Often times, a club option is an easy call to make. Kerry Wood's $11MM option isn't going to be exercised, and Bill Hall can forget about being paid $9.25MM in 2011. Eric Chavez at $12.5MM? Not happening. On the other side of the coin, Albert Pujols is a no-brainer at $16MM, and there's some easy lower profile calls like Matt Thornton's $3MM option.
But a closer look at some of the options out there makes for some interesting discussion. Let's take a look at a few cases that aren't as black and white:
- Mark Ellis, $6MM, $500K buyout: Ellis has spent his whole career with the A's, and has enjoyed some fine seasons. From 2007-2008, he was a 6.8 WAR second baseman playing great defense and posting passable, though not outstanding offensive numbers. He's injury-prone, however, and UZR suggests that his defense has suffered the past two seasons. Fangraphs valued his services at $5.2MM in 2009 and $2.8MM so far in 2010. Will he be worth $6MM in 2011? Ellis profiles as a Type B free agent, so letting him walk (assuming he declines arbitration) would net a supplemental pick.
- Nick Punto, $5MM, $500K buyout: Another injury-prone infielder, Punto's glove does his talking for him. While he's had some passable offensive seasons, he's certainly not a reliable source for production at the plate. Punto's defensive excellence makes him an asset at three positions, but his injuries and and weak bat are reason enough to be hesitant with the option.
- Jeff Francis, $7MM: Francis has returned after missing all of 2009 to post a 4.56 ERA, which is considerably higher than both his FIP and xFIP suggest it should be. He's on the disabled list again now with shoulder soreness though, and he's totaled just 92.2 innings this season after rehabbing from shoulder surgery until mid-May. A healthy Francis is worth $7MM, but having missed 2009 and being on the DL once again, that's far from a guarantee.
- Kevin Gregg, $4.5MM for 2011 or $8.75MM for 2011-2012, $750K buyout: Gregg's racking up the strikeouts and saves in his first season as Toronto's closer, but he's also walking hitters at a prolific rate (4.63 BB/9). His ERA is down from last season mostly due to allowing far fewer long balls, but his inconsistency and affinity for free passes make him a risky investment. Like Ellis, Gregg will be a Type B free agent.
These players represent only a handful of the options clubs will be faced with following the 2010 season. You can see other players' options by looking at our 2011 free agent list. While none of these are overly pricey, the difference that a few extra million can make on the free agent market could be sizable. Vladimir Guerrero ($6.5MM), Jim Thome ($1.5MM), and Brett Myers ($5.1MM) are just a few free agents who were inked in this price range last offseason.