Heading into this season, the 2011 option that the Mariners held for Jose Lopez seemed likely to be exercised. A $5MM price tag for a 26-year-old second baseman coming off a 25-homer season looked like a bargain.
With the season now winding down, however, the Mariners' decision doesn't look quite so obvious. Although he has provided the team better defense at third base than he did last year at second (according to UZR), Lopez's offensive production has fallen off a cliff. After hitting .272/.303/.463 in 2009, the infielder has seen his 2010 slash line slip to .240/.270/.331.
Lopez's down year means that the Mariners must now make a series of decisions this winter regarding his future. First, they'll have to decide if this season was an aberration for Lopez or whether they may have reason to expect more of the same next year. The 26-year-old was never adept at getting on base, but generally made up for it with his power stroke. With only seven home runs in 529 plate appearances this year, he's no longer doing that. Will he be able to get his slugging percentage back up to .450+ in 2011?
If the offensively challenged M's decide they'd like to have Lopez around next spring, they still have to determine whether to pick up or decline his option. Considering Lopez is making $2.75MM this year and his option is worth $5MM ($250K buyout), Seattle could elect to turn down the option and instead tender him a contract in his final arbitration-eligible season. Due to Lopez's struggles, whatever raise he would earn in arbitration should still see him earning less than the $4.75MM it would cost the team to exercise the option.
On the other hand, the Mariners could decide they don't have interest in retaining Lopez and his .298 career OBP at all, declining his option and then non-tendering him. What do you expect the Mariners to do? Click here to vote on their decision and click here to view the results.