This is the fourth and final piece in a series previewing offseason club option decisions. This edition will focus on relievers…
- Tony Barnette, Cubs ($3MM option): Barnette hasn’t been a factor this year in Chicago, where he has thrown just 1 1/3 innings. The former Ranger sat out until late June because of shoulder issues and then landed on the restricted list July 1 for personal reasons. He won’t be a Cub again in 2020, at least not for $3MM.
- Jared Hughes, Reds ($3MM option or $250K buyout): The grounder-heavy Hughes overcame a lack of strikeouts to post ERAs ranging from 1.96 to 3.03 as a Pirate and Red from 2013-18. While Hughes has continued to induce grounders at a world-class clip this year (62.1 percent), the run prevention hasn’t been there. He owns a 4.36 ERA/4.94 FIP with 6.23 K/9, 3.53 BB/9 and a 22.2 percent home run-to-fly ball rate over 43 1/3 innings. Hughes has also seen his swinging-strike rate dip by almost 3 percent since last season. The Reds could try to upgrade over the 34-year-old, though his track record of keeping opposing teams at bay – not to mention an affordable price tag for 2020 – may save him if they decide his HR troubles are a fluke. Opponents have mustered a meager .668 OPS off Hughes this season, so clubs aren’t exactly lighting him up.
- Jeremy Jeffress, Brewers ($4.3MM option): Jeffress, 32 next month, hasn’t come close to replicating the dream season he put together in 2018. His average fastball velocity has dipped about 2 mph (from 95.3 to 93.7), which has helped lead to a 4 percent drop in swinging-strike rate, an 8 percent fall in his strikeout rate and a 10.5 percent decline in his grounder rate. His 5.00 ERA and 3.99 FIP through 45 innings aren’t great, either. However, despite a litany of red flags, Jeffress still looks cheap enough for the Brewers to bring back.
- Nate Jones, Rangers ($3.75MM option or $1.25MM buyout): Once among the game’s top relievers, injuries have derailed the 33-year-old Jones’ career in recent seasons. He has thrown just 10 1/3 innings in 2019 and is out for the season after undergoing right forearm surgery in May. The Rangers nonetheless took on Jones in a deadline trade with the White Sox, and they seem likely to give him a shot to make an impact next year.
- Shawn Kelley, Rangers ($2.5MM option or $250K buyout): Meanwhile, it’ll be a bigger surprise if the Rangers don’t retain Kelley, who – despite some health issues this year – has worked to a 3.00 ERA/4.09 FIP with 8.73 K/9 and 1.36 BB/9 in 33 innings.
- Brandon Morrow, Cubs ($12MM option or $3MM buyout): Morrow was brilliant when healthy from 2017-18, but he hasn’t pitched since last July because of elbow problems. Although Morrow expects to return sometime this season, it’s hard to believe the oft-injured 35-year-old will have enough time to show the Cubs they should invest another large sum of money in him for 2020.
- Pat Neshek, Phillies ($7MM option or $750K buyout): Neshek has been ineffective when healthy this year and may be done for the season on account of a hamstring injury. It’ll be a shock if the Phillies pick up his option over the winter.
- Dan Otero, Indians ($1.5MM option or $100K buyout): While he’ll be extremely affordable next season, Otero hasn’t done much this year to justify even a small investment. Out since the end of May with shoulder inflammation, the 34-year-old has recorded a 4.56 ERA/5.62 FIP with 3.8 strikeouts per nine. He also had a hard time keeping the opposition off the scoreboard in 2018.
- Yusmeiro Petit, Athletics ($5.5MM option or $1MM buyout): Petit, 34, has been a valuable workhorse out of the A’s bullpen since he joined the team prior to 2018. Through 153 innings with the franchise, Petit has pitched to a 2.82 ERA/3.89 FIP with 7.35 K/9 and 1.41 BB/9. He’ll stick around in 2020.
- David Phelps, Cubs ($1MM option that can increase based on appearances): Phelps, whom the Cubs acquired from the Blue Jays at the deadline, has an option that will climb to $3MM if he makes 30 appearances, $5MM at 40 and $7MM at 50. He’s currently at 20, over which he has put up a 3.86 ERA/4.61 FIP with 9.64 K/9 against 3.86 BB/9. Considering Phelps’ floating option value, it’s too soon to forecast whether he’ll return to the Cubs next year. It’ll depend how well the soon-to-be 33-year-old performs through season’s end and the amount of appearances he winds up making.
- Adam Warren, Padres ($2.5MM option or $500K buyout): The value of Warren’s 2020 option looked more than reasonable entering the season, but the ex-Yankee, Cub and Mariner has since endured a rocky few months in San Diego. Not only has Warren been on ice for two months with a right forearm strain, but he managed an unappealing 5.34 ERA/6.91 FIP in 28 2/3 innings before hitting the shelf. It’s likely he’ll end up back on the open market over the winter.
- Jake Diekman, Athletics ($5.75MM mutual option or $500K buyout): Diekman’s year, which he has divided between Kansas City and Oakland, has been a mixed bag. His 4.91 ERA and 5.32 BB/9 across 44 innings are ugly, yet he has notched a 3.49 FIP and 13.5 strikeouts per nine. The low-budget A’s may not want to invest in Diekman again next season, however, even if he exercises his half of a mutual option.
- Sean Doolittle, Nationals ($6.5MM option or $500K buyout): The Nationals will absolutely keep Doolittle – by far their brightest light in what has been a shaky bullpen.
- Aaron Loup, Padres ($2MM option): An elbow sprain has kept Loup out of action since April 7. If he does return this season, the 31-year-old will need a strong finish to give himself any chance to collect $2MM from the Padres in 2020.
- Oliver Perez, Indians ($2.75MM option): Perez’s option will automatically vest at 55 appearances. He’s 10 away right now, having registered a 2.79 ERA/3.18 FIP with 10.86 K/9 and 2.48 BB/9 in 45 games and 29 innings. Barring a serious injury or a trade, he’ll be an Indian again in 2020.