Thursday, October 16, 2008

Purely Optional

As the postseason nears its end, let's take a look at options still pending on player contracts. Some of them will play a big part on a team's future in 2009. And just as important, a team's action based on these options will tell us a lot about the team's game plan for the approaching 2008-2009 off-season. (Note: I'm not including players whose options have already been picked up or declined).
(The source for all option and contract info is the invaluable website Cot's Baseball Contracts.)

Garret Anderson (LF/DH), Los Angeles Angels
2009 Age: 37
2009 Option: $14 MM club option; $3 MM buyout
Anderson's reached that unfortunate age where he can't field well enough to play the outfield and can't hit well enough to DH. Somebody a little crazy might put him in the outfield, but I bet he comes back to the Angels, even if they decline his option.

Hank Blalock (3B), Texas Rangers
2009 Age: 28
2009 Option: $6.2 MM club option; $250K buyout
The Rangers may have better ideas about what to do with $6.2 MM, and that's understandable. But Blalock hit 287/338/508 in 65 games last year and looks like he still has some good hitting in him. I've heard speculation that the Rangers might be shaking up their infield to make room for some prospects, namely shortstop Elvis Andrus. In that case, I would still pick up Blalock's option, then turn right around and trade him. If he's not quite a starting third baseman, he could be a good bench/DH/platoon option for a team with some money.

Henry Blanco (C), Chicago Cubs
2009 Age: 37
2009 Option: $3 MM club option; $300K buyout
They've kept him this long . . .

Jamey Carroll (2B/IF), Cleveland Indians
2009 Age: 35
2009 Option: $2.5 MM

Carroll hit 277/355/346 in 2008 and is a 273/351/351 career hitter. He's a valuable defender and a good fourth infielder. He hits for a decent average, draws walks, plays second and third (unstable positions in Cleveland). So I imagine that, at a bargain price, the Indians will bring him back, unless they see a better, cheaper option there.

Craig Counsell (IF), Milwaukee Brewers
2009 Age: 38
2009 Option: $3.4 MM; $400k buyout

Counsell hit 266/355/302 this year. All he is now is a few walks and some good -- if fading -- defense. The Brewers have better things to do (I hope).

Carl Crawford (LF), Tampa Bay Rays
2009 Age: 27
2009 Option: $8.25 MM club option; $2.5 MM buyout (also has 2010 club option)
The Rays will get this. In fact, I'd look for them to sign him to a contract extension sometime next season.

Carlos Delgado (1B), New York Mets
2009 Age: 37
2009 Option: $12 MM club option; $4 MM buyout
Before this year started, I thought the Mets would surely decline Delgado's option and pursue Mark Teixeira. Then Delgado caught fire and entered the MVP discussion (albeit undeservedly), so I see this one getting picked up, especially since it's just an $8 MM difference.

Jason Giambi (1B/DH), New York Yankees
2009 Age: 38
2009 Option: $22 MM club option; $5 MM buyout
Unless the Yankees undergo a brain transplant, I can't see them picking up this option on Giambi. Giambi is a valuable guy, even now with his low batting averages, and he'll make decent money somewhere as a DH. But gambling $17 MM (they're spending $5MM regardless) on a good-but-not-great 38-year-old DH? Naw.

Brian Giles (OF), San Diego Padres
2009 Age: 38
2009 Option: $9 MM club option; $3 MM buyout
This is so affordable. I've heard that the Padres would like to keep Giles, but that they just don't see themselves contending in 2009. Their best bet may be to keep him and trade him for some B-level guys. He's coming off a great year in a pitcher's park.

Ken Griffey, Jr. (OF/DH), Chicago White Sox
2009 Age: 39
2009 Option: $16 MM club option; $4 MM buyout
Only if they're insane.

Toby Hall (C), Chicago White Sox
2009 Age: 33
2009 Option: $2.25 MM club option; $150K buyout
Hall is just dreadful, even by backup catcher standards.

Chipper Jones (3B), Atlanta Braves
2009 Age: 37
2009 Option: ~$10 MM

I understand that the Braves are planning to keep Chipper, as well they should.

Jason Michaels (OF), Pittsburgh Pirates
2009 Age: 33
2009 Option: $2.6 MM club option
Sorry. This boat sailed back in Philadelphia.

Edgar Renteria (SS), Detroit Tigers
2009 Age: 32
2009 Option: $11MM option; $3MM buyout
I don't know if they've officially announced it, but the Tigers have said that they won't be bringing Edgar back. Shortstop is a problem area for them, but Edgar isn't the solution. He's young yet and even though his career is spotty, he could be a nice surprise for some NL team.

Gregg Zaun (C), Toronto Blue Jays
2009 Age: 38
2009 Option: $3.75 MM vests with 270 Games played 2007-8
Zaun played in just 196, so no go.

A.J. Burnett (SP), Toronto Blue Jays
2009 Age: 32
2009 Options: not an option per se; Burnett can opt out of current deal and become a free agent
I guess it's still somewhat possible that Burnett will stay in Toronto. But considering that he's coming off a rare season of being healthy and effective, he'll likely get more money somewhere else.

Alan Embree (RP), Oakland Athletics
2009 Age: 39
2009 Option: $3 MM club option
It's not a lot of money, but Embree's getting old, and the A's have much bigger problems.

Tom Gordon (RP), Philadelphia Phillies
2009 Age: 41
2009 Option: $4.5 MM club option; $500K buyout
Gordon's just been too injured and too ineffective for this to be a really good move. It's not a bad insurance policy, especially now that the Phillies have won the pennant and are into some boffo bucks.

Mike Hampton (SP), Atlanta Braves
2009 Age: 36
2009 Option: $20 MM; $6 MM buyout
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA . . . but seriously. I haven't been such a fan of Frank Wren as GM, but even he couldn't think this is a good idea. To make matters sweeter for the Braves, they wouldn't even have to pay the buyout; the Rockies are on the hook for that as a stipulation of the three-team trade that brought Hampton to Atlanta in the first place. 

John Lackey (SP), Los Angeles Angels
2009 Age: 30
2009 Option: $9 MM; $500K buyout
Would you sign one of the best pitchers in baseball for one year at $9 MM per? If you had half a brain, you would.

Damaso Marte (RP), New York Yankees
2009 Age: 34
2009 Option: $6MM club option; $250K buyout
The Yankees can afford to keep Marte, if only because they need some stability in the 'pen.

Mark Mulder (SP), St. Louis Cardinals
2009 Age: 31
2009 Option: $11 MM club option; $1.5 MM buyout

It's my understanding that Mulder's career is pretty much done. Which is very sad, considering how good he used to be.

Hideki Okajima (RP), Boston Red Sox
2009 Age: 33
2009 Option: $1.75 MM club option

Brad Penny (SP), Los Angeles Dodgers
2009 Age: 31
2009 Option: $8.75 MM club option; $2 MM buyout
His 2008 struggles notwithstanding, Penny still has the ability to dominate. But the Dodgers are so crowded with starting pitching that they may decide to trade him or perhaps just non-tender him. But I imagine they could get a decent return on a trade if they ate a little money.

John Smoltz (SP), Atlanta Braves
2009 Age: 42
2009 Option: $12 MM club option; also option for 2010
Since Smoltz's career is on the precipice, and his only value appears to be as a reliever, I don't see him getting $12 MM. Still, if I had to guess, I'd say that he stays in Atlanta one way or another.

Salomon Torres (RP), Milwaukee Brewers
2009 Age: 37
2009 Option: $3.75 MM club option; $300K buyout
Given the state of things in the 2008 'pen, getting Torres at this price is utterly reasonable.

Well, that's how the options look right now. Stay tuned as we find out more about who gets picked up and who gets declined. And once the postseason is over, we can take a look at all of the potential free agents in the 2008-2009 offseason.

Congrats to the Phillies.

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