As part of last year’s collective bargaining agreement, MLB and the Players Association agreed to a few automatic opt-out dates for some veteran players on minor league contracts. Article XX(B) free agents — players with over six years of MLB service who finished the preceding season on a big league roster — who sign minor league contracts more than ten days before Opening Day now receive three uniform chances to retest free agency if they’re not added to the majors.
The first comes five days before the start of the season. For players who pass on that initial opt-out, they have additional windows to explore the open market on both May 1 and June 1 if they’ve yet to secure a spot on the 40-man roster. The second of those dates spurred some roster movement this year. Chris Devenski, Jeff Hoffman and Billy Hamilton were all called up to keep them from testing the market. Chase Anderson and Gary Sánchez found MLB opportunities with other organizations after leaving the Reds and Giants, respectively.
As that third opt-out date nears, it’s worth checking in on a few players with opt-outs under the CBA (as well as one player whose minor league contract contained a June 1 opt-out provision).
Alfaro is not an Article XX(B) free agent, as he hit the open market via non-tender from the Padres last fall. However, the minor league deal he signed with Boston reportedly afforded him opt-out chances on both June 1 and July 1.
There’s certainly an argument for the 29-year-old catcher to trigger that provision. Alfaro has had an excellent year with the Red Sox’s top affiliate in Worcester. Through 187 plate appearances, he’s hitting .320/.364/.523 and has connected on six home runs. His 4.8% walk rate is modest but he’s kept his strikeouts to a near-average 23% clip while hitting for power.
Alfaro has had an inconsistent big league career, flashing power potential and big arm strength but struggling with his plate discipline and receiving work. He’s a .256/.305/.396 hitter in over 1600 major league plate appearances.
The Red Sox have used Connor Wong and Reese McGuire as their catching tandem. They’ve combined for a decent .272/.309/.440 line, with Wong supplying some power while McGuire has done a serviceable job reaching base. Neither Wong nor McGuire stands as an obvious roadblock to an addition behind the plate but their cumulative production has been solid. Manager Alex Cora was noncommittal on bringing Alfaro up, telling reporters today the club is “very comfortable with Reese and Wong” (relayed by Chris Cotillo of MassLive). Cora expressed his hope that Alfaro would stick in the organization even if the Sox don’t call him up this week, though it remains to be seen if he’ll find a better immediate opportunity elsewhere.
Doolittle’s return stint in Washington last year was cut short by a UCL internal brace procedure. He returned on a minor league deal but has been behind schedule as he works back to game shape. The 36-year-old has been on the injured list all season. He began a rehab stint a few days ago and has thrown two innings between Low-A and High-A. It seems likely he’ll remain with Washington and make it back to Triple-A Rochester before much longer.
Duffy has spent the entire season on the injured list. He’s working back from forearm issues that have prevented him from throwing a major league pitch since July 2021. It’s unclear when he’ll be ready to return to game action.
Gamel has had a solid showing in Triple-A since signing a non-roster pact in Spring Training. The left-handed hitting corner outfielder has a .257/.387/.436 line over 124 plate appearances for the Rays’ top affiliate in Durham. He’s walking at a stellar 17.7% rate against a manageable 24.2% strikeout percentage. He spent a couple weeks on the injured list earlier this month but returned to the Bulls’ lineup a week ago.
Unfortunately for the veteran, he could find it hard to crack a quality Tampa Bay outfield. Randy Arozarena has left field secured and the lefty-swinging Josh Lowe has had a breakout year to claim most of the right field reps. Luke Raley and Manuel Margot — neither of whom can be optioned to the minor leagues — are also in the outfield mix; Raley, in particular, has played very well this season. Gamel passed on his CBA opt-out dates in March and May.
Naquin was an Article XX(B) free agent who didn’t break camp with the big league club. He split the 2022 campaign between the Reds and Mets, combining to hit .229/.282/.423 over 334 trips to the plate. The left-handed hitting outfielder has only played 13 games with Triple-A Nashville after signing with the Brewers, hitting .250/.294/.375 with a pair of homers. He’s been on the minor league injured list since April 28.
Rosenthal has had his last couple seasons washed away by injury. He lost 2021 to thoracic outlet syndrome and hip surgery, while his ’22 campaign was wiped out by hamstring and lat strains. The Tigers took a look at the one-time star closer in Spring Training and kept him in the organization with their highest affiliate in Toledo. Rosenthal pitched twice in the season’s first week before being placed on the minor league IL with a sprained throwing elbow.
Ross is recovering from last June’s Tommy John surgery and will spend most of the year on the injured list. He bypassed his first two opt-out chances and seems likely to do so again.
Sanchez served a depth role for Minnesota last season, logging 60 innings over 15 outings (ten starts). He was tagged for a 6.60 ERA at the MLB level but performed well enough in Triple-A the organization brought him back. The former ERA champ has started ten games with their top affiliate in St. Paul this year. He has a 4.17 ERA over 41 frames. His 49.2% ground-ball rate is solid but he’s walked nearly 16% of batters faced while punching hitters out at just an 18.8% clip. Even with injuries to Tyler Mahle and Kenta Maeda, the Twins have had one of the game’s best rotations through two months.
Stammen suffered a capsule tear in his shoulder in Spring Training. The 39-year-old has spent the year on the injured list and has admitted the injury might unfortunately end his career.