As the Red Sox assemble their 25-man roster for Opening Day -- months away, to be sure, but has that ever stopped us before? -- here's one thing to remember: Both new acquisition Jeremy Hermida and July acquisition Casey Kotchman have minor-league options remaining.
If the Red Sox lose out on Jason Bay and still want to go after a righthanded-hitting outfielder or two, they wouldn't necessarily have to non-tender (or trade) Hermida. If the Red Sox acquired an infielder like Adrian Gonzalez, they wouldn't necessarily have to non-tender (or trade) Kotchman.
It's easy to forget given how fast both Hermida and Kotchman established themselves in the major leagues, but it's also a byproduct of how fast both established themselves in the major leagues. Every major-league player, don't forget, has three minor-league options that teams still can exercise as long as that player has fewer than five years of major-league service time.
Both Kotchman and Hermida have between three and four years of accrued major-league service time.
(One more technicality: If a player spends fewer than 20 days in the minor leagues in a season, he has not burned a minor-league option.)
Hermida jumped from Double-A to the major leagues in August of 2005 and was added to the Marlins' 40-man roster for the first time at that point. He hasn't spent any significant time in the minor leagues since -- and thus hasn't burned an option. Technically, all three of his minor-league options still are available, but he can't be optioned without his permission once he's hit five full season, so he really has two minor-league options left.
Kotchman was added to the Angels' 40-man roster in May of 2004 when first baseman Darin Erstad was placed on the disabled list. He was shipped back to the minor leagues a month later upon the return of Erstad -- his first minor-league option. He then opened the 2005 season in Triple-A -- his second major-league option -- before being recalled for good in late May.
He hasn't spent more than 20 days in the minor leagues in any season since -- meaning his third minor-league option still is available should the Red Sox want to exercise it.
The Marlins couldn't exactly afford to pay Hermida $4 million -- his likely arbitration award -- if he wasn't going to be in their starting outfield. The Red Sox, on the other hand, wouldn't mind paying Hermida $4 million to start the season in Triple-A Pawtucket as part of a long-term investment in a former first-round pick with all the physical skills they could want.
Think of it this way: If Hermida becomes the hitter the Red Sox believe he can be, there's no reason he couldn't replace David Ortiz as the team's regular designated hitter in 2011 even if Jason Bay re-ups. Hermida also becomes perfect J.D. Drew insurance in the event the 34-year-old isn't as healthy next season as he was last season: The Red Sox could stash him in Pawtucket and call him up if and when Drew needs to spend some time on the 15-day disabled list.
Rocco Baldelli might be back. Josh Willingham -- or another righthanded-hitting outfielder -- might be acquired. It would appear the Red Sox would run into a roster crunch with the players they've assembled.
But because Hermida and Kotchman both established themselves in the major leagues so quickly, they both can be sent to the minor leagues next spring if that's what helps the Red Sox fit everyone in.