Teams covet options and are reluctant to provide them to players when it's not absolutely necessary, so there are about ten times as many club options as player options coming up after the season. Here's a look at the four upcoming player options and whether they're likely to be exercised:
- Marco Scutaro, Red Sox – If the Red Sox don't exercise Scutaro's $6MM option, he can remain in Boston for $3MM instead of taking a $1.5MM buyout. Top shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias is now at Triple-A and could position himself to take over the regular shortstop job in 2012. Scutaro, who turns 36 before the offseason, may be choosing between free agency with a $1.5MM buyout or a backup job with a $3MM salary.
- Ryan Dempster, Cubs - With a typical season (200-plus innings, sub-4.00 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 48% ground ball rate) Dempster would be one of the top pitchers available in a weak free agent class. He'll be 34 after the season, but that's how old Ted Lilly was when he signed his current three-year deal.
- Rafael Soriano, Yankees – Soriano can opt out and collect $1.5MM or exercise his $11MM player option and stay in the Bronx for another year (or two). Agent Scott Boras did well to bypass GM Brian Cashman and find his client a player-friendly deal last offseason and it's hard to imagine a better opportunity arising for Soriano, even if he reproduces his tremendous 2010 numbers. Soriano's leverage will be reduced with so many quality relievers hitting free agency at once.
- C.C. Sabathia, Yankees – Sabathia will be the top free agent starter if he opts out and, with respect to Dempster, Mark Buehrle and C.J. Wilson, it's not that close. Sabathia can exercise a four-year, $92MM option if he gets hurt, has an off-year or decides free agency is too much of a hassle, but the early expectation is that he'll opt out. It's a win-win decision for the big left-hander.