Nuts and bolts: KC Royals minor league player options

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals,
KC Royals, /

Multiple available options are most valuable for strategic roster planning, an important consideration for the KC Royals.

Option issues are of more immediate concern when one, or no, options remain; cases involving two or three frequently bear more on future, rather than present, roster planning. In fact, present critical decisions based exclusively on players having two, or the maximum three, options are probably rare. That doesn’t mean having more than one option isn’t important–multiple option players also offer flexibility–it’s just less critical than knowing, in the tense heat of imminent roster crunches, that a player has just one. Or none.

Two or three option players can play a vital role in strategic roster planning; the KC Royals are a case in point. The club is well-stocked with players who may not be major league ready; immediately available multiple options allow the club to farm them out for more seasoning, leaving another one or two options available for future use.

Take, for example, the potential roster logjam the group of hot young Royal pitching prospects may pose. Brady Singer is soon to be a major leaguer; he may make the Royals’ Opening Day roster and is certain to make his big league debut this season. Close on his heels should be Jackson Kowar, Kris Bubic and Daniel Lynch; if they’re all ready next season, the resulting roster crunch will require immediate attention and relief.

The solution could easily involve players for whom immediate assignment to the minors will be beneficial and who may, at the same time, be more ready for big-league play next season but less critical then to the KC Royals than other players. Talented outfielders Nick Heath and Erick Mejia may be such players–Mejia played a bit for KC last season, Heath is on the verge of being ready, and both are getting long spring looks. Bubba Starling and Brett Phillips are prime candidates for backup outfield spots; if Mike Matheny chooses both, there probably won’t be room for others.

In that case, the Royals could send Mejia and Heath down without exhausting their options. Then, if both are deemed completely ready next season, but the club needs Singer, Kowar, Bubic or Lynch more, it can use those outfielders’ remaining options to avoid losing them.

(Using Mejia and Heath as examples isn’t meant to imply they’re not worthy of 2020 Opening Day roster spots or that Matheny won’t break camp with one or both of them–it’s simply to illustrate the positive implications of multiple options).

Then there are players with multiple options who can serve the same immediate roster relief purposes as players with one. Pitchers Glenn Sparkman, Scott Blewett, Jake Newberry, Richard Lovelady, and Josh Staumont all have two options left; unless it’s vital that they remain in KC, the Royals could use any one of their options to avoid letting fellow hurler Randy Rosario go or burning the last options of Kyle Zimmer or Kevin McCarthy. (The way Staumont’s spring is proceeding suggests his options won’t be touched). Ryan McBroom has three options.

Finally, some players may never need all, or any, of their multiple options. Ryan O’Hearn won’t require any of his two options if he returns to his 2018 breakout form; if he continues to decline this season, however, the Royals can use one to give him time in Omaha, but they may be inclined to end his KC days if he needs one next season. Nicky Lopez probably won’t need any of his three options; nor should Tim Hill and Scott Barlow need to use either of their two.

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Minor league option rules are important but can be confusing. Hopefully, this article sheds light on those options and the rules that control them.