Texas Rangers lefthanded pitcher Yohander Mendez has a fourth option, according to Jamey Newberg, and that is very good news for those holding out hope Mendez might turn into a viable starting pitching option for the Rangers at some point.
First, a quick review of the rules, which are laid out on MLB’s website here. Most MLB players have three minor league options. A minor league option is used when a player on the 40 man roster is sent to the minors on an optional assignment (that is, not a rehab assignment) and the player spends more than 20 days on the optional assignment. Each option is good for a year, so a player can be shuffled up and down between the majors and minors as many times as a team may wish during a given season, and it still counts as just one option.
Occasionally, a player is eligible for a fourth option. Fourth options come into play when a player has not had five full seasons of professional experience, with a full season being considered to be 90 days on an active roster in a season (so a year in a short-season league doesn’t count), and has not spent at least 60 days on an active roster followed by 30 days or more on the disabled list. A player can be on the disabled list first, then activated with less than 90 days to go, and it doesn’t count towards accumulating a “full season.”
So Joe Palumbo, for example, likely will be eligible for a fourth option, since he has only one “full season” as a professional right now (2016), and used an option in 2018 when he was activated from the disabled list.
In the case of Mendez, who turns 24 in January, it appears his 2014 season, when he appeared in 10 games between the AZL and the South Atlantic League, does not count as a “full professional season.” As a result, he’s only had four full professional seasons (2015-18). He was added to the 40 man roster after the 2015 season, and used options in 2016, 2017 and 2018, but because of having fewer than five full professional seasons he qualifies for a fourth option year.
This is meaningful because, up to this point, we have all been assuming Mendez is out of options and can’t be sent down in 2019 without clearing waivers. Mendez had a rough 2018 campaign, and is not, by any stretch of the imagination, major league ready right now. If he were out of options, the Rangers would have to either keep him on the major league roster, whether as a starter (who wouldn’t be counted on to get many outs or have much success) or as a reliever, or put him on waivers and hope he cleared so he could be outrighted.
Instead, with Mendez having a fourth option for 2019, the Rangers can plan on him spending the year in AAA Nashville, continuing to work on his command and hopefully making enough progress that he can be looked at as a potential major league contributor. There’s no guarantee that’s going to happen, but Mendez probably has a better chance of being a major league contributor with another year in the minors under his belt than being knocked around in the majors.