Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement just over a year ago, and one of the provisions in that CBA is uniform opt-out opportunities for Article XX(B) free agents on minor league deals. An Article XX(B) free agent is one with at least six years of service time who finished the previous season on a major league roster or injured list. Any such player who signs a minor league deal more than ten days prior to Opening Day can opt out of that deal at three points if they haven’t been added to the 40-man roster: five days before Opening Day, May 1 and June 1.
This year, Opening Day is March 30, meaning that first opt-out opportunity is coming up this Saturday, March 25. Teams will have to make some decisions between now and then about whether or not to give these players roster spots or let them return to the open market to pursue other opportunities. With many teams dealing with spring injuries, some of these players should be able to find opportunities elsewhere if they can’t find it with their current organization. Their current clubs can prevent them from opting out by giving them a roster spot, but that may involve cutting someone else.
Players who don’t meet this criteria can also negotiate opt-out provisions into their contracts. First baseman Luke Voit has less than six years service time but has an opt-out in his deal with the Brewers, which he recently pushed to this Friday. But the players listed below will have them automatically.
Angels: RHP Chris Devenski
Devenski, 32, had some good seasons with the Astros in 2016 and 2017 but fell off in the two years after. He’s been either hurt or ineffective in the past three campaigns, not reaching 15 innings pitched in any of them. He tossed 14 2/3 frames last year between the Diamondbacks and Phillies with a combined 8.59 ERA. The Halos have a large number of relievers on their roster that can’t be optioned, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for someone like Devenski.
Adrianza, 33, is a light-hitting utility infielder who was with the Nationals last year until the Braves acquired him at the deadline, though injuries limited him to just six games with Atlanta. Pillar, 34, has long been known as a glove-first outfielder. He was drafted by the Blue Jays and worked his way up to the majors when Alex Anthopoulos, now the president of baseball operations in Atlanta, was with the Jays. Pillar got into four games with the Dodgers last year before a shoulder fracture ended his season. Chavez, 39, started last year with the Cubs but was flipped to Atlanta in April for Sean Newcomb. The Braves then sent him to the Angels in the Raisel Iglesias deal but claimed him off waivers a few weeks later. He ended up throwing 69 1/3 innings on the year with a 3.76 ERA.
It’s possible that all three of these guys are on the verge of getting roster spots. The club recently optioned various players on the 40-man, including Vaughn Grissom, Braden Shewmake, Jordan Luplow, Eli White and Nick Anderson. Grissom and Shewmake were in competition for the shortstop job but it seems they will get more seasoning in the minors while Orlando Arcia takes the gig, with Adrianza in backup infield role. Pillar was competing with Luplow and White for a job as a backup outfielder but it seems he may get the nod. The club clearly loves Chavez based on the fact that they acquired him twice last year. The 40-man roster already has a couple of open spots before they’ve even moved Huascar Ynoa and Tyler Matzek to the 60-day injured list. Both of them are going to be out for most or perhaps all of the year due to Tommy John surgery. Atlanta could therefore have four roster spots at their disposal, allowing them to select these three and whichever of Jared Shuster or Dylan Dodd gets the fifth starter job.
Brewers: OF Tyler Naquin
Naquin, 32 next month, is a solid platoon bat from the left side. For his career, he’s hit .274/.326/.468 against righties for a 109 wRC+, compared to a .210/.272/.339 line and 62 wRC+ against southpaws. With Tyrone Taylor set to miss the first month of the season with an elbow injury, the club could use another outfielder. As mentioned above, the Brewers also have Voit in camp on a minor league deal, which makes things a little crowded. Voit could have opted out of his deal last week but agreed to push his decision because he and the club seem happy with each other, but the roster decisions still need to be made.
Opening one spot on the 40-man will be easy, as Justin Wilson is set to miss most of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery and will surely be placed on the 60-day IL shortly. Aaron Ashby could also go to the 60-day as he’s out with a shoulder injury, though the latest reporting indicated that he was targeting a mid-May return, which the club might not want to close off. Beyond the 40-man questions, there’s the fit on the active roster to think about, as adding both Voit and Naquin would likely involve optioning Owen Miller and Brice Turang, or perhaps designating Keston Hiura for assignment. Brewers general manager Matt Arnold recently spoke about some of the “tough decisions” the club has to make.
Dodgers: OF Jason Heyward
Heyward signed an eight-year, $184MM deal with the Cubs prior to the 2016 campaign but never really lived up to expectations. Outside of the shortened 2020 season, he never posted a wRC+ higher than 100, which is league average. Last year, he hit .204/.278/.277 for a wRC+ of 61 in 48 games. He went on the injured list in late June with a knee injury and never returned. While on the IL, the Cubs announced they would be releasing Heyward at season’s end, despite still having one year left on his contract.
The Dodgers signed him to a minor league deal and will be responsible for paying him just the MLB minimum salary for any time spent on the big league roster, with the Cubs on the hook for the majority of his salary. Despite not hitting much in recent years, he’s always gotten good grades for his defense, though those numbers have naturally declined as he’s aged. Manager Dave Roberts has recently suggested Heyward is likely to make the club. They’ll need to open a roster spot but could do so easily by transferring Gavin Lux to the 60-day IL, as he’s expected to miss the entire season with a torn ACL.
Pérez, 34, has long been a well-regarded defensive catcher with a subpar bat. He has a career batting line of .207/.298/.360 but has also racked up 79 Defensive Runs Saved. He only played 21 games for the Pirates last year before hamstring surgery ended his season. The Giants already have two catchers on the roster in Joey Bart and Rule 5 pick Blake Sabol, but the latter can play other positions and has recently been getting some outfield work. Perhaps that allows Pérez to make the club as a more straightforward backup to Bart, which will necessitate a roster move. Luis González is expected to miss the first half of the season due to back surgery and could be move to the 60-day IL to open a spot for Perez.
Ross, 30 in May, had the second Tommy John surgery of his career last June and isn’t set to return for a while. He signed a minor league deal with the Giants in January and presumably intends to stick with the organization as he rehabs.
Mariners: OF Kole Calhoun
Calhoun, 35, has had many strong years at the plate but is coming off a pair of rough ones. In 2021, he made multiple trips to the IL for hamstring issues and only got into 51 games. Last year, he hit .196/.257/.330 with the Rangers, striking out in 32.1% of his plate appearances.
The M’s will likely have Julio Rodríguez, Teoscar Hernández, Jarred Kelenic and AJ Pollock in their outfield mix. Some recent injuries to Taylor Trammell and Dylan Moore perhaps helped Calhoun’s chances of carving out a bench role, but the club also has Cooper Hummel and Sam Haggerty on hand as outfield-capable utility players, and outfield prospect Cade Marlowe is on the 40-man roster.
Gurriel, 39 in June, has been an excellent hitter for much of his career but inconsistent of late. He dipped in 2020 but bounced back to winning a batting title in 2021. Another dip followed last year, as he hit .242/.288/.360 for a wRC+ of 85. Iglesias, 33, has long been a light-hitting glove-first shortstop, though his defensive grades have slipped of late. With the Rockies last year, he hit .292/.328/.380 for a wRC+ of 85.
Gurriel seems likely to get a spot based on the way he and the club danced with each other this offseason. They reportedly offered him a $2MM deal at one point but withdrew it after a week went by without a response, later circling back to get this minor league deal done. Iglesias also makes sense as insurance for the club now that Miguel Rojas has been traded to the Dodgers, leaving utility man Joey Wendle as the top option at short. If they want to select both, they’ll need two roster spots. One of them should be easy with Max Meyer set to miss most of the season due to Tommy John surgery and bound for the 60-day IL shortly.
Mets: RHP Tommy Hunter
Hunter, 36, is a 15-year veteran who has thrived as a reliever over the past 10 of those. However, injuries have been an issue recently, as he hasn’t topped 25 innings in a season since 2018. With the Mets last year, he posted a 2.42 ERA in 22 1/3 innings but made multiple trips to the IL due to back tightness.
The Mets’ bullpen suffered a huge blow recently with Edwin Díaz likely done for the season due to knee surgery, as Sam Coonrod and Bryce Montes de Oca also deal with injuries. That could open up a window for someone like Hunter, but the Mets have also said they’d prefer to have some optionable pitchers in the bullpen, which could work against him. If they do want Hunter in the mix, opening a roster spot will be easy with Díaz and José Quintana both destined for the 60-day IL soon.
Kuhl, 30, had some decent seasons pitching for the Pirates but had an inconsistent season with the Rockies last year. He had a 3.49 ERA through the end of June but then an 8.60 the rest of the way, finishing up at 5.72 combined. Colomé, 34, has been an effective reliever for many years but also found it hard to succeed in Coors. He signed with the Rockies last year and posted a 5.74 ERA on the year. He’s not too far removed from a ridiculous 0.81 ERA in the shortened 2020 season and a 2.80 in 2019.
Kuhl seems to be the favorite to replace Cade Cavalli in the rotation, with the latter set to miss the whole season due to Tommy John surgery. Colomé makes sense for the club given they have few settled options in their bullpen. Opening up two spots should be straightforward since Cavalli and Tanner Rainey are both candidates for the 60-day IL due to Tommy John surgery.
As for Doolittle, he recently spoke about taking it slow in his rehab from last year’s elbow sprain and brace procedure. He isn’t likely to be ready for Opening Day but seems happy with his rehab process and would therefore likely forgo his first opt-out opportunity.
Odor, 29, has long been a one-dimensional hitter, providing power and little else. With the Orioles last year, he hit 13 home runs but slashed .207/.275/.357 for a wRC+ of 80. He’ll be trying to force his way into a bench role in San Diego. One spot will go to a backup catcher, leaving three spots for Odor, Adam Engel, José Azocar, Brandon Dixon, Matthew Batten, Tim Lopes and David Dahl. The club doesn’t have an obvious candidate for the 60-day IL, which could work against non-roster players like Odor, Lopes and Dahl.
As for Stammen, 39, he recently revealed that he suffered a torn capsule in his right shoulder and strained sub scapula and likely won’t pitch ever again.
Pirates: C Kevin Plawecki
Plawecki, 32, is a career .235/.313/.341 hitter, leading to a wRC+ of 80. That’s bit below average, even for a catcher, but he has good grades for his defense and framing and is considered a strong clubhouse leader. When he was designated by assignment by the Red Sox last year, some players, including current Pirate Rich Hill, spoke publicly about how much they didn’t like Plawecki’s departure. The Rangers added him for the final games of the season even though they weren’t in contention, seemingly valuing those same intangibles.
The Bucs will have Austin Hedges as their primary catcher but seem likely to select Plawecki to be the backup. Hedges is one of only two backstops currently on the 40-man. The other is prospect Endy Rodríguez, who was optioned to Triple-A last week. If Plawecki in indeed added, it’s possible that Jarlín García is headed for the 60-day IL, as he’s been shut down for the next four to five weeks with a nerve injury in his biceps area and won’t be able to return until May at the earliest.
León, 34, is generally regarded as a glove-first option behind the plate. Last year, he split his time between the Guardians and Twins, hitting .169/.298/.211. For his career, he’s racked up 34 Defensive Runs Saved and has positive framing numbers from FanGraphs.
The Rangers have three catchers on their 40-man roster in Jonah Heim, Mitch Garver and Sam Huff. León might have a better path to playing time elsewhere, as multiple clubs around the league are dealing with injuries to their catching corps. Carson Kelly of the Diamondbacks was recently diagnosed with a forearm fracture, leaving them with youngsters Gabriel Moreno and José Herrera as their top two. The Athletics only have two catchers on their roster right now and one of them, Manny Piña, will open the season on the injured list.
Duffy, 34, spent years as an effective starter for the Royals, currently sporting a 3.95 career ERA in 234 games. However, he hasn’t pitched July of 2021, when a flexor strain in his forearm sent him to the IL. The Dodgers acquired him from the Royals, hoping for a return to health in the second half, but he suffered a setback. He then underwent surgery but the Dodgers took a chance on him again, signing him to a $3MM deal with a club option for 2023 and hoping for a return late in 2022. He never made it back to the mound and the Dodgers declined his option at season’s end. General manager Chris Young listed Duffy as a closer candidate in January, but he’s yet to appear in a game this spring.
Kennedy, 38, had an effective half season of relief with the Rangers in 2021, posting a 2.51 ERA before getting flipped to the Phillies. He had a 4.13 ERA after the deal and then slumped to a 5.36 mark with the Diamondbacks last year. The club doesn’t currently have an obvious candidate to put on the 60-day IL, which could work against Kennedy’s chances of cracking the roster.
Culberson, 34 next month, is a veteran journeyman who brings much defensive versatility to the table. He’s played every position except catcher and center field in his career. With the Rangers last year, he hit .252/.283/.357 for a wRC+ of 81.
Gamel, 31 in May, was with the Pirates last year and hit .232/.324/.369 for a wRC+ of 97. He’s had modest platoon splits for his career but they were exaggerated last year. The left-handed hitter slashed .252/.342/.409 against righties for a wRC+ of 112 but just .175/.273/.258 against southpaws for a wRC+ of 56.
The Rays have a tight roster and spent most of the winter making cuts from it, which could make it tough for either of these players to make it. But if either played is deemed worthy, Shane Baz is destined for the 60-day IL soon due to his Tommy John rehab, making it easy to open a spot for someone.
Pinder, 31 next week, has spent his entire career with the Athletics until reaching free agency this winter. He’s a super utility guy, able to play anywhere on the field but catcher. He’s didn’t have his best season last year, walking just 3.7% of the time and striking out at a 31.1% clip, but his career batting line is a serviceable .242/.294/.417 for a wRC+ of 96.
Anderson, 35, had some good years on his track record but hasn’t been able to post an ERA under 6.00 since 2019. He got into nine games for the Reds last year with a 6.38 ERA. He was recently transferred from minor league camp to major league camp, suggesting he has a legitimate chance at earning a job.
Strickland, 34, had some good years with the Giants but has gone into journeyman mode recently. He made 66 appearances with the Reds last year, finishing with a 4.91 ERA while walking 11.6% of batters faced.
The Reds should be able to open a roster spot by transferring Justin Dunn to the 60-day IL, as he’s going to be out for a few months with a shoulder issue.
Rockies: IF Mike Moustakas
Moustakas, 34, had many good years with the Royals and Brewers but his four-year deal with the Reds didn’t go very well. He was fine in the shortened 2020 season but largely injured and ineffective for the past two years. He got into 78 contests last year but hit just .214/.295/.345.
Moving his home to Coors Field could give him a boost if he’s healthy. The Rockies could use help at third base after second baseman Brendan Rodgers suffered a potentially season-ending injury. The club’s plan is to move Ryan McMahon from third to second, freeing up the hot corner for someone like Moustakas.
Opening up a spot should be straightforward, with Rodgers and Sean Bouchard both set to miss extensive time and easy calls to be placed on the 60-day IL.
Bradley, 33 next month, has long been an excellent defender with an okay bat, but his offense has been awful for the past two seasons. Last year, splitting his time between the Red Sox and Blue Jays, he hit .203/.255/.311 for a wRC+ of 56.
Duffy, 32, is a versatile utility player who can cover any infield position and has some limited corner outfield experience. He’s not coming off a great year at the plate, as he hit .250/.308/.311 with the Angels for a wRC+ of 78, but he’s had better results in the past.
The Royals optioned a few notable position players earlier today, potentially open the door for these two and Franmil Reyes to make the Opening Day squad. They can open up one 40-man roster spot by moving Jake Brentz to the 60-day IL, as he’ll be rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but finding two more spots will require alternative solutions.
Hernández, 33 in May, is primarily a second baseman who is coming off a bizarre power surge and then a blackout. He had never hit more than 15 home runs in a season until he hit 21 in 2021, but then he had just a single homer last year. His final batting line with the Nats last year was .248/.311/.318, wRC+ of 79. Assuming Nick Maton is taking the third base job in Detroit, Hernández is competing for a bench spot along with players like Zack Short, Andre Lipcius and Andy Ibañez.
Rosenthal, 33 in May, has occasionally been one of the best relievers on the planet, including his 2020 campaign. He posted a 1.90 ERA over 23 appearances, striking out 41.8% of batters he faced. However, various injuries have prevented him from pitching at all in the past two seasons. He recently spoke about how he may not be ready for Opening Day but is happy with his rehab process with the Tigers. It’s possible he forgoes his opt out in order to continue his work with the training staff.
Twins: RHP Aaron Sanchez
Sanchez, 30, had an excellent season back in 2016, posting an ERA of 3.00 over 30 starts with the Blue Jays. Unfortunately, injuries have diminished his workload and results in recent years. He had a 6.60 ERA in 15 appearances for the Nationals and Twins last year.
He twice accepted outright assignments with the Twins last year and then re-signed on a minor league deal in the winter. He doesn’t seem to have a path to a roster spot at the moment but seems to be comfortable with the organization. He’ll soon have a chance to return to the open market but the relationship is good enough for him to stick around.
Alberto, 30, is a light-hitting utility option. He spent last year with the Dodgers, spending time at all four infield positions in addition to some corner outfield work. He hit .244/.258/.365 for a wRC+ of 73. He was signed to bolster Chicago’s uncertain second base position, but that was before they solidified it by adding Elvis Andrus.
Hamilton, 32, has long been one of the game’s best defenders in the outfield and speediest baserunners. However, hit bat has always lagged behind. He got into 37 games between the Marlins and Twins last year but hit .050/.136/.050. His career batting line is .239/.292/.326 for a wRC+ of 66. The club came into spring with a question mark in right field but it seems like prospect Oscar Colás is trending towards taking that job.