January 2014

Angels Avoid Arbitration With Kevin Jepsen

The Angels have reached agreement on a one-year deal to avoid arbitration with righty Kevin Jepsen, the reliever's representatives at Beverly Hills Sports Council tweeted. Jepsen will earn $1.4625MM, tweets Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com.

Jepsen's deal pays him the exact midpoint between the two sides' filing numbers. He had been projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to land at $1.4MM. Jepsen managed only a 4.50 ERA in 36 innings last year for the Halos, though he did put up a 9.0 K/9. In 2012, Jepsen threw 44 2/3 innings of 3.02 ERA ball.


Free Agent Notes: Orioles, Arroyo, Capuano

Here are a few updates on some free agent situations around baseball:

  • The Orioles expect their payroll to top $100MM, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, though it remains to be seen how much over that threshold the club will go. As things stand, Baltimore's player salaries add up to about $85MM, leaving plenty of room to add.
  • Right now, the O's remain in contact with Nelson CruzA.J. Burnett, and Fernando Rodney, Rosenthal tweets. The team could also be involved on Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana if they fail to land Burnett, says Rosenthal.
  • Free agent starter Bronson Arroyo has asked at least one club for a three-year deal within the last two weeks, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com. The durable veteran recently said he had yet to receive an offer, though it could be that he is only willing to field longer-term offers at the present time.
  • Lefty Chris Capuano has dropped his ask from two years to one, Olney tweets. The 35-year-old should be an attractive option on a single-season commitment.

Corey Brown Elects Free Agency

11:59am: Brown has elected free agency, reports Cotillo (via Twitter). 

JANUARY 31, 8:28am: Brown has been outrighted to the A's Triple-A affiliate, according to the Pacific Coast League transactions page. The outfielder has yet to decide whether to elect free agency or accept the assignment (and qualify for free agency at season's end, if he is not put on the 40-man in the interim), tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Because he has been outrighted previously, Brown has the right to refuse the assignment.

JANUARY 22: The A's announced that they've designated outfielder Corey Brown for assignment in order to free a 40-man roster spot for southpaw Eric O'Flaherty, whose previously reported two-year deal has been announced.

Brown, 28, is a career .175/.250/.400 batter in 45 Major League plate appearances. At the Triple-A level, he's slashed .254/333/.461 in 1602 career plate appearances. Brown was originally drafted by Oakland before being included in a deal with the Nationals that netted Josh Willingham. The A's took Brown in the supplemental round of the 2007 draft as compensation for the loss of Frank Thomas.



Royals Avoid Arbitration With Aaron Crow

The Royals have avoided arbitration with righty Aaron Crow, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Crow will earn $1.475MM and can tack on an additional $50K if he makes the All-Star team.

Crow has had three sturdy years for the Royals before reaching arbitration eligibility, combining for a 3.19 ERA over 174 2/3 innings with 9.0 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9. Crow's 2014 salary lands just under the $1.49MM midpoint between the two sides' filing figures. It falls a good bit shy of the $1.9MM projection from MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. 


Orioles To Sign Alex Gonzalez

The Orioles have agreed to sign shortstop Alex Gonzalez to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The 15-year MLB veteran turns 37 in two weeks.

Gonzalez has seen just over 200 plate appearances for the Brewers over the past two seasons. He was off to a nice start to the 2012 campaign when a knee injury ended his year. He struggled to a .177/.203/.230 line in 118 plate appearances last year before Milwaukee cut ties.


Marlins Sign Reed Johnson

The Marlins have signed outfielder Reed Johnson to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, the club announced. The 37-year-old, right-handed swinging Johnson has played in 11 big league seasons.

Last year, with the Braves, Johnson struggled to a .244/.311/.341 line in just 136 plate appearances, leading the club to decline his $1.6MM option and instead pay him a $150K buyout. He was much better over the previous two seasons, however, combining to log 554 plate appearances while slashing .299/.342/.431. 

The Marlins, of course, have plenty of interesting young outfielders, the oldest and most-established of whom — Giancarlo Stanton — is only 24. Before today's signing, the grizzled veteran of the outfield corps was Brian Bogusevic, who is 29 and has yet to qualify for arbitration. While the club figures to give plenty of playing time to its younger group, Johnson should bring veteran presence, depth, and some healthy spring competition.


Twins Sign Matt Guerrier

FRIDAY: Berardino clarifies (via Twitter) that Gurrier's deal does contain the standard contract language of a Type XX(B) free agent, meaning he can opt out on June 1st if he is not on the MLB roster by that time.

As Berardino further reports, Guerrier would earn $1MM if he earns a MLB roster spot. He can also make up to $1MM more through incentives, with $250K bonuses triggered upon his 45th, 50th, 55th, and 60th appearances.

WEDNESDAY, 8:14pm: Guerrier's contract doesn't contain a clause that would allow him to opt out of the deal if he isn't in the Major Leagues by a certain day, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets.

11:31am: The Twins announced that they've brought back another familiar face, signing right-hander Matt Guerrier to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Guerrier is a client of Pro Star Management, Inc.

Guerrier, 35, broke into the Majors with the Twins in 2004 as a 25-year-old and enjoyed the best years of his career with Minnesota. The Kent State product posted a strong 3.38 ERA in 472 innings of relief in his first run with the Twins, twice leading the league in appearances. He went on to sign a three-year, $12MM contract with the Dodgers, but elbow injuries limited him to just 110 innings in two-and-a-half years with Los Angeles. He was eventually designated for assignment and flipped to the Cubs in a swap that sent Carlos Marmol to the Dodgers.

Guerrier is the third former Twin that Minnesota has signed to a minor league deal this offseason, as they've also brought back Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett. Guerrier, whose season ended in August due to flexor tendon surgery, will look to work his way into a Twins bullpen that figures to be led by All-Star closer Glen Perkins and setup man Jared Burton.

Guerrier drew interest from seven to eight other clubs this offseason, agent Joe Bick told MLBTR, but the familiarity with the Twins' coaching staff and front office as well as the mutual respect the two sides share for one another led to the decision to return to Minneapolis. "In conversations we had with Matt about the whole picture, the decision to return to Minnesota felt right. We're excited about the opportunity."

Bick said that while no assurances have been made as to whether or not he'll make the club, Guerrier plans to "grab this opportunity by the throat" in Spring Training. Guerrier has been throwing off an indoor mound at 75 to 80 percent for the past three weeks and is scheduled to progress to throwing "true" bullpens — hopefully outdoors and off a dirt mound — next Monday.


Rays To Sign Wilson Betemit

The Rays have agreed to sign third baseman Wilson Betemit to a minor league deal, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). The 32-year-old Dominican missed most of last season with a knee injury.

In his last full MLB campaign, 2012, Betemit posted a .261/.322/.422 triple-slash in 376 plate appearances for the Orioles. The switch-hitter has done most of his damage from the left side of the plate, where he has a career .819 OPS that dwarfs his .636 mark when swinging right-handed. That split was even more pronounced in 2012 (.850 OPS as a lefty and .405 as a righty). Betemit's best season came in 2010 with the Royals, when he slashed .297/.378/.511 in 315 plate appearances for the Royals.

As has been the case for most of his career, Betemit saw most of his action at the hot corner. He has also seen time at first, DH, and even the outfield in recent seasons. Defensive metrics have not looked kindly upon Betemit's glovework in the infield.


Rockies To Re-Sign Manny Corpas

The Rockies have agreed to terms on a minor league deal with right-hander Manny Corpas, tweets Thomas Harding of MLB.com. The 31-year-old reliever gets a Spring Training invite and can opt out of the contract if he is not on the club's Opening Day roster.

Corpas threw 41 2/3 innings last year in his return to Colorado, allowing 4.54 earned runs per nine innings while posting 6.5 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9. He would have been eligible for arbitration, but was removed from the roster at the end of the year. In his first stint with the Rockies, over 2006-10, Corpas was a mainstay in the pen and at times served in a ninth-inning capacity. 


Options In MLB Contracts: Primary Option Types

Having already recently examined overall trends in the inclusion of options in contracts, we’ll now take a look at the different types of options. The four most common types of options are: (a) club options, (b) vesting/club options, (c) mutual options, and (d) player options or opt-outs. There are many variations of these approaches that crop up in individual contracts, including player options or voiding rights that vest upon conditions (including trades) as well as variable guarantees.

For looking at aggregated numbers, it makes sense to focus on those contract terms most commonly utilized. (All data refers to the six signing seasons between 2007-08 and 2012-13.) Player options and opt-outs are fairly scarce, highly individualized, and often intermingled with other complicated contract provisions. Accordingly, we’ll leave those for another day. (In the meantime, see here for some recent examples of opt-out clauses.)

Club Options

By far the most common brand of option is the simple club option. The proposition is straightforward: after the last guaranteed year of a contract, the club can elect to keep control over the player for one (or more) seasons. If not, usually the team must pay a lesser buyout sum if it declines the option.

Risks And Benefits

There are several salient features of club options that make them highly beneficial to teams. First, they allow the team to defer the buyout portion of the guaranteed total salary to a later season. Second, they afford the team one or more seasons of control without guaranteeing the player’s salary. And third, unlike retaining rights to tender a contract through arbitration, club option years come with a specified price tag.

On the other side of the ledger, club options can benefit players somewhat, particularly if the buyout makes up a sizeable portion of option price. After all, the effective decision for a team with a club option is whether or not to pay the difference between the option price and the guaranteed buyout. (For example, an $11MM option with a $4MM buyout becomes a $7MM decision for the club.) Hence, if a player’s value falls somewhere between the full value of the option and the value of the option less the buyout, the team may ultimately overpay (on an annual basis, at least) to retain the player.

Likewise, the fact that the team will — at the point an option comes due for decision — have the chance to retain the player on a one-year commitment (or, in the case of multi-year options, retain rights over future seasons) can create incentives in favor of overpaying for a single season. On the other hand, of course, those factors also tend to prevent the player from achieving a new, multi-year deal on the open market.

Recent Usage

We already know from the first part of this series that extensions are more likely to contain option clauses than are free agent deals. It is further apparent, moreover, that the club options obtained through extension tend to come at more favorable prices. Among club options that have matured (i.e., have come up for a yay or nay), and were not otherwise disposed of (such as through a voiding clause or retirement), it appears that free agent club options were significantly less likely to be favorably acted upon than extension club options:

FA club options

Ext club options

In the case of extensions, a second extension served in several cases to act, in effect, as a favorable exercise of what originated as an option year. (In some cases, the option is formally exercised in the course of reaching an extension; though it can be unclear, I have attempted to categorize such situations as an affirmative exercise rather than putting them in the “extended” category.) Adding those situations to those where the option was exercised outright, we see that it is about 50% more likely (~48% vs. ~30%) that a club option will be exercised if it comes from an extension rather than a contract signed with an open-market player.

This phenomenon is likely a reflection both of the differences in bargaining power and the fact that extended players are often (but certainly not always) at a younger point on the aging curve. Combined, it seems apparent that the option years of extended players are more likely to be good values at the time they come due for decision.

In turn, these observations inform how we assess the value of club options for new contracts. Club options are exercised somewhat less than one third of the time in the case of a free agent. And they are roughly 50-50 propositions when agreed upon via extension.

Click below to read about vesting/club options and mutual options.

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