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The offseason is officially upon us, and the first order of business for most teams will be to address the various contract options that apply to the 2014 season. As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes noted earlier, most (and possibly all) of these decisions will be wrapped up by 11:59pm ET on Saturday.
Many of the options are no-brainers (e.g. James Shields), but others aren't quite as clear (e.g. David DeJesus). It's also important to remember that players with options can be traded in the coming days. For example, with the signing of Alexander Guerrero, Mark Ellis appears to have been displaced in Los Angeles. However, other teams may find his $5.75MM club option appealing and be willing to work out a trade with the Dodgers to acquire him at that price rather than take their chances on the open market. Most famously, we saw this one year ago today with the Royals' acquisition of Ervin Santana.
We've also already seen a few options exercised and declined. The Rockies picked up their $11MM option on Jorge De La Rosa and declined their $4.25MM option on Rafael Betancourt, who went down with Tommy John surgery. The Brewers exercised a cheap $1.9MM option on Norichika Aoki, and reports have indicated that, not surprisingly, Jon Lester's option will be picked up by the Red Sox as well.
With all that said, here's a team-by-team look at the various contract options — club, player and mutual — that each team will be resolving in the next few days.
- Brett Anderson: $8MM club option ($1.5MM buyout; will be arbitration eligible if option is declined)
- Coco Crisp, OF: $7.5MM club option ($1MM buyout)
- Kurt Suzuki, C: $8.5MM club option ($650K buyout)
- Chris Young, OF: $11MM club option ($1.5MM buyout)
- Franklin Gutierrez, OF: $7.5MM club option ($500K buyout)
- Joe Saunders, SP: $8.3MM mutual option ($900K buyout)
- Lance Berkman, DH: $12MM club option ($1MM buyout)
- Joe Nathan, RP: $9MM club option ($750K buyout; Nathan can void and elect free agency)
- Jason Kubel, OF/DH: $7.5MM club option ($1MM buyout)
- Ubaldo Jimenez, SP: $8MM club option (Jimenez earned the right to void this option when he was traded from the Rockies to the Indians)
- James Shields, SP: $13.5MM club option ($1MM buyout)
- Jose Veras, RP: $3.25MM club option ($150K buyout)
- Matt Lindstrom, RP: $4MM club option ($500K buyout)
- Mark DeRosa, 1B/3B/LF/RF: $750K club option ($25K buyout)
- Casey Janssen, RP: $4MM club option
- Munenori Kawasaki, 2B/SS: $1MM club option
- Adam Lind, DH/1B: $7MM club option ($2MM buyout)
- Alexi Casilla, 2B/SS: $3MM club option ($200K buyout)
- Dan Johnson, 1B/DH: $800K club option
- Tsuyoshi Wada, SP/RP: $5MM club option
- David DeJesus, OF: $6.5MM club option ($1.5MM buyout)
- Yunel Escobar, SS: $5MM club option
- Juan Carlos Oviedo, RP: $2MM club option ($30K buyout)
- Ben Zobrist 2B/RF/SS: $7MM club option ($2.5MM buyout)
- Jon Lester, SP: $13MM club option ($250K buyout)
- Matt Thornton, RP: $6MM club option ($1MM buyout)
- Derek Jeter, SS: $9.5MM player option ($3MM buyout)
- Chris Capuano, SP: $8MM mutual option ($1MM buyout)
- Mark Ellis, 2B: $5.75MM club option ($1MM buyout)
- Ryan Vogelsong, SP: $6.5MM club option ($300K buyout)
- Barry Zito, SP: $18MM club option ($7MM buyout)
- Matt Belisle, RP: $4.25MM mutual option ($250K buyout)
- None (Aoki's already exercised)
- Jake Westbrook, SP: $9.5MM mutual option ($1MM buyout)
- Wandy Rodriguez, SP: $13MM player option ($2.5MM buyout)
- Reed Johnson, OF: $1.6MM club option ($150K buyout)
- Jacob Turner, SP: $1MM club option (part of a Major League deal signed out of the draft)
- Johan Santana, SP: $25MM club option ($5.5MM buyout)
The 2014 MLB Free Agent Tracker is now available at MLB Trade Rumors! All free agents are listed, and you can filter by position, signing status, signing team, qualifying offer status, contract years and amount, throwing and batting handedness, and any combination of the above. For the most part, our cutoff for a player's inclusion on the tracker is 50 MLB plate appearances or 20 innings pitched in 2013. Led by Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Brian McCann, and Masahiro Tanaka, our Top 50 Free Agents list with predictions will be published Sunday night. For now, make your wish lists with the free agent tracker, read up with our free agent profiles, and check out my top ten free agents from earlier this month. We also have a basic list that shows which free agents remain available at each position, found here.
The Red Sox front office will have little time to bask in the glow of the franchise's eighth World Championship. Upcoming important dates:
- Players with at least six years of Major League service and no contract for 2014 are eligible to become free agents as of 8am central time today, October 31st. That marks the opening of the Quiet Period.
- MLBTR's Top 50 Free Agents list with predictions will be published the evening of Sunday, November 3rd. Our prediction contest will open at that time as well.
- The five-day Quiet Period ends at 10:59pm central time on Monday, November 4th. During the Quiet Period, free agents may talk to any team about either side's interest, the player's potential role, the advantages and disadvantages of playing for that team and city, and length of a potential contract, guarantee provisions, and no-trade provisions. A free agent may not, however, negotiate terms or contract with a new team during this period. He may negotiate terms and enter into a contract with his former team.
- During the Quiet Period, the former team may tender a qualifying offer, which is a guaranteed one-year, $14.1MM deal for 2014. Qualifying offer decisions by the team are due by 4pm central time on Monday, November 4th. Check out MLBTR's qualifying offer reader poll from September for an idea of which free agents are likely to receive one.
- Additionally, option decisions must be decided by the end of the Quiet Period. A large majority (all of them last year) will be resolved by 10:59pm central time on Saturday, November 2nd.
- Once the Quiet Period ends Monday night, free agents can negotiate with any team.
- A free agent has until Monday, November 11th by 4pm central time to accept a qualifying offer. Any player who accepts is considered signed for 2014. If a player declines a qualifying offer, his former team becomes eligible for compensation if the player signs a Major League contract with another Major League team before the 2014 draft. The former team receives an amateur draft choice as compensation, while the signing team forfeits its highest available selection and the accompanying bonus pool money in the draft.
- Baseball's GM Meetings are from November 11-13th in Orlando, Florida.
- The non-tender deadline for arbitration eligible players is December 2nd.
- Baseball's Winter Meetings are from December 9-12th, also in Orlando.
White Sox lefty Hector Santiago is now a client of Excel Sports Management, MLBTR has learned. His primary agent will be Jim Murray. Santiago had formerly been represented by Brian McCafferty of MSM Sports Management. You can check out Excel's MLB client list here. MLBTR's agency database can be found here.
Santiago, 25, posted a 3.56 ERA in 149 innings for the White Sox this year, including 23 starts. With just over two years of Major League service at present, Santiago projects to be eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2014 season.
The Boston Red Sox are the 2013 World Series champions, just a season removed from a last-place finish in the AL East. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman details how the Sox focused on acquiring less-heralded free agents who could handle the pressure of playing in Boston, and almost all of those free agents delivered big contributions throughout the season and through the playoffs. While the return to good health and good form by several holdover Red Sox stars also played a huge role, several teams will be looking to replicate Boston's free agent strategy in the coming offseason.
Here are some notes from around baseball as the Hot Stove League has officially begun…
- The Red Sox were immeasurably helped by the "payroll miracle" of their August 2012 blockbuster trade with the Dodgers, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The Yankees could get a similar "financial reset" if all or most of Alex Rodriguez's 2014 salary is removed from the books via suspension, allowing the Yankees to re-sign Robinson Cano, sign other free agents and also avoid the $189MM luxury tax limit.
- Rodriguez's appeal hearing may not be decided until late December, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger reports, which could impact the Yankees' offseason spending plans.
- Adrian Cardenas, drafted 37th overall by the Phillies in 2006, walked away from a promising career at age 25 and with just 67 Major League PA to his name. In a fascinating piece for the New Yorker, Cardenas details the thought process that went into his decision and his gradual disillusionment with the professional side of the game.
- The Diamondbacks don't have much payroll flexibility for 2014, as The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro notes in his breakdown of the Snakes' salary obligations. Piecoro suggests that the D'Backs could sign free agents by backloading their contracts for 2015 and beyond, when the club has more money coming off the books.
- The Dominican Republic recently passed a law stating that children of undocumented Haitian immigrants would no longer be considered Dominican citizens, even if they were born in the country. Jorge Arangure of Sports On Earth investigates how this ruling could make it harder for amateur ballplayers of Haitian descent to obtain the proper visa or citizenship information to play in Major League Baseball.
- The Pirates can afford to be more patient this offseason, GM Neal Huntington tells Jenn Menendez and Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A.J. Burnett's future needs to be decided first, however, since his status will determine the rest of the Buccos' moves. "If we retain A.J, that will be a significant positive, but also it's going to cost us a good chunk of the available money, and we'll have to react accordingly," Huntington said.
- The Marlins could fill a few needs by targeting the Angels' Mark Trumbo and Chris Iannetta in trades, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro opines as part of a reader mailbag.
- The Blue Jays have hired Kevin Seitzer as their new hitting coach, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports. Seitzer previously worked as the hitting coach for the Diamondbacks and Royals, and he and Jays manager John Gibbons worked together on the K.C. staff from 2009-11.
A few items from around the AL Central…
- After making a big push to contend in 2013, the Royals need to be willing to raise payroll to put the team over the top next season, Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star opines. "If there was ever a time the Royals had both the resources and motivation to make a push for the short-term, this is it," Mellinger writes.
- The Indians won't move Asdrubal Cabrera this offseason, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer predicts during his podcast with Dan Labbe. Shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor isn't ready and is coming off a significant back injury, and Mike Aviles is a better fit for the Tribe as a bench player. Cabrera hit only .242/.299/.402 in 562 PA in 2013 and will be a free agent following the 2014 season.
- "There is so much focus on the offense, but it’ll be interesting to see how the Tribe approaches upgrading its defense this winter," MLB.com's Jordan Bastian writes in an examination of the Indians' fielding numbers. Cleveland had a team UZR/150 of -4.5 in 2013, the fifth-worst UZR/150 of any club in baseball.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn told reporters (including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune) that he'd like to get his team back on the winning track as quickly as the Red Sox did from 2012 to 2013 but that might not involve mining the free agent market as much as Boston did. "There's not going to be a free agent — premium or otherwise — who we don't view as helping us that we won't check in on at least….We're not ruling anything out. But the options in the free-agent market probably won't be quite as robust as some trade opportunities," Hahn said. The bigger-picture plan for Hahn is to build from within rather than just pursue "short-term fixes."
- In AL Central news from earlier today, White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham is drawing trade interest from the Blue Jays, and the Tigers will not be re-signing free agent catcher Brayan Pena.
Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com participated in a live chat with fans today and shared a number of Giants-related hot stove items…
- The Giants "went hard after" Jose Dariel Abreu and offered the Cuban slugger a contract that paid him roughly the same average annual value of his six-year, $68MM deal with the White Sox. The catch was that the Giants' offer wasn't six years long as they didn't want to make that long a commitment to a player that is projected by many scouts to be a future designated hitter.
- Ryan Vogelsong's $6.5MM option won't be picked up by the Giants but Baggarly thinks the veteran righty will re-sign on a cheaper one-year deal with incentives.
- There is mutual interest between the Giants and Javier Lopez, and the money saved by declining Vogelsong's option could help the club afford the veteran southpaw.
- The Giants are "probably not" realistic players for Masahiro Tanaka, as Baggarly figures that his posting price will exceed what the Giants are willing to offer, plus big spenders like the Dodgers and Yankees are in the mix. Baggarly reported in August that San Francisco had an interest in the Japanese righty.
- Brandon Belt could be approached about a contract extension in Spring Training but the Giants will just work out a one-year deal in the meantime to cover Belt's first year of arbitration eligibility. MLBTR's Matt Swartz projects Belt to earn $2.4MM in 2014 and MLBTR's Tim Dierkes suggests that Allen Craig's extension could be a model for a Belt extension, though with some adjustments since Belt is a Super Two player.
- The Giants are looking only for "reliable innings guys" in their rotation so the likes of Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson and Josh Johnson will only draw the club's interest if they're healthy.
- Though the Giants are looking for a right-handed power bat and might trade prospects to get one, the club is unlikely to move the likes of Kyle Crick, Edwin Escobar or Adalberto Mejia.
- When it comes to left field, the Giants may prioritize defense. Baggarly expects San Francisco to look for a left fielder in a trade rather than free agency.
- Baggarly hasn't heard Scott Kazmir's name mentioned as a possibility in San Francisco.
- Mark Trumbo "has his admirers in the [Giants] front office." While the Angels are known to be willing to move Trumbo for young pitching talent, I'm not sure the Giants are a good trade partner given that they're looking for arms themselves.
- Given Marco Scutaro's age, Brandon Phillips "makes a lot of sense" for the Giants. Baggarly makes it clear that he's only speculating, however. Phillips is rumored to be on the shopping block but Reds GM Walt Jocketty recently denied that he's talked about Phillips with other teams.
- The Giants are very unlikely to surrender their first round (14th overall) draft pick to sign a free agent who has rejected a qualifying offer. This could have a major impact on the chances of the team pursuing Bronson Arroyo, who could be extended a qualifying offer by the Reds. Baggarly feels that Arroyo and Dan Haren are the free agent pitchers who are most likely to be San Francisco targets.
- Recent Pablo Sandoval trade rumors are "total scuttlebutt," in Baggarly's opinion.
The Tigers have informed Brayan Pena that he will not be brought back for the 2014 season. The catcher revealed the information himself via his Twitter account and MLB.com's Jason Beck confirmed the news with a Tigers spokesperson and with Paul Kinzer, Pena's agent.
Pena, 31, signed a one-year, $865K deal last winter to be Detroit's backup catcher but ended up playing much more than expected due to Alex Avila's injury problems and struggles at the plate. Pena hit .297/.315/.397 in 243 PA, the most playing time he has received in his nine-year Major League career.
Pena, a switch-hitter, was particularly dangerous from the left side of the plate, posting an .801 OPS against right-handed pitching. Kinzer could point to those batting splits as evidence at his client deserves to at least be part of a platoon, rather than just a backup. Whatever the role, it seems very likely that Pena will find another Major League contract this offseason given the thin catching market.
The Tigers plan to look within their system to replace Pena, according to Kinzer. Bryan Holaday and James McCann will get chances to become Avila's backup, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Detroit sign a veteran to a minor league deal to add some Spring Training depth.
Here are today's minor transactions, with the most recent moves at the top of the page…
- Right-hander Peter Moylan has elected to become a free agent, according to the MLB.com transactions page. The Dodgers designated Moylan for assignment last week to create 40-man roster space for the newly-signed Alexander Guerrero. Moylan posted a 6.46 ERA in 15 1/3 relief innings for Los Angeles last season and was plagued by injuries in 2011-12, but the Aussie righty posted a 2.59 ERA in 260 2/3 IP out of the Braves bullpen from 2006-12.
- The Rays outrighted Freddy Guzman to Triple-A Durham and off the Major League 40-man roster, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Bay Tribune reports (Twitter link). Guzman will become a minor league free agent five days after the end of the World Series. Guzman appeared in one Major League game (his first since 2009) last season, stealing a base and scoring as a pinch-runner. Guzman has spent most of the last three seasons in the Mexican League and he posted a .855 OPS in 450 PA with Ciudad del Carmen in 2013.
- Now that Moylan is a free agent, the Red Sox Pedro Beato and the Padres' Colt Hynes and Tommy Layne are the only players remaining in DFA limbo, according to MLBTR's DFA Tracker.
The Red Sox can clinch a world title at Fenway Park for the first time in 95 years if they win tonight's Game Six against the Cardinals. Though all eyes are focused on the World Series, here are a few hot stove notes out of Boston…
- Xander Bogaerts' strong World Series has more or less cemented his place in the Red Sox lineup next season, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. Bogaerts' right-handed bat and ability to play shortstop gives the Sox breathing room in case Stephen Drew and Mike Napoli aren't brought back, and Britton doesn't think the team will bother bringing in a veteran to compete with Bogaerts at shortstop.
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia reiterated that he wants to stay with the Red Sox over the long term but he admitted to ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald that he may have played his last game for the team. "You don’t want to leave but at the same time it’s one of those things where it’s baseball. If it goes in that direction you can’t control it. I haven’t thought too much of a destination, but it’s definitely hit me a few times that this could be the last time," Saltalamacchia said. The catcher has had a tough postseason both offensively and defensively and was benched for Games Four and Five of the World Series. Though MLBTR's Tim Dierkes' prediction of a four-year, $36MM free agent contract for "Salty" was made before the playoffs began, the catching market is thin enough that Saltalamacchia's October struggles probably won't hurt him that much.
- Theo Epstein has kept a low profile during the World Series but CBS Sports' Jon Heyman notes that Epstein deserves credit for building the core of this Red Sox team during his tenure as general manager, not to mention helping groom current GM Ben Cherington.
- Would the Red Sox still be in the World Series if Anibal Sanchez, Francisco Liriano, Hiroki Kuroda, Cody Ross, Nate Schierholtz and Joakim Soria had been their big additions of the 2012-13 offseason? WEEI.com's Rob Bradford looks at how the Sox considered all of these names last winter.
- Whatever luster Boston may have lost as a free agent destination last offseason has surely been regained by the club's success, manager John Farrell told repoters (including WEEI.com's Alex Speier).
- The Red Sox improved team chemistry surely helped their turn-around but a few league executives tell The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro that the narrative has been bit overblown. The Diamondbacks are a team that seem to be ranking chemistry as a high priority and other clubs may follow in seeking out good clubhouse personalities like Jonny Gomes, “but if people think [Gomes] is the new market inefficiency, they are going to be disappointed," an NL executive says.
Not long ago, the thought of Phil Hughes hitting free agency at age 27 would have come with lofty contract expectations. The former No. 4 overall prospect in the game, per Baseball America, enjoyed a dominant season in the bullpen with the 2009 Yankees en route to a World Series title. He followed it up with a solid 4.19 ERA in 176 2/3 innings in the rotation at age 24 — a season in which he earned his first All-Star nod. It's been mostly a downhill ride for Hughes since that point, however, and he'll head into free agency having posted an ERA north of 5.00 in two of his past three seasons.
Through all his ups and downs, Hughes has steadily maintained solid control. He's averaged 2.7 walks per nine innings from 2010-13 (a span of 674 innings pitched). Part of the reason he's able to limit walks is because of the way that he attacks hitters. Among qualified starters over that same four-year stretch, only Cliff Lee, Tommy Milone and Kevin Slowey have thrown a first-pitch strike at a higher rate than Hughes' 66.7 percent.
Additionally, his 7.6 K/9 rate over the past two seasons is a tick above the league average for starting pitchers (7.2). Hughes' 2.95 K/BB ratio ranks 13th out of the 41 potential free agent starters with more than 50 innings pitched this season.
He also compares favorably to his competition in terms of fastball velocity. Using the same criteria, Hughes' average fastball — 92.4 mph — ties him with Ervin Santana and Mike Pelfrey for eighth highest among potential free agent starters (or seventh if you want to remove Jon Lester, whose option is sure to be exercised, from the list).
Likely the most appealing factor for Hughes' suitors will be the fact that he's actually been a very solid pitcher away from Yankee Stadium. Hughes checked in with a 5.19 ERA overall in 2013, but that was due to a bloated 6.32 ERA when pitching in the Bronx. On the road, Hughes posted a 3.88 ERA. Over the past four seasons, Hughes has a 4.11 ERA and 3.80 FIP on the road compared to a 5.12 ERA and 5.02 FIP at home. As a right-handed fly-ball pitcher, Yankee Stadium (and its short porch in right field) is perhaps the worst possible setting for Hughes.
Hughes is the youngest free agent starter on the market, and while at one point there was talk of the Yankees extending a qualifying offer for that reason, the Yankees don't figure to bring Hughes back for $14.1MM. He won't cost his new team a draft pick.
Hughes' home struggles can't simply be written off. No matter where he signs this offseason, he's going to have to pitch some games in hitter-friendly stadiums, and those are daunting settings for a pitcher with the sixth-lowest ground-ball rate in all of baseball over the past four seasons (33 percent).
While he's just 27, Hughes has some injury baggage on his resume already. He missed nearly half the season in 2011 with inflammation and fatigue in his right shoulder, and he has a history of back issues. Hughes dealt with a herniated disk in his back as a minor leaguer, and he's missed small amounts of time with back-related injuries since. He also had a stress fracture in his rib that cost him nearly all of the 2008 season.
Hughes has only topped 100 innings three times in his career, and he's never reached 200 frames. And, in two of those three 100+ innings seasons, he's significantly faded down the stretch. After a 4.57 first-half ERA in 2013, he faded with a 6.32 ERA in the season's second half. In 2010, his ERA sat at 3.65 at the All-Star break, but he limped to the finish with a second-half ERA of 4.90. Hughes' injury troubles, low innings totals and second-half struggles in seasons with a full starter's workload will give teams serious concerns about his durability.
Hughes is a devout Christian and has the bible verse "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" tattooed on his left arm. As he explained to Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated back in 2009, Hughes actually got the tattoo while on a road trip to Atlanta. In his free time, one of Hughes' favorite hobbies is cooking.
After six years at Yankee Stadium, it seems unlikely that Hughes would opt to pitch for a team in a hitter-friendly environment. Teams in spacious home parks will likely appeal to Hughes, and it was already reported over the summer that the Twins are expected to be interested. Target Field in Minneapolis is plenty spacious, and they liked him when discussing trade packages for Johan Santana all the way back in the 2007-08 offseason.
While Hughes was quoted as saying he wouldn't immediately disregard an offer to pitch out of a team's bullpen, he clarified shortly after that his strong preference was to remain in a starting role for as long as he can. Even with his struggles at home, he shouldn't have a problem doing so.
A move to the National League could be beneficial to Hughes, who is a native of Mission Viejo, Calif. His hometown is located just 75 miles north of San Diego and 48 miles south of Los Angeles, so geographically speaking, the Padres, Dodgers and Angels may be appealing. If he's willing to pitch further north, I'd imagine the Giants and Mariners to be another pair of West Coast teams that would have interest. We've seen the Pirates buy low on talented hurlers like Francisco Liriano and (former Yankee) A.J. Burnett recently. The Nationals have done the same, albeit with less success, in signing Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren.
It's rare that a starting pitcher hits free agency at such a young age, but Hughes doesn't have much of a track record on his side at this time. In fact, in a recent edition of MLBTR's Free Agent Faceoff, nearly 72 percent of the 8,000+ respondents said they'd rather sign Scott Kazmir as a free agent this offseason, despite Kazmir's own spotty track record.
Hughes could look to follow Jackson's lead and sign a one-year, make-good deal before cashing in on a multiyear contract, or he could prefer to take whatever two-year deal is on the table for him to maximize his earnings. We saw Francisco Liriano take the latter approach last offseason, and I'd expect Hughes to have an opportunity at a two-year deal with a modest annual value as well.
A rebound campaign in 2014 would set Hughes up as a desirable arm entering his age-28 season on next year's free agent market. I wouldn't be surprised to see him go the Liriano route and ink a two-year contract (he'd still be able to hit free agency again at age 29), but my prediction is that Hughes will sign a one-year, $8MM contract this winter.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.