The last look we took at the handful of players with opt-out clauses following the 2017 season was more than a month ago, and a few of their situations may have changed since that early July check-in. Here’s an update on this group of potential free agents…
- Justin Upton, Tigers ($88.5MM from 2018-21): There have been plenty of suggestions that there’s no way Upton will walk away from that contract, but we’re not really sold on that notion. Upton was terrible in his first three months with the Tigers but is hitting .274/.352/.542 (137 wRC+) with 45 homers dating back to July 1, 2016. Over the past calendar year, he’s hitting .281/.366/.571 (148 wRC+) with 40 homers in 631 PAs. He’s been seven to nine runs above average in left field, per UZR and DRS, as well. Upton will play next year at the age of 30 and needs only to feel he can top Hanley Ramirez’s guarantee to opt out. Beyond that, he may simply like the idea of moving to a team that isn’t openly trying to pare back its payroll and retool for the future.
- Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees ($67MM from 2018-20): Tanaka’s home-run woes are an unequivocally troubling issue, but his numbers since the summer began are encouraging. Since May 26, Tanaka has a 3.99 ERA with 10.7 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and a 47.6 percent ground-ball rate — good for a 3.12 xFIP and a 3.17 SIERA. The numbers are even better if you look at his past nine starts (3.00 ERA, 65 K, 12 BB, 57 innings). The health concerns are well known. Tanaka had a partial UCL tear in his rookie season but was able to avoid Tommy John, and he’s currently on the DL with what is reportedly some minor shoulder fatigue. The righty has averaged 2.2 HR/9 this year, but he’s also going to be just 29 years old next year. An opt-out looked highly unlikely two months ago but now looks entirely plausible, as long as this latest DL trip proves minor.
- Welington Castillo, Orioles ($7MM player option): Since last check, Castillo has absolutely raked. He’s batted .308/.345/.500 with four homers and three doubles in his past 84 PAs, and his overall batting line it up to .283/.319/.457 (103 wRC+). Castillo’s framing marks have improved from some of the worst in the league to roughly average (per Baseball Prospectus), and he’s halted an incredible 46 percent of stolen-base attempts against him in 2017. He should be able to top a one-year, $7MM deal with ease this winter.
- Greg Holland, Rockies ($15MM player option): Since our last check, Holland has reminded everyone that he is indeed mortal. In his past 11 2/3 frames, he’s coughed up eight runs on a dozen hits and six walks with 14 strikeouts. Six of those runs have come in his past two outings, but as long as that proves to be a blip on the radar, Holland still seems a safe bet to opt out. If he significantly fades in his first year back from Tommy John or lands on the disabled list, though, there’s at least a chance that he takes the option. Assuming he remains healthy, though, Holland will likely look to top Mark Melancon’s four-year, $62MM deal this winter.
- Johnny Cueto, Giants ($84MM from 2018-21): It’s been almost a month since Cueto last set foot on a Major League mound, as he’s been sidelined with a forearm issue that has significantly clouded his chances of opting out. Reports earlier in the summer suggested that a slow start wasn’t going to deter Cueto from opting out, but a month-long injury scare and an ERA in the upper-4.00s certainly might. Cueto, 32 in February, has a 4.59 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and the second worst ground-ball rate of his career (39.2 percent). FIP, xFIP and SIERA all peg him at 4.41 or worse.
Unchanged Since Last Check
- Matt Wieters, Nationals ($10.5MM player option): Wieters wasn’t hitting in early July, and he’s hitting even less now. His defensive reputation limited him to a two-year, $21MM deal with a player option after year one on the 2016-17 open market, and that was coming off a much better offensive season. Wieters seems extremely likely to take the $10.5MM in 2018.
- Ian Kennedy, Royals ($49MM from 2018-20): Kennedy’s results have improved slightly since the last opt-out update, but it’s hardly enough to make it likely that he’ll opt out of that significant guarantee. Through 120 innings in 2017, Kennedy has averaged 1.65 HR/9, tying a career-worst mark, while both his strikeout and walk rates have gone the wrong direction. He’s also missed a couple of weeks with a hamstring injury, and he’ll turn 33 this December.
- Wei-Yin Chen, Marlins ($52MM from 2018-20): No change here. Chen has scarcely been able to pitch in 2017 due to a reported partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament. He’s reportedly still aiming for a late comeback, but that won’t be enough to give him the earning power to top his remaining guarantee.