straightforward, but sometimes it's how teams operate with them that can get tricky. More on that in a minute. First, let's look at which players are out of them.
- Jeff Samardzija (SP)
- Mark Melancon (RP)
- Hunter Strickland (RP)
- George Kontos (RP)
- Cory Gearrin (RP)
- Conor Gillaspie (UTL)
- Gorkys Hernandez (OF)
It's easy to say that the players at the top of this list are safe from a stint in the minors, unless they're on a rehab assignment, so everyone from Kontos on up is completely safe. Gearrin held a 4.28 ERA last season over 48 1/3 innings. While the Giants would love to see some better numbers put up from members of the bullpen, their main options will be carrying that load while Gearrin and the long-man will have slightly lessened roles in the pen. His performance from last year should get him a role in this year's bullpen, while his lack of options makes this a near certainty.
Gillaspie and Hernandez will be interesting cases, and both could really go either way. They face similar problems and also have the same pros going for them. Strong competition could be the downfall of either player, with Jimmy Rollins, Jae-gyun Hwang and Kelby Tomlinson being the fiercest competitors behind Gillaspie while they all attempt to unseat Eduardo Nunez at third. Nunez will be on the club, presumably as the starter, but there will be room for a utility infielder as well. Hwang may need some time in Sacramento before getting a crack at AT&T, but he'll be up as soon as he's ready.
For Gorkys, the competition includes the guy who doesn't claim the starting role in left between Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker, Wynton Bernard, fan favorite Michael Morse and the hero of the first spring game, Chris Marrero. The one thing that Hernandez, like Gillaspie, has going for him is that he is versatile. Everyone but Bernard is limited to the corners, which means that if the Giants are going for versatility (which they have shown they are with Trevor Brown taking grounders in the infield), then the competition could really come down to Hernandez, who is out of options, and Wynton Bernard, who has yet to debut in the big leagues. http://www.scout.com/mlb/giants/story/1756376-sf-giants-let-s-look-at-th...
As the glossary on MLB.com notes, when a player is out of options, they are more likely to make a club out of spring training, "because that player must first be removed from the 40-man roster and exposed to outright waivers before he can be sent to a Minor League affiliate." This could bode well for all of the players in jeopardy on the list above, but doesn't do much to guarantee them security in San Francisco if they falter. The best way for any player in spring training to make the club is to make an impression on the coaching staff when they get their opportunity.