Contracts, the lifeblood of Major League Baseball. If you’re good enough, after you put in your time making nothing and riding on buses, the team owns you until you run through the rookie contract. Of course teams want to protect themselves from paying the next Jon Singleton, and this is how contracts end up with options. Some favor the team and others the player. It usually boils down to who has more leverage at the bargaining table.
Vested options are typically put on the back end of contracts, especially for older players. Some of these milestones might mean that a guy pushes through a minor injury. Others may put the club in a position where they prefer a player miss their vested option. The team can control the likelihood of completing the option.
For instance, Wade Davis has a vesting option to finish 30 games this season. Given his performance last year, the Rockies are more likely to find an alternative option should he falter or give him more days in between closing opportunities even if he returns to form.
What does this mean for you in fantasy? It means Scott Oberg, Jairo Diaz, and Carlos Estevez become interesting options at the back end of the draft. Oberg had the best numbers last year, but underlying numbers show he might have been lucky and has lost velocity on the fastball the last 3 seasons. Jairo and Estevez both throw upper 90s with sliders.
These players can earn their money by reaching certain milestones triggering their vesting option for 2021.
2021 vests if he reaches 200 IP in 2020. There is a clause that he could also have reached it with a combined 400 IP between 2019 and 2020. However, he only threw 171.2 IP in 2019, so, he has to reach 200 IP this season.
There is a $10 million buyout and he’d be due a total of $25 million in 2021. Lester hasn’t reached 200 IP in the last 3 seasons, and I wouldn’t imagine the Cubs want to pay him the $25 million next season. He has a full no trade clause, so, he’ll likely finish up this deal one way or another on the North side.
2021 vests if he reaches 165 IP or starts 27 games in 2020. He’s due $17 million this season and would be due the same amount in 2021. Happ threw 161.1 IP over 30 starts in 2019 and 177.2 IP across 31 starts in 2018.
Happ is 37 and while his fastball dropped on average last season, he did regain some of the velocity in September. After sitting 91-92 for most of the season, he reached 93.5 mph in September. The velocity bump lead to a 1.65 ERA with a 26.7% K rate in the month. At an ADP of 374, could be an interesting guy to monitor during spring training to see where his velocity is sitting.
2021 vests if he finishes 30 games in 2020. If he doesn’t reach the 30 games, it becomes a mutual option with the club retaining a $1 million buyout on his $15 million salary for 2021. He’s due $17 million this season.
After 3 straight seasons of 27, 32, and 43 saves, his ERA ballooned to 8.65 and his WHIP of 1.88 was worse than his ERA with the Royals in 2016. In April, he was sitting 94.2 mph on his fastball, but by the end of the season he was down to 92.5 and his average fastball velocity for the season dropped over a full mph from 2018.
This is a funny one for old Uncle Chuck. His vesting option is based on how many days he spends on the IL. The total amount of days in the table below was based on 2019 and 2020 health, but as Morton didn’t miss any time in 2019, this is now all based on 2020.
30 IL days or less: $15M
31-90 IL days: $10M
91-150 days: $5M
151-200 days: $3M
200+ days: $1M
If he’s traded this season, he would earn an extra $500k. Morton showed that he could still dominate away from the Astros, and at 35 years old. Each year is another chance that it could fall off though. He fell to an average fastball velocity of 95 mph last season after sitting 96 mph over the last two.
As long as he stays above 94 mph, it should be okay, but anything below that point and there will be some serious concern. Even with the velocity dip, Morton was able to reach career bests in both strikeout rate (30.4%) and BB rate (7.2%).
2021 vests with 600 PA in 2020. There was a 1200 PA option across 2019 and 2020, but as Gordon missed about a quarter of the season, he’ll need the 600 PAs in 2020. If he doesn’t hit the vesting option, the club option comes with a $1 million buyout.
Gordon has failed to reach 600 PAs in consecutive seasons after completing that feat in 3 of the 4 seasons from 2014-2017. Dee could be a good late round target for MI, especially if you’ve neglected stolen bases. While he did lose some speed, he was still 33rd in 90 ft running splits, tied for 103rd at sprint speed (faster than Bo Bichette and Jarrod Dyson), and 10th in bat contact to 1B time.
2021 vests with 110 appearances over 2019 and 2020. He’s due $11.5 million this season and would be due $12 million in 2021. He appeared in 73 games in 2019, so, even if he misses a little time, Miller could hit his number. He has a full no trade clause and is due $1 million if he waives that and is traded away.
Remember when we talked about that 94 mph mark with Morton, well, Miller is case in point. In 2016, he sat at 95.3 mph, 2017 he threw 94.4 mph, and then in the last 2 seasons he has fallen below 94 mph to 93.8 and 92.76. Coincidentally, his numbers have fallen off precipitously in that time. The margin for error just becomes that much smaller once you drop below that magical number.
Another interesting option with Vogt. He gets $3.5 million for 2021 if he gets both 45 starts and 75 games total as a catcher. This option escalates $500k if he hits 70 starts/100 games and another $500k if he hits 85 starts/120 games played.
In 2019, he had 60 games total and 49 games started for the Giants. Vogt did manage to hit .263 with 10 HRs last season getting playing time at catcher and the OF, so, he could have some value in 2 catcher leagues.
Already hit his 2021 contract vesting option by appearing 70 times in 2019. The vesting option was contingent on him making 60 appearances or finishing 40 games in 2019, or 110 appearances combined in 2019 and 2020.
Player options affect free agency and thus, a team’s salary for the coming years. Would Stanton pass up $208 million at this point? Doubtful. On the other hand, Castellanos has 2 years to decide if he believes he can make more than $16 million a year in free agency with $20 million in his last season in 2024 at 32 years old. So, if you’re trading for Nicholas this season in a keeper or dynasty league, remember that he may not land somewhere as favorable as the Great American Launching Pad.
Giancarlo Stanton: He can choose to opt out after the 2020 season. He would forgo $208 million over the next 7 seasons with a $25 million club option in 2028 with a $10 million buyout.
J.D. Martinez: He has an opt out after each of the next 2 seasons or can $19.35 million he’s owed each year. If J.D. gets the sense that the team is on the downward swing, he may decide to take his talents elsewhere after this season. The Red Sox could attempt to trade him, but with those potential opt outs, it may be difficult to move him for much of a return.
Nicholas Castellanos: Opt out available after 2020 and 2021. Mutual option in 2024 includes a $2 million buyout.
Zack Britton: Can opt out after 2020 or earn $13 million in 2021 followed by a 2022 club option for $14 million.
Dellin Betances: 2021 player option with $3 million buyout. He also has some escalators for 2021 and 2022 vesting options after 50 ($1 million), 60 ($2 million), and 70 ($3 million) games.
Brad Brach: 2021 player option for $1.25 million.
Here’s the list of club and mutual options for 2021.
Club and mutual options are typically meaningful for keeper or dynasty leagues, but these players could also be traded should the teams season not go as planned. So, there’s a bit more risk with some of these guys in AL or NL only leagues where you lose them should they be traded. For older players, it may mean the end of the line and your last chance to move them.