Detroit Tigers: How Options Work in Major League Baseball

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 18: Jordan Zimmermann
DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 18: Jordan Zimmermann /

In a year of rebuilding, one of the most valuable tools available to the Detroit Tigers is an “outright” option . Many baseball fans do not understand how options work. This is an attempt to clarify that question.

The Detroit Tigers will be utilizing options heavily during spring training. There are a number of different types of options. An outright option to the minor leagues is the most significant tool used this time of year.

The Detroit Tigers can utilize an outright option to protect valuable players who may not be ready for the major leagues. It can also be utilized to reduce their major league roster to the 25 man limit.

While an outright option procedure is beneficial to the major league club, it also is a great benefit to the player. From the athlete’s prospective, the process is an insurance policy preventing his being lost in the minors.

Once a player makes the major league’s club 40 man roster he has three minor league option years.

A player must be sent down to the minors for more than 20 consecutive days before he loses an option. He can be recalled or sent down any number of times in a season and exercise only a single option.

Option years do not have to be consecutive. Any player with less than five years of service in professional baseball can be optioned. Conversely, any player with more than five years of professional service can only be optioned with the players consent.

Players who have missed an entire year or who have expended three options within five years accrue a fourth option year.

Once that process has been utilized, the only way a player can be sent to the minor leagues is through waivers.


When an athlete is put on waivers, the remaining 29 clubs have an opportunity to claim that player.  If selected, the new club is responsible for all salary. If another club does not select that player from waivers, he can then be sent down to the minor leagues without penalty.

Next: Has Matt Boyd earned a starting pitcher position?

We hope this article answers some questions.