Mariners decline 2011 options on Erik Bedard, Jose Lopez, and Russell Branyan

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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.

Hinch, Luhnow, will be eligible in 2021 even if there are no games in 2020

A.J. Hinch (left) and Jeff Luhnow (right)
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You no doubt recall that former Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch and ex-Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow were given the one-year bans and were subsequently fired in January due to the Astros sign-stealing scandal. It’s possible, however, that each of them could be back in baseball without having missed a single game.

That’s the report from Buster Olney of ESPN, who has learned that Hinch and Luhnow will become eligible in 2021 even if there are no games played in the 2020 season. The reason: Hinch and Luhnow’s suspensions are tied to “the end of the 2020 postseason.” In contrast, players who are suspended for PED offenses for violations of the league’s domestic violence policies are suspended for a set number of games. Their suspensions will not begin until games begin and, if the number of games in the 2020 season ends up being fewer than the number of games in their suspension, it will carry over to 2021.

It would not shock me a bit if another team hired Hinch at some point down the road. And, despite the league’s finding that Luhnow fostered a “toxic” environment in the Astros’ front office, I would not be at all surprised if he were hired as some sort of advisor down the road and, potentially, found himself running a team again. His tenure in Houston was discovered to be objectively awful from an ethical perspective, but (a) he won; and (b) he cut costs, and those are the two biggest priorities for most teams. Not necessarily in that order.