Two Vesting Options to Watch

Vesting options are an interesting bargaining tool in the market of baseball. Usually based on some sort of playing time (PAs, games started, games finished, appearances, etc.), the players’ ability theoretically decides whether or not the option vests, as the player will be benched if his performance isn’t worthy of the playing time bench mark. However, we can see some situations come up where a team can be put between a rock and a hard place with these options, as the player is performing too well to be benched but too poorly to earn the money the option guarantees. Here are two vesting options to watch for the 2010 season.

Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers

This is one that Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers should have been watching Ordonez’s 2009 vesting option – he only made the cut by 61 plate appearances, and if salary was as big an issue as Tigers brass made it sound when Curtis Granderson was traded, 61 plate appearances could’ve been easy to cut from his playing time. Instead, the Tigers will be paying Ordonez $18MM this season.

The same situation could come up once again this season, as 540 plate appearances will guarantee a $15MM salary for Ordonez in 2011. Even if the market rate for wins climbs back to $4MM per win next season, Ordonez’s market value likely won’t approach $15MM, as CHONE projects the 36 year old for only 2 wins. Simply put, age hasn’t been kind to Magglio since his fantastic 8.8 WAR, .438 wOBA 2007, and his defense is approaching liability territory. The Tigers would do well to avoid letting his option vest.

Kerry Wood, RP, Indians

Kerry Wood’s 2 year, $20.5MM contract was considered risky at best by many at the time of its signing. Now that the Indians don’t appear to be contenders, it looks worse, as Wood didn’t have the leads to save last year and may not this year either. Wood has an $11MM option that vests if he finishes 55 games – teams aren’t allowed to use performance-based qualifiers such as saves for options or incentives.

The Indians certainly have incentives to play Wood at the end of the games early in the season, as anything can happen with key injuries to players like Joe Nathan. Mostly, though, the Indians would do well to build up Wood’s trade value, as they could bring in some well needed young arms if Wood shows promise early in the year. As a reliever who will turn 33 this season and is averaging 1 WAR per season over the last three years, it’s unlikely that he will fulfill the value of his option. It will be interesting to see how Wood’s team handles this situation if he is on a contending team, whether that be the Indians or a hypothetical trading partner.

Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.

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12 years ago

Has anyone looked at whether teams actually try and manipulate vesting options? Do players with team options have a high probability of falling just short? My guess is that teams that had a reputation for doing this would have more difficulty signing free agents in the future – which might significantly reduce the incentive to do so.