In advance of the start of free agency on Tuesday, teams and players are scurrying to decide once and for all whether to exercise their contract options for 2014. We're still waiting for some decisions, and this list isn't comprehensive, but here's a rundown of the most prominent ones that have been made, one way or the other. We'll have a fuller account of the rest in next week's division-by-division Hot Stove previews. The players are listed alphabetically.
At $1.5 million, it was an easy call for Milwaukee to bring back the 32-year-old rightfielder, who has hit .287/.355/.399 with strong enough defense to deliver 6.5 WAR over two years.
Lance Berkman, Rangers: team declined
The Rangers took a huge risk when they signed a near-retirement Berkman to an $11 million deal to be their primary DH, and they received little reward for their trouble. The Big Puma hit just .242/.340/.359 in 294 plate appearances, only 12 of which came after July 6 due to a hip problem. Texas never found a satisfactory replacement, one big reason why it missed the playoffs by a single game. Declining his $12 million option was an obvious decision, though it has likely brought an ignominious end to a fine career that should garner some Hall of Fame support.
Rafael Betancourt, Rockies: team declined
Betancourt saved 47 games for the Rockies over the past two years, but at age 38 was limited to 28 1/3 innings due to a trio of trips to the disabled list, the last of which led to Tommy John surgery in September. Colorado declined his $4.25 million option knowing that he probably wouldn't pitch in 2014,. Some other team might sign him to a low-cost, two-year deal to supervise his rehab and secure the services of a righty who delivered a 3.02 ERA, 1.8 walks and 10.6 strikeouts per nine while averaging 65 appearances from 2009-2012.
The Dodgers turned down their end of an $8 million mutual option on Capuano, who was a solid member of their rotation in 2012 (3.72 ERA in 198 1/3 innings) but had a rougher 2013 (4.26 ERA in 105 2/3 innings). Not only did the 35-year-old lefty hit the disabled list three times for groin, calf and lat strains, he exhibited a Jekyll-and-Hyde tendency on the mound, allowing zero or one runs in nine starts and five or more in seven others, with just four starts in the middle ground. He should find work filling out the back end of somebody's rotation.
Coco Crisp, A's: picked up
Crisp delivered great value to Oakland's AL West title teams in 2012 and '13: a total of 7.3 WAR for $13 million, including 4.3 WAR this past season (his highest since 2005) on a .261/.335/.444 line with a career-high 22 homers. As such, picking up the 34-year-old's $7.5 million option for 2014 is an easy call.
Mark Ellis, Dodgers: team declined
All too often miscast in the number two spot in the lineup due to manager Don Mattingly's lack of imagination, Ellis nonetheless provided great value for Los Angeles over the past two years thanks to his glovework. He was 22 runs above average via Defensive Runs Saved, and so despite hitting a combined .264/.328/.357 in 2012 and '13, he delivered 5.5 WAR for the cost of $7.75 million in those two seasons.
Alas, the 36-year-old second baseman played just 236 games in that span due to a couple of leg injuries, and in Los Angeles' effort to get younger, it signed Cuban import Alexander Guerrero to a four-year, $28 million deal and declined Ellis' $5.75 million option. The team could still bring him back in a utility/placeholder role while Guerrero acclimates to stateside baseball, but it's more likely he'll move on.
Janssen took over Toronto's closer duties in May 2012 and hasn't looked back. This past season, he converted 34 out of 36 save opportunities and delivered a 2.56 ERA backed by strong peripherals in 52 2/3 innings. His $4 million option was a no-brainer to pick up.
Jeter declined his $9.5 million player option and re-signed with the Yankees via a one-year, $12 million deal. It might seem silly to guarantee an extra $2.5 million to a going-on-40-year-old player who was limited to just 17 games in 2013, but given that Jeter averaged 1.6 WAR from 2010-2012 and no doubt brings significant marketing value to a franchise that's in transition, it's only a modest overpay, not a massive one. Cliff Corcoran has more on this signing elsewhere at The Strike Zone.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians: player declined
Jimenez's $8 million option for 2014 was a no-brainer for the Indians to pick up, and they did, but the mid-2011 trade that sent him from Colorado to Cleveland triggered the opportunity for him to void that option, and he did. After two seasons in the wilderness, during which he struggled with his control en route to a cumulative 5.03 ERA, Jimenez cleaned up his mechanics and posted a 3.30 ERA with 9.6 strikeouts per nine over 182 2/3 innings in 2013. What's more, his 1.09 ERA in September and strong performance on the final day of the season helped the Indians to a wild card berth.
In a thin market for pitching, he's in line for a big multi-year deal. Now the question becomes whether he'll receive a $14 million qualifying offer by 5 p.m. ET on Monday, which would bring Cleveland a supplementary first-round draft pick if he signs elsewhere.
Jason Kubel, Indians: team declined
When he's healthy, Kubel can hit, but that's as long as his list of baseball skills goes, so it was a head-scratcher when the Diamondbacks signed him to a two-year, $14 million deal that required him to play the field regularly. They didn't exactly get away with it in 2012 even as he hit .253/.327.506 with 30 homers; via lousy defense, he was worth just 1.0 WAR. Amid quadriceps woes, he sank to .216/.293/.317 with five homers in 2013. He also lost his job, was designated for assignment and then traded to Cleveland, where he grew cobwebs on the bench (23 PA after Aug. 29). It's no surprise that the Indians paid the $1 million buyout instead of picking up his $7.5 million option.
Adam Lind, Blue Jays: picked up
After bopping 35 homers and hitting .305/.370/.562 in 2009, Lind turned into a pumpkin, and a rotten one at that, hitting a combined .246/.296/.428 for a yield of −0.4 WAR over the next three seasons. He rediscovered his swing in 2013, batting .288/.357/.497 with 23 homers, so the Jays picked up the 30-year-old DH/first baseman's $7 million option, the first of three similarly priced ones on his club-friendly contract.
Lindstrom's strikeout rates have never matched his 95+ mph heat, but even so, he's become a reliable setup man. Pitching for his sixth team in five years, he set a career high in appearances (76) and delivered a 3.12 ERA, a 57 percent groundball rate and just 0.3 homers per nine, offsetting his meager 6.8 strikeouts per nine. The White Sox exercised their $4 million option.
Santana didn't pitch for the Mets at all in 2013 after re-tearing his shoulder capsule and has managed just 117 innings with a 4.85 ERA since late 2010, all of it in 2012. Thus it's no surprise that the team chose to pay a $5.5 million buyout to end his six-year, $137.5 million deal rather than bringing him back for a whopping $25 million. New York may yet sign the two-time Cy Young winner to a lower-cost, incentive-based deal, but the track record for pitchers with even one such injury is grim.
When they traded Wil Myers and three other prospects to Tampa Bay for Shields and Wade Davis in last winter's most controversial deal, the Royals did so knowing that they had two years of club control over the soon-to-be-32-year-old righty thanks to his $13.5 million option. They got more than their money's worth in year one. Shields earned $10.25 million and was worth at least twice that via 4.1 WAR, leading the league in innings (228 2/3) while ranking seventh in strikeouts (196) and eighth in ERA (3.15) as Kansas City broke .500 for the first time since 2003.
Turner was the prospect at the center of the July 2012 Anibal Sanchez/Omar Infante trade with Detroit. At 22, he made 20 starts with a 3.74 ERA in his first full season with Miami in 2013 but had less-than-flattering peripherals (4.1 walks and 5.9 strikeouts per nine en route to a 4.40 FIP). For a penny-pinching team trying to rebuild, picking up his $1 million option -- built into his first professional contract in the event he wasn't arbitration-eligible by this point -- was an easy call.
The 36-year-old Westbrook made 61 starts and threw 358 innings for the Cardinals in 2011 and '12 combined, but he was limited to 19 starts, 116 2/3 innings and a 4.63 ERA in 2013. Even worse, he walked more batters (3.9 per nine) than he struck out (3.4 per nine), a problem that can be fatal to a pitching career. As the postseason showed, St. Louis is bursting at the seams with talented young pitchers, so there was little need for the organization to pick up its end of the 36-year-old righty's $9.5 million mutual option.
Barry Zito, Giants: team declined
This one's not official at this writing but it may as well be, as the Giants will pay the steep $7 million buyout instead of exercising Zito's $18 million option for 2014. For the $126 million San Francisco paid the mercurial lefty over the past seven years, it received a 4.62 ERA (86 ERA+) and a grand total of 3.0 WAR. Even so, the Giants did win two World Series in that span, and Zito came up big en route to the second one: He made a series-turning start in Game 5 of the NLCS when the Giants were down 3-games-to-1 against the Cardinals and then turned in a solid effort in Game 1 of their four-game sweep of the Tigers. Flags fly forever.