Seattle declined a trio of 2011 options today: Erik Bedard for $8 million, Russell Branyan for $5 million, and Jose Lopez for $4.5 million.
Bedard and Branyan are now free agents, while the Mariners still control Lopez as an arbitration-eligible player. However, there’s a strong chance they’ll non-tender him by the December 2 deadline unless they can find another team interested in dealing for him before then.
There’s also a small chance they could decide to keep Lopez while hoping he receives a modest raise on his 2010 salary of $2.3 million coming off a career-worst season, perhaps giving him a chance to recoup some value before looking to deal him at midseason (or sooner, if 2009 first-round pick Dustin Ackley is ready to take over second base).
Bedard missed the entire season following shoulder surgery, so declining his option was a no-brainer, but choosing not to bring Branyan back for $5 million is somewhat surprising considering the Mariners traded a pair of prospects to the Indians for him in June. Neither player was a top prospect and picking up a half-year rental is obviously commonplace throughout baseball, but 101-loss teams usually aren’t doing the renting.
Former Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is up for grabs this offseason, and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says that as many as nine suitors are interested in bringing the righty aboard. While the Red Sox are eager to retain Eovaldi’s services after his lights-out performance during their recent postseason run, they’ll have to contend with the Brewers, Phillies, Braves, White Sox, Padres, Blue Jays, Giants, and Angels — all of whom are reportedly positioned to offer something for the starter this winter.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 28-year-old in 2018, however. After losing his 2017 season to Tommy John surgery, he underwent an additional procedure to remove loose bodies from his right elbow in March and didn’t make his first appearance until the end of May. He was flipped for lefty reliever Jalen Beeks just prior to the trade deadline and finished his season with a combined 6-7 record in 21 starts, a 3.81 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, and 8.2 SO/9 through 111 innings.
Despite his numerous health issues over the last few years, Eovaldi raised his stock in October after becoming a major contributor during the Red Sox’ championship run. He contributed two quality starts in the ALDS and ALCS and returned in Games 1-3 of the World Series with three lights-out performances in relief — including a six-inning effort in the 18-inning marathon that was Game 3.
A frontrunner has yet to emerge for the righty this offseason, but Cafardo points out that the nine teams listed so far might just be the tip of the iceberg. Still, he won’t be the most sought-after starter on the market, as former Diamondbacks southpaw Patrick Corbin is expected to command an even bigger payday following his career-best 6.0-fWAR performance in 2018.