Minor League Options

I’ve updated the minor league options on the 40-man roster and payroll page, as well as the Spring Training Tracker page. There were a few that were wrong before, mainly the veteran guys. I found a site (Sportsnet.ca) which is very detailed with individual player transactions, helping to figure out guys like Jack Wilson, John Grabow, etc. Not that this would matter, as I don’t think the Pirates will be sending any of these guys down (minor league rehab assignments don’t count), but there were a few changes that mattered, like Jeff Karstens going from zero to one, and Craig Hansen going from one to zero.

With the list now correct, I figured now was a good time to look ahead to how the player options will affect the 25-man roster this Spring. First, let’s take a look at the current makeup of the 25-man roster:

C – Ryan Doumit
1B – Adam LaRoche
2B – Freddy Sanchez
SS – Jack Wilson
3B – Andy LaRoche
LF – Brandon Moss
CF – Nate McLouth
RF – OPEN

BN – Ramon Vazquez
BN – Eric Hinske
BN – OPEN
BN – OPEN
BN – OPEN

SP – Paul Maholm
SP – Ian Snell
SP – Zach Duke
SP – Tom Gorzelanny
SP – OPEN

RP – OPEN
RP – OPEN
RP – OPEN
RP – OPEN
RP – Tyler Yates
RP – John Grabow

CL – Matt Capps

(NOTE: See update at the end of the post)

Out of Options: Sean Burnett, Phil Dumatrait, Jimmy Barthmaier, Craig Hansen (Doumit, Vazquez, Moss, and Yates are also out of options, but they’re all a lock to make the roster if healthy).

Since we are focusing on options, we’ll focus only on the pitching staff, since the only guys in question are pitchers. I listed Snell, Duke, and Gorzelanny as locks to make the rotation, because I feel they’ll get the first shot due to payroll and past success. Burnett is most likely a lock to make the bullpen, thanks to his .171 batting average against left handers last year. That leaves three bullpen spots for Dumatrait, Barthmaier, and Hansen.

First, a word on Barthmaier: no one has named him out of options, but by my calculations, he’s out. He was added to the 40-man roster after the 2005 season. He was optioned to the minors by Houston in 2006 and 2007. In 2008 he was optioned by the Pirates to the minors.

Players receive an extra year if they’ve used three option years, but have less than five years of pro experience. Barthmaier entered the majors in 2003, making 2008 his sixth year in the pros. So despite the fact that he isn’t on anyone elses list, I’m considering him out of options. (UPDATE 2/7/09: I figured out the situation with Barthmaier. The above info is correct, but thanks to The Biz of Baseball I found that rookie ball doesn’t count as one of the five years of pro experience, which means Barthmaier only has four years of experience, and qualifies for an additional option year.)

Now, we’ve got Hansen, Barthmaier, and Dumatrait with three bullpen spots open, and one rotation spot open. Barthmaier and Dumatrait could compete for the rotation spot, but would be up against Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf, and Daniel McCutchen (who would need to be added to the 40-man roster if he won the spot). I think Ohlendorf will get the first shot in the rotation, as he was one of the focus pieces in the Nady trade last year.

The Pirates could make an easy decision by adding Hansen, Barthmaier, and Dumatrait to the bullpen in the final three spots. However, this would mean that Donald Veal would either have to be returned to the Cubs, or the Pirates would have to work out a trade with the Cubs, as Veal needs to remain on the 25-man roster all season to stick around with the Pirates.

The Pirates have a way to keep Dumatrait, Hansen, Barthmaier, and Veal. Dumatrait is recovering from an injury, and could be stashed away on the 15-day disabled list to start the season. That would allow the Pirates to start the season with Hansen, Barthmaier, and Veal on the 25-man roster. This move would only delay the inevitable: the Pirates will have to make a decision on one of these four players.

The most probable route would be attemping to work out a deal with the Cubs for Veal. That may not be easy, as Veal is a year removed from being one of the Cubs top pitching prospects. An alternative would be trying to pass one of the remaining players through waivers. Dumatrait is the oldest, but if left handed and only 27, which increases his value. He also had some success last year in the majors, with a 3.44 ERA up until his final two starts before his injury.

Barthmaier struggled in the majors, but posted decent minor league stats, with a 3.53 ERA in 16 AAA starts. Hansen also struggled last year, and has struggled in prior seasons as a reliever at the major league level. The upside for Barthmaier is that he is a starting pitching option. The upside for Hansen is that he is a power bullpen arm, with enough talent to make him a former first round pick.

If I had to make a choice, and both players put up equal performances, I’d keep Barthmaier, and either trade or waive Hansen (hoping he passed through so that the Pirates could send him to AAA). The Pirates need power arms, but more importantly they need pitching depth. While Hansen has a very strong arm, his control is awful, with a 6.15 BB/9 in his major league career, and a 4.87 BB/9 in his AAA career. Barthmaier has performed better in that area, with a 3.85 BB/9 between AA and AAA (although he struggled in his brief time in the majors last year, with eight walks in 10.1 IP).

UPDATE 2/7/09: I figured out the situation with Barthmaier. The above info is correct, but thanks to The Biz of Baseball I found that rookie ball doesn’t count as one of the five years of pro experience, which means Barthmaier only has four years of experience, and qualifies for an additional option year.

This clears the situation up a bit. The Pirates could keep Hansen, Dumatrait, and Veal on the opening day roster without any issues, and send Barthmaier down. Of course this would mean there would be only one spot that would be truly “open” in the pitching staff, and that would be the fifth starter role.

My updated opinion is that the Pirates could give Dumatrait time on the DL to evaluate Veal and Hansen. If Veal doesn’t work, they could try to work out a trade with the Cubs to keep his rights (although he’d have to pass by every team). If Hansen doesn’t work out, they could either try to trade him (probably for minimal return, like cash considerations) or try to send him down to the minors, which means he’d have to clear waivers.

Either way, they certainly have an easier situation to deal with now that we know the story on Barthmaier.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Fla Pirate

    I think Hansen better have a awesome spring training or he will be the roulette piece we try to pass through waivers. If he is as bad as he was last season, he can’t be hid in our bullpen like we did with Meek last season.

  • Tim Williams

    It was easy to hide him last year in August and September, because the season didn’t matter. Not that I expect great things in 2009, but I don’t think they’ll let him stick around long if he puts up the same performance level to start the year.

  • Fla Pirate

    Yep, can’t hide him, Veal, and whoever else decides they are taking this season off.

    I am kind of curious why we took this guy in the trade if he was out of options? Seems like if we were looking for decent prospects, we would want a guy that at least had 1 option left? Then again, he might have just been a throw in player so we didn’t expect him to do alot or alittle.

  • Tim Williams

    I think Hansen and Karstens fall in to the bonus category. In the Bay trade, the top guys they got were LaRoche (Dodgers top hitting prospect going in to 2008), Morris (2006 1st round pick), and Moss.

    In the Nady trade, the top guys were Tabata (one of the Yankees top hitting prospects), Ohlendorf, and McCutchen.

    Hansen and Karstens aren’t really key to the trade, but both have potential (Hansen has a strong arm, Karstens has shown some success at the major league level) and if they work out, it’s only a bonus for the trade returns.

  • Fla Pirate

    I figured he was a toss-in player, I am can’t figure out why we couldn’t find another toss-in that at least had in option year available if they were of the control problem variety. Not that it really matters now since that trade is over and gone. Just would not look good to lose a guy potentially by the end of Spring Training that we just got last season.

  • The Jello Phone

    Tim,

    I hope you’re wrong about Barthmeier. I’d much rather see Karstens in the ‘Burgh than him. This is more evidence of only carrying 4 bench guys and an extra bullpen guy :)

    goober