Alex Avila reached agreement with the Tigers on a contract for 2014 that would pay him $4.15 million for the season. He also agreed to terms on a club option worth $5.4 million for 2015. That option is a "vesting option" which means that there are trigger events that could make the 2015 salary automatic.
A vesting option is perhaps the ultimate performance bonus. If the player reaches the goals that trigger the option to vest, the payoff is another full season's salary. In Avila's case, the option for 2015 would vest if he is selected to the All Star team, wins a silver slugger award as the best hitting catcher in the league, or finishes among the top 15 players in the league in the MVP voting. If none of those things happen, the Tigers still have the option of having the former All Star catcher back for $5.4 million, or they could buy out his contract for another $200,000.
The Tigers would love nothing more than for Avila's option to vest. If Avila can make the All Star team as he did in 2011, or if he's one of the league's best hitting catchers, he'd be a bargain at that salary. There are a number of other Tiger players who have performance bonuses written into their contracts for the 2014 season, and the Tigers would be very happy to have to pay them.
Here are some of the bonuses, and contract options:
Miguel Cabrera will receive: $100,000 each for All-Star selection or LCS MVP. He gets $150,000 for a World Series MVP (love him to have that one) $200,000 for League MVP ($100,000 for 2nd in vote, $50,000 for 3rd-5th) and $1 Million for winning a second MVP during the term of his contract. He also has limited no-trade protection
Justin Verlander has award bonuses, including $100,000 for an All-Star selection. He also has no-trade protection
Torii Hunter has award bonuses: $100,000 each for All-Star, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, LCS MVP, or World Series MVP
Joba Chamberlain has a one year $2.5 million contract for 2014 with performance bonuses: $100,000 each for 35, 40, 45, 50, and 55 games pitched, and $75,000 for an All-Star selection
Phil Coke has a one year $1.9 million salary with performance bonuses: $50,000 each for 60, 65, 70 games. Coke first hopes just to make the team. If he's on the roster on opening day, he'll get his $1.9 million. If he's released prior to that, he will receive either one sixth or one quarter of that amount, and obviously won't need to worry about any bonuses.
Some players have club options that would add another season to the end of their contracts. Verlander has a 2020 club option for $20 million which becomes guaranteed with a top-five finish in the 2019 Cy Young vote. Since he'll be making $28 million per year from 2015-2019, that seems like a relative bargain, provided he is still effective.
Ian Kinsler has a 2018 $10 million club option with a $5 million buyout. With a net cost to the club of just $5 million, Kinsler need not be much better than average for the team to want him back at that rate. Unlike some contracts, Kinsler's salary declines as he ages.
Anibal Sanchez has a 2018 $16 million club option with a $5 million buyout.
Joe Nathan has a two-year deal for $19 million, plus a 2016 $10 million club option with a $1 million buyout. That makes his guaranteed money at least $20 million for the two years. He also has a limited no-trade clause (Nathan may block deals to five clubs)
Avila's vesting option is the only one of it's kind that is based upon performance during the 2014 season.
Now, if you're the Tigers, which of these performance bonuses would you not want to pay out?