In the past two days, MLBTR has taken a look at how players with contractual options could impact the upcoming free agent class. We looked at players with vesting provisions on Tuesday before turning our attention to American League players under control via team options yesterday. Today, we’ll check in on their National League counterparts.
- Charlie Morton, SP ($20MM option, no buyout)
It has been strange year for Morton, who starred on last year’s World Series winner. He re-signed on a $20MM deal with a matching option for next season. Through 22 starts and 122 2/3 innings, the two-time All-Star has a slightly underwhelming 4.26 ERA. That’s largely attributable to a dreadful first couple months, however. He has an ERA of 3.55 or below in each of the past three months, carrying a cumulative 3.44 mark while holding opponents to a .198/.276/.369 line since June 1. Morton is still sitting in the mid-90’s with his fastball, striking batters out at a quality 27.3% clip and has ironed out his control after some uncharacteristic wildness through his first few starts. At first glance, a $20MM salary seems pricey for a pitcher entering his age-39 season with Morton’s overall numbers, but he’s not shown any signs of physical decline and has looked great lately. If he keeps at this pace for another two months, the Braves will probably welcome him back. That, of course, assumes Morton wants to continue playing. He’s hinted at retirement in years past and set fairly strict geographic limitations on his market during his latest trips to free agency.
- Daniel Vogelbach, 1B/DH ($1.5MM option, arbitration-eligible through 2024)
The Mets acquired Vogelbach from the Pirates to add a left-handed platoon bat to what had been an underwhelming designated hitter mix. He’d hit .228/.338/.430 through 75 games in Pittsburgh and has raked at a .341/.473/.568 clip over his first couple weeks in Queens. For a negligible $1.5MM salary, keeping Vogelbach around feels like an easy call. He’s technically arbitration-eligible through 2024 regardless of whether the Mets exercise his option. The option price should be more affordable than whatever he’d receive through arbitration next offseason, so if the Mets surprisingly declined the option, they’d likely non-tender him entirely.
- John Curtiss, RP ($775K option, arbitration-eligible through 2025)
There’s nothing new to report on Curtiss. He signed a big league deal just before Opening Day with the knowledge that he’d likely miss all of this season recovering from last August’s Tommy John surgery. He was immediately placed on the injured list. Next year’s option is valued at barely above the league minimum salary, so it’s just a matter of whether the Mets plan to devote him a roster spot all offseason. Curtiss is controllable through 2025 if the Mets keep him around.
- Jean Segura, 2B ($17MM option, $1MM buyout)
Segura has been the Phils’ primary second baseman for the past four seasons. He’s generally hit at a slightly above-average level, relying on excellent bat-to-ball skills to prop up an aggressive offensive approach. He’s paired that with above-average defensive ratings at the keystone. He’s lost most of this season after fracturing his finger on a bunt attempt, but he’s healthy now and performing at his typical level. Across 195 plate appearances, he owns a .284/.324/.421 line with seven home runs. Segura is a good player, but a $16MM call will probably be too much for a Philadelphia club that already has five players on the books for more than $20MM next season (and will add a sixth notable salary — more on that shortly). The market also hasn’t been particularly robust for second base-only players in recent years. Segura will be headed into his age-33 season.
- Aaron Nola, SP ($16MM option, $4.25MM buyout)
This one’s a no-brainer for the Phillies to exercise. Nola is one of the sport’s top pitchers, a picture of durability and consistently above-average numbers (aside from a blip in his 2021 ERA that didn’t align with still excellent peripherals). One can argue whether Nola’s a true ace, but he’s at least a high-end #2 caliber arm. He’s given the Phils 144 2/3 innings of 3.17 ERA ball this season, striking out 27.9% of batters faced against a minuscule 3.6% walk rate. Even on a $16MM salary, he’s a bargain.
- Justin Wilson, RP ($1.22MM option, no buyout)
Wilson signed a complex free agent deal with the Yankees during the 2020-21 offseason. A one-year guarantee, the deal contained player and team options for 2022. Wilson and the Yankees agreed that if he triggered his $2.3MM player option for 2022, the team would get a 2023 option valued at $500K above that year’s league minimum salary. That provision carried over to the Reds when Wilson was dealt to Cincinnati at the 2021 trade deadline, and he indeed exercised the player option last winter. Next year’s league minimum is set at $720K, so Wilson’s option price will come in at $1.22MM.
It’s certainly affordable, but it still seems likely the Reds will let him go. The 34-year-old (35 next week) southpaw underwent Tommy John surgery in June, meaning he won’t return until late in the ’23 season at the earliest. He made just five appearances this season and posted a 5.29 ERA over 34 innings last year.
- Kolten Wong, 2B ($10MM option, $2MM buyout)
Wong presents a tricky case for a Milwaukee club that typically runs slightly below-average player payrolls. He’s hitting .255/.336/.425, offense that checks in around 11 percentage points above league average according to wRC+. It’s among the better showings of his career. He doesn’t have huge power, but Wong’s an effective baserunner with plus bat-to-ball skills and good strike zone awareness. He’s a good but certainly not elite offensive player, one who’s performed about as well as Milwaukee could’ve reasonably hoped when signing him over the 2020-21 offseason.
What seems likely to determine whether the Brewers bring him back is how they evaluate his defense. A two-time Gold Glove award winner, Wong has rated as one of the sport’s best defensive second basemen for the majority of his career. Public metrics have unanimously panned his work this year, though, with Statcast’s Outs Above Average pegging him as the worst defensive second baseman in 2022. Wong’s speed has also taken a step back, and perhaps the Brewers think he’s just past his physical prime as he nears his 32nd birthday. If that’s the case, they probably buy him out, since Wong’s value has been so heavily concentrated in his glove. If they feel this year’s downturn is just a blip and expect he’ll return to his old ways on defense, then keeping him around makes sense. Like Segura, Wong could be affected by the market’s recent devaluation of second basemen. It’s also worth noting that Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that Milwaukee was open to trade offers on Wong before this summer’s deadline. They didn’t move him, but it’s perhaps an indication the front office is leaning towards a buyout.
- Brad Boxberger, RP ($3MM option, $750K buyout)
Boxberger has spent the past couple seasons on low-cost contracts in Milwaukee and generally performed well. He carries a 2.51 ERA through 43 innings this season, albeit with slightly worse than average strikeout and walk rates. Boxberger has a career-worst 8.4% swinging strike rate, and the front office could view his strong run prevention mark as little more than a mirage. The financial cost is modest enough they could nevertheless keep him around, particularly since manager Craig Counsell has trusted Boxberger enough to give him plenty of high-leverage opportunities (largely with good results).
- Scott Oberg, RP ($8MM option, no buyout)
Oberg is technically controllable for another season via club option, but the Rockies will obviously decline it. He earned a three-year extension after the 2019 season on the heels of two consecutive sub-3.00 ERA campaigns, no small feat for a reliever calling Coors Field home. Unfortunately, Oberg has dealt with persistent blood clotting issues that prevented him throwing from a single major league pitch throughout the course of the contract. The 32-year-old hasn’t officially announced his retirement, but he admitted in May he’s no longer actively pursuing a return to the field. He’s taken on a role in the Colorado scouting department to stay involved with the organization.
- Max Muncy, INF ($13MM option, $1.5MM buyout)
One of the game’s best hitters from 2018-21, Muncy has had a disappointing season thus far. Seemingly nagged by health issues tied to a ligament tear he suffered in his elbow late last season, he’s had a huge downturn in his offensive production. Muncy still boasts elite strike zone awareness, but his results on contact are way down. Overall, he carries a meager .180/.317/.360 line across 366 trips to the plate.
Still, given what Muncy’s shown himself capable of in the past, it seems unlikely the Dodgers let him go to save $11.5MM. This is an organization that annually runs one of the league’s highest payrolls, and they’ve shown a willingness to place one-year bets on players with upside but risk (e.g. tendering a $17MM arbitration contract to Cody Bellinger on the heels of a .165/.240/.302 season disrupted by injuries). They’ll probably do the same with Muncy and hoping he rediscovers his prior form with another offseason to rehab his elbow.
- Danny Duffy, RP ($7MM option, no buyout)
The Dodgers signed Duffy to a one-year guarantee this spring knowing he wasn’t likely to factor into the plans until midseason. He’d been shooting for a June return but has still yet to make his Dodgers debut, although he’s reportedly throwing at the team’s Arizona complex. It’s unlikely the Dodgers bring him back for $7MM given his recent health woes, but he could change those plans if he makes it back to the mound late in the season and looks like a potential impact arm, as he did at times with the Royals.
- Daniel Hudson, RP ($6.5MM option, $1MM buyout)
Hudson signed a one-year guarantee over the offseason and quickly emerged as a key high-leverage option for manager Dave Roberts. He dominated over 24 1/3 innings, pitching to a 2.22 ERA with an excellent 30.9% strikeout rate while averaging north of 97 MPH on his fastball. The veteran righty looked like one of the sport’s best relievers for two months, but he unfortunately blew out his knee trying to field a ground-ball. He tore his left ACL and is done for the year. The Dodgers could still roll the dice given how well he’d pitched before the injury, but that’s no longer a foregone conclusion. A $5.5MM decision isn’t onerous — particularly for L.A. — but there’s plenty of risk in Hudson’s profile given the injury and the fact that he’ll be headed into his age-36 season.
- Hanser Alberto, INF ($2MM option, $250K buyout)
The Dodgers added the veteran Alberto on a fairly surprising big league deal. He’s been a below-average offensive player for three years running, with his solid contact skills not quite compensating for a lack of power and one of the game’s most aggressive approaches. He’s played a limited utility role, serving as a right-handed bench bat capable of splitting his time between second and third base. Next year’s option price is very affordable, but the Dodgers can probably find a hitter with a bit more punch to play the role Alberto has assumed.
- Jimmy Nelson, RP ($1.1MM option, no buyout)
Nelson underwent Tommy John surgery last August, but the Dodgers brought him back for the league minimum salary to get a cheap option on his services for next year. He’s been on the injured list for all of 2022, as expected. Whether the Dodgers keep him will depend on how he looks at the start of the offseason, but $1.1MM for a 33-year-old who posted a 1.86 ERA and punched out 37.9% of his opponents in 29 innings when last healthy is beyond reasonable.
- Wil Myers, RF ($20MM option, $1MM buyout)
The Padres have spent the past few years trying to get out from under the money they owe Myers. The extension to which they signed him in January 2017 never worked out, as he’d been a roughly average hitter aside from a monster showing in the shortened 2020 campaign up until this season. The 2022 season has been a disaster, as Myers owns a .233/.277/.295 showing through 159 plate appearances and has lost two months to a right knee injury. He’s healthy now but relegated to fourth outfield duty. Myers will probably find a big league opportunity somewhere this offseason, but it’ll come with a new team and with a substantial pay cut.
- Evan Longoria, 3B ($13MM option, $5MM buyout)
Longoria is nearing the end of an extension he first signed with the Rays a decade ago. His production dipped late in his stint with Tampa Bay, and Longoria slogged through a trio of mediocre seasons through his first four years in San Francisco. He’s had an offensive resurgence over the past two years, carrying a .254/.340/.468 line in 470 plate appearances going back to the start of 2021. Longoria’s still a good hitter and capable defender at the hot corner, but he’s dealt with plenty of injury concerns as he’s gotten into his late 30s. He’s gone on the injured list five times in the last two seasons, including long-term absences for a shoulder sprain and hand surgery. The hefty buyout means it’d only be an extra $8MM for San Francisco to keep him around, but it seems likely they’ll look to get younger at the hot corner. It’s possible the three-time All-Star takes the decision out of their hands entirely, as he told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle in June that he’s not ruling out retiring after this season.