Governing Rules. Options are governed
11 of the Major League Rules.
In general, a team may only send a player in the minor
leagues for three seasons after that player is added to
the team's 40-man roster. Each of those years is
considered an "option year" or an "optional assignment."
Thus, a player is said to have three "options" or
"option years." Once a player has burned all three
options, that player may generally not be sent to the
minor leagues without first being designated for
assignment, clearing waivers, and accpeting an outright
Minor League Contract.
Prior to being placed on a team's 40-man
roster, a player is not on optional assignment, but
instead just on minor leage contract.
Thus, options are not burned in seasons before the
player is on the 40-man roster.
Options. Once the player has spent twenty days
on optional assignment in a given season, that player's
"option year" will burn at the end of that season.
However, it is important to note that during an option
year, the club is free to option the player as often as
it wants that season, while only burning one "option"
for that season. If a player spends less than twenty
days on option in a given season, the option does not
burn for that season.
Fourth Option Year.
Players are eligible for a fourth option season if they
have been optioned in three seasons but have not yet
amassed five full seasons of professional service time.
This is rare.
Ten-Day Rule. A
club may not recall an optioned player until ten days of
the season have passed since the optioned player
reported to the minors, unless one of the following
conditions applies: (a) the player is replacing a player
placed on the disabled list or the bereavement list; (b)
the affiliate’s minor league season, including playoffs,
has concluded during the 10-day period; or (c) the
optioned player is being assigned to the active list of
another MLB club.