Report: Brad Lidge opts for retirement

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Brad Lidge, who sat out the remainder of the 2012 season after being released by the Nationals in June, has decided to retire, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports.

The 35-year-old Lidge had a 9.64 ERA in 9 1/3 innings before being let go by the Nationals. Battling both shoulder and elbow problems, he had seen his innings total decrease four straight seasons.

Lidge was incredible at his peak. In 2004, he finished with a 1.90 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 94 2/3 innings of relief for the Astros. Only three relievers have ever struck out more batters, and they all needed 130+ innings to get there (Dick Radatz in 1963 and ’64 and Mark Eichhorn in 1986).  After Lidge, the highest strikeout total for a reliever in fewer than 100 innings is 141 (Rob Dibble, 1989).

Lidge also topped 100  strikeouts in 2005 and 2006. In 2008, he finished a perfect 41-for-41 saving games during the regular season and then added seven more October saves while closing out the World Series for the Phillies.

Unfortunately, Lidge’s most famous postseason moment was giving up a walkoff homer to Albert Pujols in the 2005 NLCS. The Astros, though, bounced back to win that series, and Lidge was a stellar postseason pitcher overall, amassing a 2.18 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings.

Lidge finishes his 11-year career with 225 saves, a 3.54 ERA and 799 strikeouts in 603 1/3 innings. It’s the second highest strikeout rate in major league history for a pitcher with at least 500 innings, with Billy Wagner barely beating him out (Wagner is at 11.920 K/9 IP, while Lidge comes in at 11.919).

Six of seven players decline $17.9 million qualifying offers

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Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu was the only one of seven eligible players to accept his $17.9 million qualifying offer. Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock, Craig Kimbrel, Patrick Corbin, Yasmani Grandal, and Dallas Keuchel each rejected his, officially making them free agents. Teams that had their QO’s rejected will recoup a draft pick once the player signs elsewhere.

That Harper rejected his QO comes as no surprise, as he is expected to strike perhaps the largest free agent contract in baseball history. Though the free agent market has been less lucrative lately than in previous years, the combination of Harper’s elite talent and his age — he’s only 26 years old — makes him a primary target for more than a handful of teams. Harper reportedly turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract extension offer from the Nationals, so that would seem to be a baseline.

It is also not surprising that Kimbrel, 30, turned down his QO from the Red Sox. Despite a so-so showing during a championship run, Kimbrel is still young and talented enough to land another lucrative contract on the free agent market.

Keuchel bet on himself in turning down the Astros’ QO. He’s been solid since winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2015, owning a 3.77 ERA across 83 starts over the last three seasons. However, he turns 31 years old at the beginning of 2019, and his already mediocre strikeout rate declined even further this past season, so there may be some skepticism about his ability to perform over the course of a multi-year deal. Keuchel will still get one eventually, but his market may be slower to develop.

Pollock, soon 31 as well, will be the outfielder most coveted once Harper is off the market. When he’s healthy, he’s a dynamic five-tool player. However, Pollock hasn’t played in more than 113 games in a season since 2015, so that may be a red flag. Pollock ended 2018 batting .257/.316/.484 with 21 home runs, 65 RBI, 61 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 460 plate appearances while playing above-average defense according to various defensive metrics.

Grandal, 30, could’ve gone either way with his QO, but ultimately chose to decline. He had a disappointing postseason, both offensively and defensively. Given how humans are prone to recency bias, it stood to reason that his October performance could have hurt his market. The catching position, however, is rather weak and Grandal stands out in a market that is otherwise focused on Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. Grandal did swat 24 home runs with an .815 OPS in 140 games for the Dodgers this past season.

Corbin, 29, was the most obvious QO decline after Harper. The lefty is coming off of a career year, finishing with a 3.15 ERA and a 246/48 K/BB ratio in exactly 200 innings. Corbin is the best free agent pitcher on the market this offseason. The Yankees have been seriously linked with Corbin even before the season ended.

Ryu likely chose to accept his QO because of his age and injury history. It would have been a gamble to pursue a multi-year deal. He did, however, make 15 starts during the regular season to the tune of a 1.97 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 15 walks in 82 1/3 innings. Those are great numbers. And most clubs would have been smart enough to look beyond his 5.21 ERA in the postseason, which has more to do with a leaky bullpen than his own personal failings. Still, it’s hard to fault Ryu for playing it safe and taking the guaranteed $17.9 million for one year.