Each year, the free-agent class is impacted by the performance of players with vesting options (as is the financial future of players with said provisions in their contract). For those unfamiliar with the option, a vesting option is typically a club option that can automatically trigger based on the player’s health and/or performance. Meeting pre-determined criteria for games played, innings pitched, plate appearances, etc. are the most common means of triggering vesting options, though as you’ll see below, there have been some more creative approaches to vesting options in the past as well.
We’ll check in on these players periodically throughout the season, and here’s the first look…
- Chris Iannetta: The Mariners hold a $4.25MM club option over Iannetta for the 2017 season, but that option can also vest at $6MM if Iannetta starts 100 games in 2016 and does not finish the season on the disabled list due to an injured hip, back or right elbow. Having started 30 of the Mariners’ first 39 games, Iannetta is on pace to clear the 100 start threshold with ease, and if he can continue to post an OPS in the mid-.700s, the Mariners probably won’t mind having him back for another season at that price. One factor that could throw a wrench into his playing time: Mike Zunino is demolishing Triple-A pitching thus far, batting .305/.357/.580, though the former first-round pick has cooled off considerably in the past two weeks.
- Kurt Suzuki: Another backstop with a $6MM vesting option, Suzuki needs to reach 485 plate appearances in 2016 for that option to trigger. The big 2014 first-half that earned Suzuki that extension never seemed sustainable, and he has batted just .242/.294/.330 since signing the deal. The Twins probably don’t want to see this one vest, as evidenced by the fact that he’s on pace for 349 plate appearances, which would be his lowest total since signing in Minnesota.
- Matt Holliday: The 36-year-old Holliday has a $17MM club option for the 2017 season that automatically vests if he places within the Top 10 of this season’s NL MVP voting. Holliday isn’t the hitter he once was, and even in his best years with the Cardinals, he (somewhat surprisingly) never landed inside the Top 10 in NL MVP voting. At 36 years of age and off to a good but unspectacular .250/.325/.485 start to the season, it seems safe to assume that his option won’t vest. The club will have the choice of exercising the option or paying Holliday a buyout of $1MM.
- Coco Crisp: Crisp, also 36, has a more complicated vesting option tacked onto his two-year, $22MM deal. The option is valued at $13MM and will automatically kick in if Crisp receives 550 plate appearances or appears in 130 games this season. The option initially could also have vested based on combined playing time from 2015-16 (1100 PAs from 2015-16 or 260 games from 2015-16), but Crisp spent most of the 2015 campaign on the DL, so he’ll have to hope to trigger the option based solely on his 2016 health. He’s appeared in 31 of Oakland’s 41 games and picked up 126 plate appearances, so he’s a bit shy of the pace for either threshold. Clearly, though, there’s still plenty of time to make up ground. He’s batting .234/.304/.405.
- Yusmeiro Petit: The one-year, $3MM contract signed by Petit this winter came with a $3MM club option ($500K buyout) that vests if Petit reaches 80 innings pitched. Petit has occupied a role similar to the one in which he thrived for a few years as a member of the Giants’ bullpen, and he’s picked up 21 innings through the Nationals’ first 40 games. If that pace holds, he’ll indeed clear 80 innings and see that salary lock in. With a 1.71 ERA and 3.28 FIP through his first 21 frames, the Nats probably wouldn’t mind that at all.
- CC Sabathia: The 35-year-old Sabathia’s vesting option is tied to the health of his shoulder. He’ll lock in a $25MM salary for the 2017 campaign if he doesn’t end the 2016 season on the DL due to a shoulder injury or spend 45+ days on the DL this year due to a shoulder injury. Sabathia is currently on the disabled list, but it’s due to a groin injury, so it doesn’t impact the option’s status. While he’s certainly no longer an ace, Sabathia did have a 3.81 ERA through his first five starts of the season, though his strikeout and walk numbers weren’t particularly encouraging.
It’s perhaps worth noting, as well, that both Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher had vesting options for the 2017 season worked into the four-year deals they originally signed with the Indians. However, with each player having been released from that contract and signing new deals (with the D-backs and Yankees, respectively), those options are no longer in play. (The lack of playing time for each player this season would’ve made them a non-issue anyhow.)