There has been some confusion as to why Pedro Alvarez was optioned to the minors yesterday by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Some wondered why he was optioned, despite his official rehab assignment set to end on July 17th. Some wondered how many options he currently has, and how many this would leave him. To sort through the details, I put together a FAQ-style post, addressing each question.
1. Alvarez started his rehab work on June 27th. A position player gets up to 20 days on rehab assignment? Why was Alvarez activated so early?
Typically, a position player gets up to 20 days on rehab assignment in the minors. Alvarez started working out at Pirate City around late-May, and began his official rehab assignment on June 27th. That timeline would have put him on pace to be recalled on July 17th. So it would seem the Pirates activated him early. That’s not the case.
There is a rare stipulation in the rehab assignment rules. A club may direct a player with less than five years of service time to rehab at their Spring Training facility for up to 20 days, or more, if the player consents. If a club chooses this rehab path, then every day from day 11 through 20 reduces the amount of time a player can spend on the typical Major League rehab assignment. Since Alvarez was working out at Pirate City for several weeks before he started off in the GCL, this is likely why he was recalled “early”, rather than returning on the 17th of July.
2. How many options does Alvarez have?
Alvarez has one option remaining, coming in to the 2011 season. He used his first two option years in 2009 and 2010.
3. Is Alvarez using his third option?
There’s no guarantees here. The rules state that Alvarez must spend ten days on optional assignment, unless the Pirates assign someone to the disabled list, at which point he can be called up sooner. However, options are measured in years, rather than the actual events of optioning a player to the minors. Because of this, his option doesn’t trigger until he has spent 20 or more days on optional assignment. So there’s a chance that the Pirates could option him for 11 to 19 days, and recall him before he officially burns an option.
4. If he uses an option, he would be out of options in 2012, right?
If Alvarez uses an option this year (and to do that, he would have to be on optional assignment for 20+ days), he would have used three options. Typically, that’s all a player gets. However, there is an exception in this case. If a player has used all three of his option years, and he has less than five years of pro ball experience (Majors and Minors), he is granted a fourth option. This is designed to protect teams from giving out Major League contracts to draft picks and forcing them in to the majors before their development is ready.