With more than a quarter of the season in the books, it’s time to check in on some players whose status for the 2019 season could be determined by how they perform the rest of the way. To recap, a vesting option is an option within a player’s contract that can alter the structure of the deal itself should a player stay healthy and/or achieve certain playing-time thresholds.
Though not all vesting options are reported, six players are known to have such options on their current deals. The list…
- Cole Hamels: The Rangers have a $20MM club option on the southpaw for 2019 (with a $6MM buyout). The option vests into a $24MM guarantee if Hamels isn’t on the DL with a shoulder or elbow injury at the end of this season, if he tosses 200 IP this season, and has 400 total innings pitched in 2017-18. The latter clause is the important one, as since Hamels only threw 148 innings in 2017, that essentially ended his chances at hitting the 400-inning plateau and locking in $18MM more in guaranteed money.
- Brian McCann: The Astros have $15MM club option on him for 2019 that vests into a player option if he doesn’t end 2018 on DL, starts at least 90 games at catcher in 2018, and has at least 1000 plate appearances in 2017-18. With just 399 PA last season, McCann would need a career-best 601 PA this year to gain control over his 2019 status. He does have 118 PA through 33 games, and he made his 30th start behind the plate tonight, so it’s not completely out of the question that McCann could get hit both thresholds, if unlikely. There’s also the possibility that McCann plays less down the stretch as the Astros rest him for the postseason.
- Logan Morrison: If the first baseman gets 600 plate appearances this season, the Twins’ $8MM club option ($1MM buyout) for 2019 vests into a guaranteed year worth $9.5MM. So far, Morrison has 154 PA through Minnesota’s first 42 games, putting on pace to fall just short (596 PA) of the guarantee. Morrison’s attempt will be hampered by his poor splits against left-handed pitching, as the Twins generally just use him against right-handers, though he could see more time at first base in the short term as Joe Mauer is on the DL dealing with concussion symptoms. Morrison has also been hitting much better in May after an ice-cold April, so this one might go right down to the wire.
- Seunghwan Oh: The Blue Jays have a $2.5MM club option ($250K buyout) for 2019 that vests into a guaranteed deal if Oh pitches in 70 games. Oh is one of several workhorses to emerge in the heavily-used Toronto bullpen, as the former Cardinals closer has already made 21 appearances and is on pace for 72 games this season. With the Jays struggling, however, one has to factor in the possibility that Oh could be a trade candidate at the deadline, so his role could change if he switches teams.
- Hanley Ramirez: The priciest and most intriguing case on this list, Ramirez has a $22MM vesting option for 2019 that is guaranteed at 1050 plate appearances in 2017-18, and if he passes a physical at the end of the season. After amassing 553 PA in 2017, HanRam only needs 314 more plate appearances this season (and good health) for his option to vest. Ramirez has a .271/.328/.422 slash line, six homers, and a perfectly league-average 100 wRC+ this season, as an .876 OPS in March and April gave way to a slump (.567 OPS) in May. Ramirez turns 35 in December and has been only a slightly above-average hitter during his three-plus years with the Red Sox, so Boston would likely prefer to not have him on the books for $22MM in 2019, especially with other available first base/DH options like J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland, Rafael Devers, or Sam Travis. The Sox could justify benching Ramirez more often in the wake of his May struggles, though if he heats up again, the team will need his bat for the AL East pennant race. This is definitely the vesting situation to watch as the season progresses, particularly since the Red Sox will face some further roster-juggling when Dustin Pedroia returns.
- Ervin Santana: The Twins have a $14MM club option on Santana for 2019 that would have become guaranteed if he had passed a physical after this season, amassed 400 IP in 2017-18, and 200 IP this season. The finger surgery that has sidelined him for all of the current season will prevent Santana from hitting the 200-inning requirement for 2018, so this vesting option can be written off already.