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.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.