This is the second in a series of pieces previewing offseason club option decisions. This edition will focus on designated hitters and outfielders…
- Nelson Cruz, Twins ($12MM option or $300K buyout): So let’s get this straight: Cruz has slashed .294/.385/.642 with 30 home runs in 362 plate appearances on a $14MM salary this year, and he’s actually in line for a pay decrease? This is looking like a brilliant signing by the Twins, who will no doubt exercise the 39-year-old Cruz’s option.
- Edwin Encarnacion, Yankees ($20MM option or $5MM buyout): Like Cruz, the 36-year-old Encarnacion has been one of the most prolific sluggers in recent memory. That doesn’t mean the Yankees will keep Encarnacion around, though. While he was enjoying another high-end year (.240/.346/.518 with 30 HRs in 451 PA) before fracturing his right wrist last weekend, the Yankees might decide they could spend Encarnacion’s money better elsewhere. After all, they won’t be hard up for other DH options in 2020.
- Alex Gordon, Royals ($23MM mutual option or $4MM buyout): The Royals certainly won’t bring Gordon back next year for $23MM, but he’s a franchise icon who hasn’t made it a secret he wants to spend his whole career in Kansas City. And Royals general manager Dayton Moore has great respect for Gordon, so expect the soon-to-be 36-year-old left fielder to return to KC next season at a more team-friendly price.
- Billy Hamilton, Royals ($7.5MM option or $1MM buyout): The same probably won’t apply to Hamilton, who has posted the worst offensive season of his light-hitting career. Hamilton has batted a woeful .209/.276/.262 with no homers in 293 PA, and even his always strong defense and base running haven’t been able to make up for his punchless production at the plate. He’ll return to free agency over the winter.
- Juan Lagares, Mets ($9.5MM option or $500K buyout): The 30-year-old Lagares joins Hamilton as another weak-hitting center fielder on his way to the open market. Lagares has long been known for his defense, but he has managed an unappealing minus-5 DRS/minus-4.0 UZR in center this season. Meanwhile, he has put up a horrid .186/.263/.267 line with a pair of HRs over 180 trips to the plate.
- Starling Marte, Pirates ($11.5MM option or $2MM buyout): This should be a no-brainer for the Pirates to exercise, as the soon-to-be 31-year-old Marte has turned in another respectable season in 2019. Despite a career-low 3.9 percent walk rate, Marte has slashed .285/.326/.505 and notched 20 homers and 17 steals across 462 PA. The defense hasn’t exactly been stellar (minus-5 DRS, minus-2.1 UZR), yet Marte has still been worth 2.5 fWAR.
- Kole Calhoun, Angels ($14MM option or $1MM buyout): This will be a tough choice for the Angels, who have seen Calhoun rebound from a subpar 2018 to bat .233/.318/.481 with 25 HRs (one fewer than his personal-high total) in 448 PA. Calhoun’s also a capable defender, which has helped him record the fifth season of at least 2.0 fWAR in his career. He’s set to turn 32 in October, though, and the Angels have an elite outfield prospect in Jo Adell knocking at the door. Therefore, they may be tempted to jettison Calhoun – quality track record be damned – and save $13MM.
- Adam Eaton, Nationals ($9.5MM option or $1.5MM buyout): The Eaton acquisition hasn’t worked out as hoped for the Nationals, who traded pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning to the White Sox for him prior to the 2017 season. Eaton hasn’t performed poorly by any means, but injuries limited him to just 118 games in his first two seasons in D.C. He has appeared in 108 this year, however, and batted a decent .276/.357/.396 with six HRs, 10 steals and 1.4 fWAR in 480 PA. As of now, the guess is they’ll keep the soon-to-be 31-year-old in the fold.
- Nick Markakis, Braves ($6MM option or $2MM buyout): Markakis has been one of baseball’s most durable players since his career began in 2006, but he took a pitch off the left wrist in late July and won’t return until sometime in September. His streak of 150-plus appearances will end at six seasons as a result. Still, the 35-year-old was in the midst of another decent season at the time he went down, and with Austin Riley perhaps set to move from the corner outfield to third base in 2020 (starting 3B Josh Donaldson’s a pending free agent), the Braves just might bring the affordable Markakis back for a sixth season.