Tampa Bay declined 2011 options on Dan Wheeler at $4 million and Willy Aybar at $2.25 million, but Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Rays may try to re-sign both players to lesser salaries.
Aybar batted just .230/.309/.344 in 309 plate appearances while playing mostly designated hitter, so giving him a $275,000 buyout is a no-brainer given his weak performance and the abundance of veteran DH-types available this offseason. However, giving Wheeler a $1 million buyout instead of a $4 million option is somewhat surprising.
He had a 3.35 ERA and 46/16 K/BB ratio in 48 innings this season after posting a 3.28 ERA in 2009 and a 3.12 ERA in 2008. Tampa Bay’s bullpen was very deep this year, but the Rays may lose Rafael Soriano and Joaquin Benoit to free agency and whether you view Wheeler as a fallback plan or simply a viable setup man $4 million was a reasonable price.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: