Coming into 2017, Aaron Loup had 4 years, 40 days of credited MLB service time (per the invaluable Baseball-Reference). Though the season is usually 183 days, only 172 days are required earn a full year of service. With Opening Day on April 3rd, this past Sunday marked the 132nd day of the season, and Loup having spent the entirety of the season on the active roster meant that as off Monday morning he had an even five years of MLB service.
As I pointed out last year with Darwin Barney, five years of service is actually a pretty important milestone for players. For one thing, it means that if their team wants to send them outright off the 40-man roster, the player can refuse and either force the team to keep him, or release him with any guaranteed monies owing. No slumming on minor league bus trips to collect the major league contract. But another thing is it means that a player with options years remaining can no longer be optioned.
It's technically not quite right to say that players like Loup cannot be optioned. It can still happen with player consent, but that's very rare. But for example in 2015, J.A. Happ consented to being optioned for 11 days over the All-Star break after making his last start prior. That still allowing him to accumulate the 172 days for a full year of credited MLB service, didn't affect his salary, and allowed the Mariners to carry an pitcher in the interim.
So there's a distinction between players who have actually exhausted their option years, versus those with the service time to block an optional assignment. But it's practically a distinction without a difference. For all intents and purposes, when discussing whether players can be optioned, implicitly it's about whether the team can do so unilaterally, and the Jays can no longer do so with Loup.
Of course, this probably doesn't really matter. Rosters expand in two weeks, so it's unlikely Loup would have been optioned over the remainder of the season, and based on his performance the last couple years, he's probably a non-tender candidate. In fact, what had surprised me is that with the exception of a couple weeks after he came back from injury last year, Loup has been never optioned in the past couple years despite those struggles.
The broader point of this post is to highlight some of the great stuff (I'm totally objective) in Bluebird Banter's Library, which is always accessible from the main banner at the top of the homepage. This includes:
- The Option and Outright Status Table, which shows a lot of information discussed here and is generally updated towards the beginning of each month with in-season service time (given the flurry of transactions, I've updated everything through yesterday).
- A detailed primer on transactions to explain some of the really technical rules and details around transactions that are often references
- Minor Leaguer's roster tree/map
- Rule 5 Eligibility information for players in the organization (albeit only updated leading up to the Rule 5 draft, so not entirely comprehensive by this time of year)
One of my intended projects this offseason is to add a draft history section, so that's something to hopefully look forward to this winter (or feel free to add any ideas for things that might be valuable additions, though no promises).
As an interesting sidenote, with the DFA yesterday of J.P. Howell in addition to prior moves such as moving Joe Smith, Loup is now the only reliever in the bullpen who can not be (unilaterally) optioned. This is an almost unparalleled degree of flexibility relative to the past couple years, when aside from Osuna, there was frequently only one bullpen slot for a pitcher who could be optioned (whomever it was...Ryan Tepera, Bo Schultz, etc).