Offseason Option Decisions: Hitters

1 week ago
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The Twins’ outstanding 2019 campaign just ended Monday, though they’re already set to address one important piece of offseason business: They plan to exercise star designated hitter Nelson Cruz’s $ 12MM option for 2020. That was something of a no-brainer move for the Twins, with whom the ageless Cruz thrived in 2019, but several other teams with club option choices to make in the coming weeks could have harder times with their decisions. With the offseason now underway for most teams, let’s take a look at the rest of the hitters who have club options for next year…

Catchers

  • Welington Castillo, White Sox ($ 8MM club option or $ 500K buyout):  The White Sox will turn this down in the wake of a rough season for Castillo, who hit .209/.267/.417 with minus-1.0 fWAR in 251 plate appearances. Thanks in part to Castillo’s struggles, he took a backseat to fellow backstop James McCann, who’s the front-runner to serve as the White Sox’s No. 1 option behind the plate for the second year in a row in 2020.
  • Tyler Flowers, Braves ($ 6MM club option or $ 2MM buyout): While Flowers was less effective this season than he was over the past few, bringing him back for what amounts to $ 4MM for the Braves doesn’t seem unpalatable (especially with Brian McCann facing an uncertain future). The soon-to-be 34-year-old Flowers batted .229/.319/.413 in 310 PA this year, which looks weak but is actually passable for a catcher. He also continued to earn high marks behind the plate.
  • Yan Gomes, Nationals ($ 9MM club option or $ 1MM buyout): The 32-year-old Gomes had a rough regular season, hitting .223/.316/.389 in 358 trips to the plate, but his production did turn around in the second half. However, Kurt Suzuki – not Gomes – has been the Nationals’ preferred choice in their playoff matchups against the Brewers and Dodgers. Suzuki’s still under control for next season for a reasonable $ 6MM, so the Nats could feel comfortable cutting the cord on Gomes and using the $ 8MM they’d save to address other areas.

First Basemen

  • Matt Adams, Nationals ($ 4MM mutual option or $ 1MM buyout): Adams stands out as another likely buyout for the Nationals, with whom he hit a woeful .226/.276/.465 across 333 PA during the regular season. The 31-year-old has taken just one at-bat in the playoffs for the club.
  • Edwin Encarnacion, Yankees ($ 20MM club option or $ 5MM buyout): The soon-to-be 37-year-old is more of a DH than a first baseman, which makes it seem all the more likely the Yankees will let him go into free agency. While the prolific masher has once again been productive in 2019, New York has no shortage of other players it could utilize in the DH spot a year from now.
  • Anthony Rizzo, Cubs ($ 16.5MM club option or $ 2MM buyout): An easy yes for the Cubs, for whom the franchise icon continued to stand out in 2019.
  • Eric Thames, Brewers ($ 7.5MM club option or $ 1MM buyout): Very iffy. Thames, who will turn 33 next month, is coming off a respectable offensive season (.247/.346/.505 with 25 home runs in 459 PA). That said, the left-hander’s output dropped off as the year went on, and he did little to no damage against same-handed pitchers. The Brewers aren’t exactly a huge-budget club, so they could decide to allocate Thames’ money elsewhere in 2020.
  • Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals ($ 18MM club option or $ 2MM buyout): Hey, look, another National! Despite Zimmerman’s heroics in the NLDS, they’ll certainly buy out the fading 35-year-old.

Second Basemen

  • Starlin Castro, Marlins ($ 16MM club option or $ 1MM buyout): Castro rebounded from a horrid start as the year progressed, but that won’t be enough to keep him in a Marlins uniform for another season (at least not at an exorbitant cost). He’s a clear-cut buyout candidate.
  • Wilmer Flores, Diamondbacks ($ 6MM club option or $ 500K buyout): Six million dollars may be a lot for a team like the Diamondbacks to spend on a part-time player whose main purpose is to hit southpaws, though Flores did make a solid case to remain in the desert next year. The ex-Met slashed .317/.361/.487 with a minuscule 10.9 percent strikeout rate over 285 trips to the plate.
  • Jedd Gyorko, Dodgers ($ 13MM club option or $ 1MM buyout): The Dodgers will buy out Gyorko after a year in which he batted a mere .174/.248/.250 in an injury-limited, 101-PA campaign divided between LA and St. Louis.
  • Jason Kipnis, Indians ($ 16.5MM club option or $ 2.5MM buyout): We already know the Indians intend to buy out Kipnis.

Shortstops

  • Freddy Galvis, Reds ($ 5.5MM club option or $ 1MM buyout): Let’s lean toward a buyout here. Galvis is a useful player, but his ceiling isn’t especially high, and this is a position at which the Reds could stand to make an improvement (Didi Gregorius, anyone?) during what’s setting up as an active offseason for the playoff-hungry franchise.

Third Basemen

  • Mike Moustakas, Brewers ($ 11MM mutual option or $ 3MM buyout): The Brewers would welcome Moustakas back for $ 11MM in 2020, but he’ll have other ideas. Moose is almost a shoo-in to head back to free agency for the third straight winter after yet another quality season.

Outfielders

  • Kole Calhoun, Angels ($ 14MM club option or $ 1MM buyout): If not for the presence of rising prospect Jo Adell, it would be easier to imagine the Angels paying Calhoun $ 14MM next year. Calhoun’s coming off his latest above-average season as a defender and hitter, after all. However, the Angels – with needs in their pitching staff and elsewhere – seem likely to cut the cord, save $ 13MM and plug in Brian Goodwin as their main right fielder until Adell’s ready for a promotion.
  • Adam Eaton, Nationals ($ 9.5MM club option or $ 1.5MM buyout): This ought to be a yes for the Nationals, as the always solid Eaton turned in a .279/.365/.428 line with 15 homers, 15 steals and 2.3 fWAR over 656 regular-season PA. He’ll play his age-31 season in 2020.
  • Alex Gordon, Royals ($ 23MM mutual option or $ 4MM buyout): Gordon’s not making $ 23MM next year, but if he does keep playing, the career-long Royal has insisted it’s Royals or bust. Likewise, KC general manager Dayton Moore has indicated he’d love to retain Gordon. The two sides will work out a more team-friendly salary if Gordon does return for what would be his age-36 season.
  • Billy Hamilton, Braves ($ 7.5MM mutual option or $ 1MM buyout): The fleet-of-foot defensive maven will go to free agency after yet another season of weak production at the plate.
  • Juan Lagares, Mets ($ 9.5MM club option or $ 500K buyout): The Mets will be happy to get the once-promising Lagares off their books after an uninspiring age-30 showing.
  • Nick Markakis, Braves ($ 6MM club option or $ 2MM buyout): This may not be a slam-dunk choice either way for the Braves. Markakis is far from the most exciting corner outfielder, but at least you know what you’re going to get (durability, high on-base percentage, few strikeouts and the ability to play him versus righties and lefties alike). For what amounts to a $ 4MM decision, the Braves could certainly do worse.
  • Starling Marte, Pirates ($ 11.5MM club option or $ 2MM buyout): Marte, whose 31st birthday is today, remains eminently valuable. The Pirates won’t have a tough time picking up his option, then. The question is whether they’ll trade him during the offseason.

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