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.

A.J. Pollock may be the Dodgers’ next free agent target

A.J. Pollock
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Free agent outfielder A.J. Pollock has landed on the Dodgers’ radar, and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal says the two appear to be in discussions regarding a deal for 2019. Terms of any prospective deal have not been released, but interest is presumed to be fairly high as he checks two boxes on their wish list: that of a right-handed hitter and an experienced centerfielder.

Pollock, 31, rounded out a seven-year career with the Diamondbacks in 2018. While he was sidelined for nearly seven weeks after fracturing his left thumb on a dive gone wrong, he finished the season batting a hearty .257/.316/.484 with a career-best 21 home runs, 13 steals (in 15 chances), and 2.5 fWAR across 460 plate appearances. He received a $17.9 million qualifying offer from the club at the end of the year and elected to enter free agency in hopes of a better deal, which some have estimated at five years and $80 million.

So far, it’s not clear whether teams are willing to meet those terms. Pollock profiles as both a solid hitter and defender, but he hasn’t played a season in full health since 2015, which may be a deal-breaker for those in search of long-term talent. Even with that caveat, however, the Dodgers are far from the only club willing to enter negotiations with the outfielder this winter. The Braves have been linked to Pollock since December, and the Mets and Reds have expressed varying levels of interest as well.