Major league teams have become increasingly sensitive to roster flexibility. One way to extend the back end of the roster is to have players with options. In most cases, players come with three option years. This means their team can demote them to the minors without penalty. Once an option is used in a given year, that player can be demoted any number of times. For example, the Rays yo-yoed numerous relievers between Durham and Tampa to extend their bullpen.
Once a player has been optioned three times in his career, he is said to be “out of options.” In other words, he can no longer be sent to the minors without passing through waivers. If the player is good enough, he’ll be claimed by another club. They’ll either use him in the majors or try to pass him through waivers again.
This is important for fantasy purposes because some good players like Tony Kemp are buried on the depth chart but could have fantasy relevance if set free. And once these sorts of players are out of options, it becomes more likely for them to find daylight.
What follows are the most notable out of options players for fantasy purposes. Certain players were skipped for one of the following reasons.
- They have a secure role i.e. Cam Bedrosian or Jurickson Profar
- They aren’t fantasy relevant i.e. any generic middle relievers
If you’re interested in a full list, you can find one on MLB Trade Rumors. I have tagged my favorites with ***. This signifies that I think they could gain fantasy value because they’re out of options.
I included most of these catchers simply because the position is a nightmare in deep two catcher formats. You honestly might find yourself using these guys if they find playing time. The two best, Smith and Stassi, are the primary backups and unlikely to be waived.
The Red Sox may carry all three of their catchers for another season. Or it might be time to finally set one loose. Murphy appears to be firmly blocked by Chris Iannetta and Tony Wolters.
Phegley might lose out to Chris Herrmann (the starter according to a second-hand source) and Nick Hundley.
The corner list has some interesting names. Vogelbach has a fresh opportunity now that Ryon Healy has to man third base for a brief period. It was hard to see how the Mariners were going to hang onto Vogey, Healy, and Jay Bruce for first base reps.
Choi and Thames can be penciled in for the Opening Day roster, but that won’t prevent the Rays or Brewers from moving on if either slugger is struggling when the calendar turns to May. They’re guys to watch for later.
Walker is in the mix to platoon with Jake Lamb. Austin seemingly doesn’t have a job in Minnesota. Nunez might be the worst starting third baseman in the league. The Orioles have a bunch of lotto tickets, and they’ll shuffle through them during the season. Despite his inclusion, Cowart probably isn’t fantasy relevant even in deep formats.
Well this is a grisly list. Any fantasy relevance they attain will be… temporary. DFS participants are more likely to find a use for them. I see a lot of interest in Diaz, but I can’t seem to build a use case. He did hit for decent power last season, but that was his sole redeeming trait. He’ll probably stick around Houston as a super utility man. I actually found some fantasy starts for Adrianza. I doubt that’ll happen again.
Compared to the infield, the outfield list is very strong. Santana, Tapia, and Kemp are very unlikely to be waived. Trades are possible though. Santana looks like a starter for the Mariners while Tapia is the Rockies fourth outfielder.
If Quinn isn’t performing, he’s more likely to be stashed on the disabled list than outright dumped. His skill set is too interesting despite the laundry list of maladies. His teammate, Altherr, does not have a role on the Phillies at this time. He’ll probably be waived. He was a steady two-win outfielder prior to 2018.
Broxton looks fairly settled as a backup outfielder with the Mets, although that can quickly change if he’s slumping through April. He’s a very streaky player. Williamson likewise has an early role with the Giants, but it’s performance-based.
Pompey, once a fairly hyped prospect, might actually make it through waivers.
I think this is the most interesting of the could-be-optioned lists. Salazar will miss a good chunk of the season with a shoulder injury. I doubt the Indians will let him go for free. There’s a big gulf of talent between injured Salazar and healthy Guerra. The Brewers seemingly have little need for him in either the rotation or bullpen. A pitcher needy club like the Rangers could work a trade.
Montgomery will probably continue to subsist in the Cubs bullpen. Gant fits awkwardly on the Cardinals (and most) rosters. His best role is as a minor league call up for spot starts. Kingham is an actual prospect, and he probably doesn’t have a spot in the Pirates rotation (I expect Jordan Lyles and Mitch Keller to be ahead of him). There’s just enough room for him in the bullpen.
Stephenson is also bullpen bound while Wisler has never turned the corner from sort-of-prospect to actual MLB-quality pitcher. Elias and Johnson probably didn’t need to be listed.
This list was originally much longer before I sliced off about half the names. Let’s just say this – there are a bunch of other relievers who could be waived, but they’ll need a breakout to be fantasy relevant. Even the guys on the back end of the remaining guys are here because of Jeff Sullivan hype (Font) or past saves (Minaya).
In every single case but Font, the pitchers listed here are probably better than 90 percent bets to make the Opening Day roster. The option situation would only come into effect later in the season. Neris is presently the third best reliever in a very good Phillies bullpen. It’s not hard to envisage a bad month leading to his ouster. They’re going to have closer-quality relievers in Triple-A. If Neris then latched on with the Royals or Orioles, he’d be back to closing games.
Dyson, Strickland, and Parker also have potential for saves. Parker’s opportunity is up front – he has to beat out Trevor May. If he fails so spectacularly that he’s cut, then it’s a stretch to hope for saves elsewhere. Dyson is sandwiched between a trio of good veterans (Will Smith, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon) and a trio of up-and-comers (Reyes Moronta, Ray Black, Tyler Beede). The Giants have every reason to trade away all their vets. He could close for a club like the Royals, Orioles, or Tigers, but he’s more likely to middle relieve for a contender.
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