Nick Kingham Will Get a Fourth Option Year in 2018

There have been questions about whether Nick Kingham would qualify for a fourth option year in 2018. John Dreker wrote about that in September, noting that there were conflicting reports on the rules for getting a fourth option. I recently confirmed with Pirates’ Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway that Kingham does indeed have a fourth option year in 2018.

Kingham was added to the 40-man roster in November 2014, and was optioned for the 2015 season. He spent 29 days on the active roster in Indianapolis, before being shut down with an elbow injury that eventually required Tommy John surgery. Because he was active for less than 30 days, that wouldn’t count the 2016 season as a full season.

“You have to have 30 days of service time before you go on the DL for a club and miss a year, and he didn’t have that,” Broadway said.

MLB rules say that a player who is out of options and has five or fewer full seasons in pro ball can qualify for an extra year. Kingham was active for a full season in 2012, 2013, and 2014. The 2015 season doesn’t count as a full season, but was an option year. His final two option years and full seasons came in 2016 and 2017.

The result here is that Kingham is out of options, but since 2015 didn’t count as a full season for him, due to the injury, he qualifies for the rare fourth option. The Pirates would have known this ahead of time, which explains why there was no urgency to call him up and see what he could do in September. They can option him to Indianapolis and give him a shot at some point in 2018. But after the 2018 season, he has to be in the majors.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Thankfully, Kingham gets another option.

Sadly, if he resembles the pitcher he was in 2017, it will not matter.


Drastically underrating him…


Actually I am not. I am a huge Kingham fan, but he was rather average last season. Velocity was down, curve wasn’t as sharp, change was bad. I just think he is more of a wildcard now than a mid rotation starter.


Truthfully if they were smart he wouldn’t need a 5th option. He should be pitching in Pittsburgh every 4th day as part of a piggybacking rotation. They have pitching depth but none of it particularly good. Eight starters with none EVER facing a hitter for a third time except for extreme circumstances. Use MLBs new 10 day DL to shuffle pitchers on/off like LA did all season. Have Rivero, Schugel, Kontos, Neverauskas who can all pitch multiple innings from the pen as well.

Chuck C

You could have a four piggyback rotation with 4 relief pitchers That would give you an extra bench player. This way you use your abundance of arms and if one goes down, you call one up. They would have four days rest but only be pitching 4 innings or so. I remember when every team had a four man pitching staff and closers pitched multiple innings.

Sounds kinda of nutty, but they were doing it in the playoffs, only they didn’t have enough starters to piggyback, thus relievers. The one problem: can these modern day pitchers pitch every 4 days?

Arik Florimonte

The biggest barrier might be psychological and not physiological. When the A’s tried it in the 90s the veterans really hated it. For one thing, the SP will never get a win, so that’s a tough sell for veterans used to a certain way of thinking about success.

To make it work, the Bucs would have to start this experiment in the low minors and develop pitchers all the way to the bigs with this mindset. I can’t imagine any team being bold enough to overhaul their entire development system for this experiment, but it would be interesting to see.

Chuck C

Thanks, Arik. I didn’t factor in the wins, nor the vanity. Wins is what make up pitching. How can you ever be put in the record books without a chance to post a win. They could switch up the piggyback by starting pitcher a and the next time bring him in after 4-5 innings. Give every pitcher a chance to win a game. But, hey, that’s to complicated and progressive for baseball. They still can’t get the DH right and it took them over 100 years to make an intentional pass just a point of the hand. Another thought: They could give the win to the most effective pitcher. They already do that when a starter doesn’t go 5 innings. Many more complication, but I’ll let that up to the more learned.


Great now let’s hope he takes e a step forward, see you in August!

joe s

Good news for the Pirates. Now they can allow him to develop this coming year before having to put him in the majors.


Indeed great news to hear about a kid we have been waiting for a long time. One question Tim or John where does he stand in the pecking order for a call up during the season and will they wait until he is Super Two ineligible unless he is pitching crappy before they call him up?


Tim, any thoughts or opinions on Kingham rediscovering his fast ball?


Great news!


Nice work, Tim.

Now we wait for the Trib to “break” this news sometime in May when they realize Kingham is still with Indy.

Kerry Writtenhouse

This is good news on several fronts. I would this could lead to Glasnow starting out in the bullpen if he can’t stick in the rotation.


Why would you want to put someone who is very likely to walk 1/2 the guys he faces, in the bullpen? At best, he’d be a Mitch Williams (who used to drive my Phillie Phriend nuts).

I’ve never understood the logic that Glasnow would be good in the ‘pen.

You want somebody who will throw strikes in the bullpen.

Arik Florimonte

Lots of guys succeed this way. Most recent example I can think of is Dellin Betances.

Kerry Writtenhouse

At some point, AAA becomes a non factor. But if he’s not able to secure a spot in the rotation, the bullpen should be an option, provided they’d determine he’s an option.


If you put him in the pen and he has no control that day, you can pull him quickly without blowing up the game or the rest of the pitchin staff. If he starts – you need to try to eke out at least 4 innings, or else you need to immediately call up reserve arms for a couple days to help the pen recover from a long outing.


I honestly don’t know where you come up with this stuff…


I typically side with the player on option manipulation, but this is a case where it feels like it would actually benefit Kingham to remain in the rotation, albeit in Indy, rather than be forced into a pen role.

Kerry Writtenhouse

I completely agree. Would love to see him put a nice run together at the start of the AAA season.


Plus it protects another depth option for the club. Hopefully this enables them to flip an arm for a bat.


This is good news for both the Pirates and Kingham. If he needed to be on the 25-man roster, he was probably destined for the bullpen. He may end up there anyway, but at least this gives him one more chance to make the case that he should be part of the rotation. And it gives the Pirates a little more flexibility in signing bullpen arms knowing they don’t need to save a spot for Kingham.


It is good news and the extra option is well deserved. He has fought back and went from a 3-4 record the first two months to 6-2 the final 2 months of 2017. That was a getting his feet back on the ground year, and I hope 2018 is the year it all comes together for him and the Bucs.


Thank you. Back in the wonderful 60’s I might have never heard about this. Thanks for the update!

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