With about two-thirds of the season in the books, elements of the coming offseason player market are coming into focus. Before we know the full slate of players on the open market, though, teams will first have a chance to determine the fates of some veterans who can be controlled through contract options. We’ll assess those here. Note that we are only looking at situations where the team will make the call exclusively. So we are not looking at player options/opt-outs (as with the Tigers and Justin Upton) or mutual options (e.g., Adam Lind and the Nationals).
Here are the position players whose contracts include club options for 2018:
- Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros — $6MM option: Altuve is turning in an MVP-caliber campaign, making this perhaps the easiest offseason decision in the game. The bigger question here is whether Houston will look to try for an extension with Altuve controlled only through 2019.
- Alexi Amarista, INF, Rockies — $2.5MM option, $150K buyout: Amarista carries a 46 wRC+ on the year. While he offers defensive versatility, like most utility types, he continues to grade as a sub-replacement-level player. Odds are he’ll go back to the open market.
- Michael Brantley, OF, Indians — $11MM option, $1MM buyout: The 30-year-old isn’t playing to his prior standard and will perhaps always carry some health questions, but he has produced at a solidly above-average rate with the bat. This figures to be a fairly easy pick-up for Cleveland unless a new shoulder problem crops up over the coming months.
- Asdrubal Cabrera, INF, Mets — $8.5MM option, $2MM buyout: Reports on the Mets’ intentions with regard to Cabrera have varied, and it seems an open question whether the team will commit the extra $6.5MM to keep Cabrera. The switch-hitter could provide options at second and third, while also giving the team an insurance policy at short, and he’s still hitting near the league-average rate. What really stands out when looking at his stat line, though, is his abysmal baserunning grade: by measure of Fangraphs’ BsR, Cabrera has detracted more value on the basepaths than any player in the league has contributed.
- Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers — $17.5MM option, $2.5MM buyout: While Ethier could still be ready to return late in the year after failing to suit up to this point, it’s tough to imagine a scenario where the Dodgers take on that salary.
- Tyler Flowers, C, Braves — $4MM option, $300K buyout: Even if you don’t believe the 31-year-old can keep up his prodigious efforts at the plate — he carries a .368 BABIP after checking in at .366 last year — he’s an easy choice to stay in Atlanta. There’s little chance the club could find a more appealing solution on the open market at this rate of pay.
- Logan Forsythe, 2B, Dodgers — $8.5MM option, $1MM buyout: When the Dodgers shipped out Jose De Leon to get Forsythe, the assumption was this contract would stay on the books. That’s no longer clear, as the veteran has posted a tepid .238/.365/.318 slash — somewhat oddly exhibiting a near-doubling of his career walk rate (to 16.0%) combined with a total collapse of power (.079 isolated slugging, three home runs).
- J.J. Hardy, SS, Orioles — $14MM option, $2MM buyout: Long an outstanding defender with an all-or-nothing approach at the plate, Hardy has seen his glovework grades slip even as his batting line has fallen to a career-worst .211/.248/.308 level. With a lengthy DL stint added to the mix, he’s clearly heading to free agency — though perhaps he can still boost his market standing if he can make it back and show more down the stretch.
- Ian Kinsler, 2B, Tigers — $10MM option, $5MM buyout: The bat hasn’t kept pace with its output from 2016, but Kinsler still earns excellent grades in the field. With only a $5MM gap between the option and the buyout, it’s all but certain he’ll be retained. What isn’t yet known is whether and where the Tigers will trade him.
- Jed Lowrie, 2B, Athletics — $6MM option, $1MM buyout: It remains surprising that Lowrie wasn’t dealt at the deadline, as he has turned in a quality all-around year. While he has fallen off a bit at the plate of late, he seems a useful piece and the 2018 salary is easily justified. Oakland could keep him to aid the transition to a younger roster, or clear him out to make way. A deal could come this August or at any point over the winter.
- Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates — $14.75MM option, $1MM buyout: Yeah, Cutch is back. The Bucs won’t face any questions about the option, but there’ll be plenty of speculation — once again — about a trade.
- Chris Stewart, C, Pirates — $1.5MM option, $250K buyout: The 35-year-old has rarely been all that productive offensively, but he has struggled worse than ever before in 2017. It’s a cheap contract, to be sure, but Pittsburgh will need to consider whether it’s better served finding another option to back up Francisco Cervelli.