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.

Jon Gray will start Opening Day for the Rockies

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Manager Bud Black has tabbed Jon Gray to start on Opening Day for the Rockies. That will be Monday, April 3 in Milwaukee against the Brewers in an afternoon contest.

Gray, 25, is starting Opening Day for the first time in his career. He’ll be the sixth different Rockies pitcher to start Opening Day in as many years.

The Rockies and Gray had a bit of a scare on Friday as he left his spring training start with discomfort in his left foot, but everything came up clean in an MRI. He pitched again on Wednesday with no issue.

Last season, Gray went 10-10 with a 4.61 ERA and a 185/59 K/BB ratio in 168 innings. A consensus top prospect entering each of the previous three seasons, Gray surprisingly put up better numbers at Coors Field — the most hitter-friendly park in baseball — than away.

Blake Treinen named Nationals closer

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Today Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker named Blake Treinen as his closer. Treinen has saved exactly one big league game.

There wasn’t necessarily an obvious choice, however. Last year Washington had Mark Melancon, but with him gone and GM Mike Rizzo’s failure to land a high-profile closer in the offseason, it became a contest between Treinen Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover.

Treinen posted a 2.28 ERA with 31 walks and 63 Ks in 67 innings in 2016. His big improvement last year came against lefties, who had tattooed him in the past. He pitched well this spring as well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

The Nats are our favorites to win the NL East, but we do have some questions about the pen. Blake Treinen will take the first crack at answering them.