One of the biggest stories this spring is that many players around the league still aren’t sure whether or not they have an option this season. For the Cincinnati Reds there are three players in question: Outfielder Aristides Aquino, and pitchers José De León and Cionel Pérez. We learned of this back in late February. If 2020 were a normal year then all three players would be out of options. But 2020 wasn’t a normal year, and without a full season it put some of the rules in limbo that weren’t accounted for when the CBA was temporarily altered for the year.

Updated at 1:54pm

The decision has been made and finalized. The Reds will get options on both Cionel Pérez and José De Léon, but they will not get an option on outfielder Aristides Aquino. As the original article that continues below expected, that makes a lot of sense based on what we knew.

Teams were expecting to get answers a bit quicker than they have. In a normal year these decisions are more clear cut in 99.5% of cases, but a few cases do need to be further investigated – usually due to players having missed too much time in a season due to injury at some point in the recent past, and thus they could qualify for a 4th minor league option due to not being active long enough. These cases are decided in November most years and that gives teams an idea of what’s going on before the winter meetings go on and they truly start building a roster for the next season.

The regular season begins in eight day and the Reds still don’t know if three players can be optioned yet or not. General Manager Nick Krall mentioned this past week that the team had a feeling about which way things would go, but that nothing yet was official. That decision may be coming as soon as today. The Chicago Cubs reportedly learned yesterday that Adbert Alzolay got his 4th option year according to Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago.

If you had asked me to bet on who would and wouldn’t get their 4th options, I would have said that I would bet Aristides Aquino wouldn’t qualify for his, but that José De León and Cionel Pérez would. The reasoning would be that the latter two barely played in the Major Leagues last season – De Léon threw just 6.0 innings, while Pérez threw just 6.1 innings. Aquino had 56 plate appearances spread out of 23 games – he was on the active roster for half of the season. The playing time disparity between Aquino and the pitchers was quite large.

Aristides Aquino feels a lot more like Erick Fedde of the Washington Nationals, who did not get his 4th option according to Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post. Fedde made 11 appearances, and eight starts for the Nationals last season. He was active longer than Aquino was – in fact, Fedde was on the active roster all season. But the Nationals felt that according to the rules, Fedde should qualify for a 4th option year. An arbiter decided that based on service time accrued during the year that he wouldn’t get that option.

That feels like a reason that would separate Aristides Aquino from the two pitchers, who were on the roster for far less time in 2020. In both the Erick Fedde Case, and the Adbert Alzolay case – reporting is that the teams have indeed found out, but that neither is technically official yet. It’s possible that Nick Krall’s comments earlier this week as similar to what the other two reporters heard from someone in the organizations that they cover – the teams know, but that official word hasn’t been passed on yet.

With both reports coming out yesterday, it’s possible that the arbiter is still working his way through the cases and we’ll find out about all of the players, officially, at once. There’s not much time remaining before the season begins, so no matter what, there’s going to be an answer coming soon. But it’s starting to feel like that answer could be as soon as today.

9 Responses

  1. Billy

    In a situation like this, it is obviously beneficial to the team to get the option. Is it also beneficial to the player? One the one hand, he’s closer to free agency. On the other, if he’s someone the team might be willing to move on from, then he may find it a challenge to latch on with another team – particularly at this point in the year. Right? Basically, once those options are exhausted, so is the perspective that he’s a prospect. And if he’s not ready to produce, his career is in jeopardy. So are there players who would prefer to be granted that additional option for the security of another year to prove themselves?

    • Doug Gray

      I think if you ask the players they will always want the option to not exist. It makes it more likely they are in the big leagues, accruing service time and the benefits that come with it (the more you have, the bigger your pension is, and just 43 days gets you *some* pension), and important in the immediate time – a much bigger paycheck right now because big league pay even at the league minimum is about $20,000 a week.

      • Optimist

        All true, and doesn’t this make Aquino a more intriguing trade possibility? How does this work if he’s not on the 26 man – is he DFAed, and is that the same as waived? Could the Reds waive him, see if he’s claimed, and try to work a trade or pull him back? Or, if DFAed, is he simply lost to a claimant? Or, would they they be taking calls now with a chance of competing bidders at the decision deadline?

        Seems to be higher stakes and more players added to the end of spring transactions by the delay from MLB/arbitrators.

      • Doug Gray

        You can’t pull guys off of waivers when they are DFA’d. That little bit of rule only applies when a guy is placed on waivers after the trade deadline has passed.

        If he’s not on the 26-man roster, he’ll be designated for assignment. There are two things that can happen here – no one tries to trade for him and he can simply be picked up by the team that wants to claim him with the highest priority (he’d go to NL teams first, worst record to best from the year before, before then getting to AL teams following the same order). A team can work out a trade to acquire him before the waiver period were to end, and at that point the player is simply traded away.

        If the Reds knew he wasn’t going to make the team right now, they would certainly be taking some phone calls.

      • Optimist

        Thanks Doug. For his sake, it’s likely best AA goes to a lousy team and gets 350-500 PAs. At worst, I think he’ll have Dave Kingman-like stats, with much better defensive skills, and that the game no longer uses such players. Still . . .

  2. Old Big Ed

    It would seem to me that as long as Akiyama is on the DL, then they will keep a LH-hitting outfielder (Payton or Naquin) and Aquino. Otherwise, they have no RH power at all off the bench, unless you count Stephenson (with catchers generally being saved).

    These things have a tendency to work themselves out. Somebody gets hurt, or real hot, or another team actually makes a good offer for one of the guys at issue, or something. I could see Aquino working in the AL as an outfielder for a team needing to move a shaky defensive outfielder to DH. He is a guy that over the long run needs regular ABs, so an iffy team (like Detroit or Baltimore or Colorado) will want to take a flyer on him.

    • Doug Gray

      With Kyle Farmer, you don’t necessarily have to “save” Stephenson just in case. That *could* help out if Bell wants to utilize things that way.

  3. Hoyce

    How can things change so late in the game? First he does now he doesn’t? Seems like something they should have figured out wayyyy earlier for proper roster construction ????
    Aquino IMO should be starting RF. He has potential to be a game changer

    • Doug Gray

      He never “for sure” had one. It’s possible that you saw my report about 10 days ago that said he did – that’s on me. It was in the Cincinnati Reds official game notes that he did, so I reported it. About an hour later I got a message from someone in the organization saying that the information was incorrect. I deleted the article and corrected it everywhere that I could think of.

      But, yes, it should have been figured out way sooner. Should have been figured out before spring training even began. Teams were hoping to know by the first week of March. I’m not entirely sure what went on behind the scenes as far as it relates to the timeline and leading to the cases being decided by an arbiter, but it took longer than anyone had hoped it would. Teams basically had to have two entirely different sets of roster construction conversations about players just in case things did or didn’t go a certain way with regards to the options.