Trader in the 30-year bond options pit signals an order in front of a trading board at the Chicago Board of Trade

Options deadline passes as teams look ahead to 2011

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It’s now past midnight in the east and the deadline for teams to either exercise or decline options on players has passed.  There weren’t a ton of surprises — if any — but it’s worth reviewing some of the bigger names that were involved in the early offseason decisions.

The Cardinals got an easy call out of the way immediately after their regular season ended, exercising a bargain $16.5 million on Albert Pujols for 2011.  Baseball’s best hitter doesn’t have a contract lined up for 2012 and the Cards are expected to be busy on that front this winter.  El Hombre told reporters in the Dominican Republic Thursday that he’s hoping for an extension by the start of next season.

Mark Ellis will be back in Oakland for another year.  The A’s picked up his $6 million option and will start him at second base again in 2011.  He was superb defensively this year with decent production at the plate.

The Red Sox convinced designated hitter David Ortiz that he was lucky to have a $12.5 million option given his age, lack of defensive versatility and soon-to-be diminishing performance at the plate.  He was hoping for a two-year extension, or perhaps something more, but the Sox exercised the option and will play it year-to-year with the 34-year-old slugger.

Vladimir Guerrero had a highly productive year for the American League champion Rangers, registering an .841 OPS, 29 homers and 115 RBI, but he wasn’t deemed worthy of a $9 million salary.  He is no longer capable of playing the outfield and fell off a bit in the second half.  His option was declined for 2011 and he will enter the offseason as a free agent.  The Rangers are probably going to try to bring him back for less.

Jose Reyes didn’t have the most productive 2010 campaign, but his $11 million option was picked up in an easy move for new Mets GM Sandy Alderson.  Reyes, 27, had a .773 OPS in the half last season and is capable of riding that momentum into an even more productive 2011.

Adrian Beltre, 31, had control of his own destiny this fall and has decided to test the free-agent waters after posting a stellar .321 batting average, .919 OPS and 28 home runs over 589 at-bats in 2010.  He could have exercised his $11 million player option and stayed in Boston, but he’s hoping for a multi-year deal and is certain to find it.

Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez also had a player option, but he didn’t have the kind of season that Beltre had and wisely opted for a $14.6 million salary in 2011.  He’s inury prone, finished with an on-base percentage under .300 this year, and wouldn’t have touched that kind of cash as a free agent.

Bronson Arroyo was the ace of the Reds’ tremendous pitching staff this year with a 17-10 record, 3.88 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over 33 starts.  He is seeking a long-term deal and the Redlegs are going to consider it.  But it only made sense for the club to pick up his $11 million option first.  And they did.

The market this winter looks to be thin — really thin — and most players seeking contracts should find them.  Cliff Lee will be the offseason’s biggest winner and Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth should be close seconds.  We here at Hardball Talk will be tracking it all.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.

Report: The new collective bargaining agreement reduces players’ meal money

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.

Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.

Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.

EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.