To entice veterans into signing minor league contracts, teams will often dangle opt-out clauses. These clauses allow players to push the eject button on their deals if they are not on the big league roster by a certain date. However, the collective bargaining agreement makes such deals mandatory for players who meet certain requirements.
Last season, there were more than 30 players, known as "Article XX(B) free agents," who qualified for these agreements and signed minor league deals. The 2012 list, as broken down by our own Mark Polishuk, included some prominent names like Vicente Padilla, Omar Vizquel, Jason Isringhausen, Juan Pierre, and Jeff Francis.
Matt Eddy of Baseball America compiled a list of this year's group of Article XX(B) free agents. So who qualifies for this designation? Any player who had a Major League contract expire at the end of the previous season and with at least six years of Major League service time who signs a minor league deal. Then, the team must make a decision about that player's fate by five days before Opening Day. The player has to be placed on the 25-man roster, released outright, or given a $100K bonus if sent down to the minors. If the player is sent to the minor leagues, he'll also have an opt-out date of June 1st that will allow him to bail if he is not on the varsity squad by that stage.
As Eddy notes, 16 of last year's Article XX(B) free agents made an Opening Day roster, 11 were cut loose prior to the deadline, two began the year in Triple-A (Francis and Aaron Cook), and two others (Russell Branyan and Corey Patterson) re-worked their contracts so that they could sign straight minor league pacts.
Here's a look at the 33 veterans on minor league deals who could be free to find new jobs or $100K richer before Opening Day. Players who also appeared on last year's list are denoted with an asterisk..
Diamondbacks: Rod Barajas
Red Sox: Lyle Overbay
Reds: Miguel Olivo
Rockies: Miguel Batista*
Angels: Bill Hall
Dodgers: Mark Lowe
Phillies: Aaron Cook*
Padres: Freddy Garcia