Mar 16, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez (33) walks through dugout during the fourth inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Braves Out of options, out of town?

Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

One of baseball’s rules on how players are handled has to do with options. Because of the phrase “out of options”, many fans assume there are a limited number of times that a player can be sent between the majors and minors. That’s not true. There are limited YEARS that a player may be optioned, but he could be optioned every other day during one of his option years without breaking any rules. Once a player is put on the 40-man roster, that player has 3 option years to utilize (with some exceptions to be granted a 4th option season).

Toward the end of spring training, you often see a number of these players who are “out of options” traded because if they are attempted to be sent to the minors, they have to pass through waivers first. In this piece, we’re going to look first at the Braves’ guys who are in this condition and their chances on making the Braves’ roster. Secondly, we’ll look at those players in the same situation for other teams that could be of interest to the Braves. For a whole list of players who are out of options in 2014, check out MLB Trade Rumors’ list.

Braves players out of options

Cory Gearrin – Gearrin in my mind has been poorly used for his skillset. His skills indicate a high ability to be a ROOGY who comes into games to face right-handed batters. He has a sterling .212/.322/.282 line vs. RHB in his career, but those numbers go to .313/.404/.485 vs. LHB. This is not uncommon for a pitcher with a lower arm slot like Gearrin has. Think of Peter Moylan for how Gearrin could be very effectively used in a modern bullpen. Gearrin is very likely not going to make the Braves roster, barring a last-minute injury issue in the bullpen, so we may see him moved before the season.

David Carpenter – After a tremendous 2013, Carpenter is assured a place on the team.

Ramiro Pena – Before his injury in 2013, Pena was showing himself to be even more than the Braves had hoped when acquiring him before the season on a major league deal. Pena has the ability to defensively handle 2B/3B/SS, and even if his bat isn’t quite to 2013 levels, that could be very valuable. Currently, he’s expected to make the roster, but with Tyler Pastornicky providing similar value, a team offering a low-level prospect may be able to acquire Pena.

Jordan Schafer – While he blocks one of my favorites, Todd Cunningham, from making the roster, Schafer is nearly guaranteed a bench spot due to his ability to play a very solid center field.

Anthony Varvaro – Right now, Varvaro is likely to parlay his solid 2013 into the final bullpen spot. He’s got a very heavy fastball that leads to a ton of ground balls. It is concerning that his K/9 rate dropped to 5.3 in 2013, but at this point, he’s likely to be the last guy in the bullpen for the 2014 Braves.

Guys who may be of interest and in doubt of making their current team’s roster

Randall Delgado, Arizona – The former Braves farmhand is more likely to make the rotation now with the reports about Patrick Corbin having ligament damage, but if superprospect Archie Bradley beats out Delgado for the opening day rotation, he might be a good target for the back of the Braves rotation, especially as guys like Mike Minor and Ervin Santana get ready to return in mid-April.

Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland – Carrasco could be part of the Cleveland bullpen as he gets his feet back under him after surgery in 2012 kept him out until late in 2013. He’s the type of starter perfect for the back of the rotation when healthy – can flash high-end performances, but seems to put up 5+ innings each time out to keep innings off of the bullpen arms.

Scott Diamond, Sam Deduno, and Vance Worley, Minnesota – The Twins have a glut of pitchers competing for the 5th spot in their rotation, and none of the above may actually win that spot, meaning all three could be available in trade. None is really anything of long-term value for the team like Delgado or Carrasco could possibly bring, but they could hold the fort for 2014 for the Braves.

El Fine

Usually guys without options that get sent down aren’t the best players out there, but a lot of times a team could have a heavy amount of solid pieces at a position that you’re short on. A couple of years ago, this led to the acquisition of Juan Francisco to be able to fill in time when Chipper Jones wasn’t able to go. These sort of deals will start popping up throughout baseball, and if the Braves aren’t sure how Hale/Garcia can hold up the back-end of the rotation, don’t be surprised if they jump into talks about one of the guys mentioned above.

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  • fireboss

    I agree that Fredi G never believed in Gearrin and consciously or not used in him places where he had a high probability of failure. The one that stands out as most egregious was the Sunday before the 2011 ASG. Derek Lowe started and went 6 allowing 4 runs and the Braves were down 4-1. In the 7th with almost everyone available in the pen he brought in Gearrin to face Rollins (S) who singled and Martinez (S)who made the first out on a fly ball to left. With Venters, O’Flaherty, Medlen and others available he left Gearrin in to face Utley (LH ops r/l split .829/.607) who singled. He didn’t make a move to warm anyone up and Gearrin faced Howard (LH ops R/L split .921/.634 slg .550 vs RHP) who Gearrin got behind and intentionally walked. By now Proctor who was washed up when the Braves signed him was up in the pen but no lefty. Gearrin then faced Raul Ibanez (LH ops R/L split .747/.585) who singled driving in 2 runs.
    Watching the game Gearrin was shell shocked by now. He threw a wild pitch to Ruiz then walked him and Dom Brown singled. in his 1/3 of an inning he threw 21 pitches – 8 were his two walks – and gave up 6 run son 4 hits. After Martinez there was absolutely no reason to leave him in the game yet Fredi didn’t move. He would never have done that to Moylan but he virtually forfeited that game by bringing in Gearrin and following with Proctor.
    I’m not a fan of ROOGY and LOOGY use but if you have guys who can only do that don’t ask them to be something else. I don’t think Cory has the stuff to be a major league reliever and Vasquez is a better option but abusing him because you can is just weak.

    • Benjamin Chase

      Absolutely agreed. I’m a small bullpen fan, so I don’t particularly like guys who are specialized, but if you do have a guy like that, even in my ideal bullpen, he’d face 25% or less of the guys who he struggles against. Until an interesting end of 2013 when his usage was correct (color me surprised) and he faced mostly right-handed batters, Gearrin had faced over 40% lefties in his career. That number is down to 38% now, but that’s still drastically too high.

      • Chris Headrick

        Nice primer Ben. Casual fans know little about options, and sometimes we assume they know these kinds of tid-bits about the business of baseball. Great to not only throw out opinions, but educate as well. Thanks man.

        • Jerry

          Ben, I agree with much of what you have observed about Cory Gearrin but I think you may have missed some of
          his story as I believe if there were ever a case when a player should have had a right to sue a team for abuse, Gearrin would have a prime case based on his treatment last year.

          When he made his 14th appearance of the 2013 season on April 28, it was only the 24th game of the season for the Braves and it was the fifth straight game for him to appear in and his eighth appearance in ten days. He had not allowed a run up to that time in 12.1 innings and was touched for a home run by Miguel Cabrera, no disgrace if pitching with adequate rest but nevertheless allowing an inherited run and two runs of his own. It was just the second home run he allowed in his 54th Major League appearance with the first, by Nick Swisher, coming in
          2012 the night after throwing 32 pitches in two scoreless innings against the Yankees.

          He did not allow another run then, with an earned run average of 0.86, until May 26 when he made his 27th appearance in the Braves’ 49th game, a pace which would have placed him in 89 games in a 162 game season.
          He gave up three runs in a full inning in that game but bounced back after one day off to pitch a scoreless inning each of the next three days, giving him 30 appearances in 54 Braves games.

          He didn’t pitch again for six days after that, however, and was largely ineffective in seven well spaced appearances between June 6 and July 3, giving every indication to me,
          as a non professional observer, that he had been victimized by overuse and in need of going to the disabled list, one would think at the Major League level where he sustained apparent injury. Instead, he was sent to Gwinnett where he did not pitch the rest of the year where he eventually went on the disabled list and I would assume,
          receiving Class AAA pay instead of Major League pay.

          One might have expected the Braves to maybe think they had overused Gearrin the first two months of the season and use caution in the number of appearances for other pitchers the remainder of the season but what did they do with David Carpenter the final two months of the season? After pitching in a mostly reasonable 26 of 72 games as related to rest between May 10 and the end of July, he was
          used 29 times in 49 games played between August 1 and September 24 with a final game appearance four days later in the final game of the regular season giving him 30 appearances in just under two months.

          Now what effect did the extensive use of Carpenter the last two months similar to that of Gearrin the first two months appear to have in the post season? Most avid Braves fans will recall that after giving up just five home runs in 65.2 innings in regular season, he allowed two homers among four earned runs in 2.2 innings, including sustaining the loss 4-3 on a two run homer in the final playoff game against the Dodgers.

          As much as I would like to see Gearrin continue to pitch with reasonable rest with the Braves, here’s hoping for his benefit that he does get traded to a team that will afford him a reasonable number of appearances and with the hope that he did not sustain long term detriment last year resulting in a shorter career than his ability deserved.