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Detroit Tigers: Bryan Holaday, Options, and Waivers

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Feb 21, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Bryan Holaday (50) and manager Brad Ausmus (7) talk during workouts at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 21, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Bryan Holaday (50) and manager Brad Ausmus (7) talk during workouts at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Bryan Holaday has been turning heads during Spring Training with the Detroit Tigers.

Despite the head-turning home runs, powerful hits, and grinning baserunning, Holaday’s future with the Detriot Tigers looks bleak.

Holaday is technically a Tiger for the rest of the decade when he becomes a free agent in 2020, but the MLB rules about options and waivers are getting in the way. His quality of play is the other issue.

During the offseason, the signing of Jarrod Saltalamacchia created a small problem for Holaday. Salty has not had his best seasons lately, but his experience and left-handed bat are making him a viable compliment to James McCann – who happens to be the other issue for Holaday. McCann’s error-free performance behind the dish and his .264 batting average with 7 home runs is just better than anything Holaday has shown to the decision-makers in Detroit.

The other issue that could prevent Holaday from remaining a Tiger is the complicated issues of options and waivers. Because Holaday has moved back and forth between the majors and the minors so many times, he cannot do it again. This is the official rule from MLB:

LIMITATIONS ON OPTIONAL ASSIGNMENTS. An optional assignment of a player contract shall be permitted for not more than three seasons between Major League Clubs and Minor League Clubs; provided that if the player is optioned for less than a total of 20 days in one season, as determined by the date(s) of the optional assignment(s) and recall(s), respectively, the player shall not be charged with an optional transfer in connection with the foregoing limitation.

What does this mean? It means Bryan Holaday is literally out of options. He has been optioned too many times between the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens and the Detroit Tigers. As soon as a player becomes a member of the 40-man roster, he gets three options. The countdown begins as soon as the player returns to the minor leagues for 20 or more days.

Sep 15, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Bryan Holaday (50) slides into home plate for a run in the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 15, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Bryan Holaday (50) slides into home plate for a run in the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

Holaday first made the 40-man roster in 2012. He was then sent back and forth between the Mud Hens and the Tigers every year between 2012 and 2015. The Tigers can move him between the minors and majors several times each season, but it only counts as one option. Holaday is now on his fourth 40-man roster, so can no longer be optioned. If the Tigers want to keep him, he has to remain in Detroit.

So, what is left? Holaday’s options have run out, so if the Tigers do not plan to keep him on the 25-man roster that they take “north” (even though the first game is actually south), they have to put him through waivers. If the Tigers decide that they do not Holaday, they can put him on waivers between now and the 30th day of the regular season. Once they do this, he immediately becomes available to all of the teams in the league.

If Holaday is put on waivers and only one team wants him, that team gets him. If multiple teams want him, he will go to the team that is in the American League and has the worst record. Let’s say he is claimed – the team that claims him can do one of three things, keep him, negotiate a trade for him, or let him go. If a team claims him, that team pays his salary. If a team wants to trade, the trade must be completed in two days. If no team claims Holaday after two days, he remains with the Tigers for the rest of 2016 if he has a no-trade clause or another complicated clause in his contract. If he does not, then Tigers can trade him. 

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The speculation with Holaday is all over the place. Could the Tigers keep three catchers? Could he serve as another utility player? Could he play third base?

The big question is whether Holaday is worth retaining. McCann is a better catcher and he is better at the plate. Salty’s numbers have declined over the years, but the left-handed bat is a big draw in Detroit. Nick Castellanos hits with more power and simply has a better bat than Holaday. Even the utility players like Andrew Romine and Mike Aviles offer more offense than Holaday does.

Next: Tigers Player Profile: Bryan Holaday

This issue with Holaday could be a lesson for young players regarding performance: if you want to make the big show with the team that drafted you, it is important to play every game like you deserve to be there.

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