Minor League Options

Normally, a player on an MLB Reserve List (40-man Roster) is allotted three minor league option years. This means the player can be sent to the minors and be available 24/7 for recall back to the major league club whenever the player might be needed during the course of three different seasons.

If a player spends 20 or more days of an MLB regular season on Optional Assignment to the minors, an option year is expended and the player does not accrue MLB Service Time while on Optional Assignment. If a player spends 19 or fewer days of an MLB regular season on Optional Assignment, an option year is NOT expended and the player does accrue MLB Service Time while on Optional Assignment.

Also, if a signed player with minor league options remaining is sent outright to the minors prior to MLB Opening Day and then is reacquired by the same club and added to the club's MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) during the MLB regular season and at least 20 days after MLB Opening Day, or if a player with minor league options remaining is sent outright to the minors during the MLB regular season and then is reacquired by the same club during that same MLB regular season and added to the club's MLB Reserve List at least 20 days after the Outright Assignment, an option year is spent, even though the player was not optioned to the minors.

After three minor league option years have been spent, the player is said to be "out of options" and the only way the club can send the player to the minors is by removing the player from the 40-man roster and sending him "outright" to the minors. And the club can do this only after first securing Outright Assignment Waivers (which are irrevocable) from the other 29 MLB clubs.

Fourth Minor League Option

Most players get only three minor league options, but a player who has accrued less than five "full seasons" is eligible for a 4th minor league option.

For the purpose of determining eligibility for a 4th minor league option, a player accrues a "full season" when he spends at least 90 days on the Active List of an MLB and/or minor league club or clubs in a given season, or (in seasons prior to 2012) spends at least 60 days but less than 90 days on the Active List of an MLB and/or minor league club or clubs followed by a Disabled List assignment where the combined time spent on the Active List and Disabled List equals at least 90 days or (beginning with the 2012 season) spends at least 30 days but less than 90 days on the Active List of an MLB and/or minor league club or clubs followed by a Disabled List assignment where the combined time spent on the Active List and Disabled List equals at least 90 days.   

Optional Assignment Waivers are not required when a player is sent to the minors using a 4th minor league option.

If a player qualifies for a 4th minor league option year, the 4th option is available during Spring Training and for the entire MLB regular season. 

CUBS ELIGIBLE FOR 4TH MINOR LEAGUE OPTION IN 2016: (updated 4-3-2016)
Munenori Kawasaki, INF 
Jorge Soler, OF (can be used in either 2016 or 2017)

Restrictions on Optioning Players to the Minors

GENERAL RESTRICTIONS:

1. No player may be optioned to the minors prior to the start of Spring Training.

2. An injured player cannot be optioned to the minors.

3. A player who is optioned to the minors generally must remain on Optional Assignment for at least ten days. (A player optioned to the minors during Spring Training generally must remain on Optional Assignment for the first ten days of the MLB regular season). The only exceptions are if the player is recalled as the "26th man" for a day where a doubleheader was scheduled at least 48 hours in advance (or for the second game of the doubleheader only if the doubleheader was scheduled less than 48 hours in advance), or is recalled to replace a player on the 25-man roster who is placed on an MLB inactive list (Disabled List, Bereavement List, Paternity List, Restricted List, et al), or if the season (including post-season playoffs) of the minor league team to which the player is assigned is over, or if the player is traded. 

4. All players on Optional Assignment to the minors must be recalled no later than the day after the conclusion of the MLB regular season.



OTHER RESTRICTIONS:

5. A "Rule 5 Player" cannot be optioned to the minors until Rule 5 restrictions have been removed.

RULE 5 PLAYERS WITH MINOR LEAGUE OPTIONS REMAINING ON CUBS 40-MAN ROSTER 
NONE


6. A "Draft-Excluded Player" cannot be optioned to the minors any earlier than 20 days prior to MLB Opening Day.

DRAFT-EXCLUDED PLAYERS WITH MINOR LEAGUE OPTIONS REMAINING ON CUBS 40-MAN ROSTER (updated  3-14-2016)
NONE 

7. Per Article XIX-A of the CBA, any player on an MLB 40-man roster who has accrued at least five years of MLB Service Time (as well as an international player with Article XIX-A contractual rights) has the right to refuse an Optional Assignment to the minors, or the player can elect to be a free-agent immediately upon being optioned.

If a player eligible to elect free-agency is optioned and elects to be a free-agent immediately, his contract is terminated and he receives no termination pay.

If a player with Article XIX-A rights refuses an Optional Assignment but does not elect free-agency, the club must either retain the player on the club's MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) AND Active List (25-man roster), trade the player, or give the player his unconditional release.

A player with Article XIX-A rights can waive his right to refuse an Optional Assignment in advance, but the waiver cannot be signed more than ten days prior to MLB Opening Day, the player has the right to designate in advance which minor league team to which he can be assigned, and the waiver automatically expires if the player is not optioned to the minors within 45 days or by the 45th day of the MLB regular season (whichever is later).

CUBS ARTICLE XIX-A PLAYERS WITH MINOR LEAGUE OPTIONS REMAINING (last updated 4-29-2016):
Jake Arrieta, RHP
Trevor Cahill, RHP
Dexter Fowler, OF
Jason Heyward, OF
Munenori Kawasaki, INF (see NOTE below)
John Lackey, RHP
Jon Lester, LHP
Miguel Montero, C
Clayton Richard, LHP
Ben Zobrist, IF-OF
NOTE: Kawasaki may or may not have Article XIX-A contractural rights (TBD)