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.