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.