We already took a preliminary look at the vesting option scenarios playing out around the game, but we’ve now gained quite a bit of clarity over the last six weeks. Generally, vesting options are club options that can become guaranteed based on the player’s health and/or performance. Typically, achieving contractually defined thresholds (such as for plate appearances or games finished) takes the decision out of the team’s hand, with some clauses also requiring certain health standards to be triggered.
Here’s where things stand at present:
- Greg Holland: That was fast! Holland has already racked up thirty games finished, meaning that what was a $10MM mutual option for 2018 has been converted into a $15MM player option. With a league-leading 25 saves in the bank, along with 29 1/3 innings of 1.53 ERA pitching, it seems unlikely that Holland will take that cash rather than testing the open market — though he could also have to turn down a qualifying offer and hit free agency weighed down a bit by draft compensation. (Notably, too, Holland is cracking into some hefty contract incentives. He is on track to earn most or all of the $11MM in available bonus money.)
On Track To Vest
- Gio Gonzalez: While Gonzalez is pitching well enough to make it a foregone conclusion that the Nationals would pick up his 2018 option at $12MM, that step won’t be necessary if he ends the regular season with 180 innings on his ledger. Working deep into games has been an issue for Gonzalez in recent years, but he has already topped 100 frames through just 16 starts thus far in 2017. Barring an injury, this one looks quite likely to vest.
Unlikely To Vest
- Ricky Nolasco: The 34-year-old faces an uphill battle, but he’s at least keeping it interesting. Nolasco can turn a $13MM club option ($1MM buyout) into a player option if he gives the Halos 202 1/3 frames this year. That’s a big number, but Nolasco has managed to log 90 2/3 innings through 16 outings, leaving 111 2/3 left to achieve. Even if he takes the ball another 16 times the rest of the way, he’d need to go seven innings per start — a pace typically achievable only by a few top aces around the game. (Currently, Max Scherzer and Chris Sale top the leaderboard with 113 2/3 frames.)
- Matt Cain: The Giants are sure to pay Cain a $7.5MM buyout rather than picking up his $21.5MM option for the 2018 campaign. But the veteran righty could take that decision out of the team’s hands if he’s able to reach 200 innings this year and stay off of the DL at season’s end. Cain has made all 16 of his starts so far, but he has accumulated only 84 innings. While it’s a theoretical possibility, then, it’s all but certain that this option won’t vest — and the Giants have every incentive to see that it doesn’t.
- Hisashi Iwakuma: When the season started, it seemed reasonably likely that Iwakuma would trigger his second vesting season — as he did last year with the first. After compiling 199 innings in 2016, he needed to accumulate only 125 more (and avoid an unspecified injury) to lock up a $15MM payday. But Iwakuma is currently parked on the DL with just 31 frames in the bank; even if he is able to work deep in most of his remaining starts, he almost certainly won’t have enough to accumulate the 94 additional innings he needs. If he doesn’t get there, then Seattle will decide between a $10MM salary and a $1MM buyout.
Will Not Vest
- Andre Ethier: Ethier’s $17.5MM club option vests upon 550 plate appearances in 2017. He has been shelved for the entire first half of the season, so he’ll have to take home a $2.5MM buyout as a consolation prize.
- Matt Garza: This one is complicated, but here’s the bottom line: Garza cannot possible make enough starts to reach 110 in total from 2014-17 (he’s currently at 82), so his option cannot vest at $13MM. At the same time, it’s no longer possible for him to miss 130 or more days of action to the DL this year, so the club won’t get a shot at a $1MM option for his 2018 rights. Instead, the deal reverts to a club option at $5MM. See? It’s simple.
- J.J. Hardy: The extension that Hardy signed with the O’s a few years back includes a $14MM club option (or a $2MM buyout), but that would vest if Hardy ended the 2017 campaign with 600 plate appearances on his stat sheet. That always seemed a stretch, but with his recent DL placement it’s no longer even possible.