Our most recent opt-out clause update was over two months ago, and plenty of things have changed since then. With the exception of up to two more potential starts for Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, all players with opt-out clauses are done playing for the season. Here’s an update on the decisions these eight players are facing within three days of the final game of the World Series…
Will Opt Out
- Greg Holland, Rockies ($15MM player option): Last week, Holland and agent Scott Boras decided that Holland will decline his player option. The news was first reported by Jon Heyman of FanRag, but was already widely expected after a season during which the right-handed closer pitched to a 3.61 ERA with 41 saves for Colorado during the regular season. Holland did fade a bit down the stretch, including a disastrous August during which he posted a 13.50 ERA and allowed a whopping .667 opponent slugging percentage (perhaps due to a drop in velocity). However, Boras blames some of that on fatigue in his first full season back from Tommy John, and there could be some truth to that argument. In any case, he finished strong, posting a strong 1.86 ERA to go along with a 11.17 K/9 in the season’s final month. He’ll likely be issued a $17.4MM qualifying offer, but it’s hard to believe he would accept an amount so close to his player option; it’s a good bet that Holland will reach the open market.
Likely To Opt Out
- Welington Castillo, Orioles ($7MM player option): Back in late September, Castillo declined to comment on the decision ahead of him. But following a fantastic season during which the O’s catcher hit .282/.323/.490, hit 20 homers in just 365 plate appearances, contributed great defense and improved his pitch framing significantly, Castillo seems all but certain to decline his one-year player option. He mentioned to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun that he enjoys playing in Baltimore, but if he does, expect it to be on a much more lucrative contract.
- Justin Upton, Tigers ($88.5MM from 2018-21): Since our last update, Upton was traded from the Tigers to the Angels and crushed his way through the end of the season with a .253/.350/.578 batting line and 13 home runs between the two clubs. Fielding metrics remain high on him, and he’s still just 30 years old. While an average annual salary of $22MM might already be fairly close to what he’d earn on the open market, it makes plenty of sense to think he could get a contract longer than four years. The Angels have already been engaged in dialogue with Upton, which seems to suggest that they feel the need to convince him to remain in Los Angeles; that alone might imply that they expect him to opt out. It’s worth noting that he could end up on a more complete team than the Angels as well, which might be added incentive for him to test the market for his services.
- Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees ($67MM from 2018-20): Tanaka’s dominant second half (3.77 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 10.73 K/9, 1.65 BB/9) has continued into a dazzling trio of postseason performances through which he’s allowed just two runs over 20 innings while striking out 18 and holding opponents to a .145 batting average. It looked all but certain at the onset of the season that Tanaka would remain on his current deal, but a surge since the All-Star break has helped boost his earning power significantly. Though Tanaka’s 4.74 ERA during the 2017 regular season looks ugly, much of that can be attributed to a monstrous 21.2% homer/fly ball ratio that’s 5 points higher than his career average. Tanaka is only 28 years old, so at this point it looks as though he would be well-served to opt out of the remaining three years on his deal, or at least leverage his opt-out clause into more guaranteed years from the Yankees.
Unlikely To Opt Out
- Wei-Yin Chen, Marlins ($52MM from 2018-20): Although Chen was at least able to take the field again since our last update, it would make no sense for him to walk away from the remaining dollars on his deal. The lefty tossed 33 innings across five starts and four relief appearances in September, pitching to a decent 3.82 ERA, but that small sample certainly won’t be enough to establish the value needed to exceed $52MM in guaranteed money. Questions about the health of his elbow only make things worse.
- Matt Wieters, Nationals ($10.5MM player option): Nothing to see here. Since our last update, Wieters has somehow played even worse. From mid-August through September, Wieters batted .172/.274/.253, good for a wRC+ of just 41. We expect it won’t take long for the Nats backstop to exercise his option.
- Johnny Cueto, Giants ($84MM from 2018-21): Even when healthy, Cueto wasn’t his usual self in 2017. His 4.52 ERA and 3.24 BB/9 were the highest marks he’s posted since his rookie season with the Reds in 2008. His 34.6% hard contact rate was a career high, and he allowed 1.34 HR/9 despite pitching in the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. He’s on the wrong side of 30, and is now surrounded by questions about the health of his arm. Going into 2017, it seemed as though Cueto would be a good bet to opt out, but now it seems all but certain he’ll remain in San Francisco for the time being. If that wasn’t enough, Cueto addressed his opt-out clause back in late August, stating that “My whole mentality has been for me to stay here,” (hat tip to Andrew Baggarly of the Bay Area News Group).
Will Not Opt Out
- Ian Kennedy, Royals ($49MM from 2018-20): After a season during which he pitched to a 5.38 ERA and was valued below replacement level, Kennedy does not plan to opt out of his current deal. He went as far as to tell Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star that “it would be pretty stupid” if he did. “You don’t go to the free-agent market pitching how I’ve been. No one is going to want that,” Kennedy candidly admitted. The Royals right-hander is 33 years of age and has been bad in his first two years with the Royals, at one point prompting Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron to calculate his negative trade value. During that time, he’s allowed hard contact 38.8% of the time and posted a 5.08 FIP.