12 notable new MLB free agents who had their options declined

Corey Seidman
·4 min read

12 notable new MLB free agents who had their options declined originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Before a free agent has even signed, MLB's offseason is off to a strange start.

More than a handful of players have had their options declined this week, some of which would have been picked up in a normal year when teams didn't lose about $100 million apiece.

Cleveland closer Brad Hand was the biggest name. Much more on him here. The Phillies, 13th in the waiver claim order, should obviously be interested.

But it wasn't just Hand. Here's a roundup of the other new free agents who had their options declined.

Rays SP Charlie Morton

Morton's club option was for $15 million, a price he would be well worth in a normal year. It was not picked up.

Morton's last two stops have been Houston for two years and Tampa for two years. He went 47-18 with a 3.34 ERA and 10.6 K/9 over that span.

In six playoff starts with the Rays the last two years, Morton went 5-1 with a 2.10 ERA.

Morton will be 37 in two weeks but has been better in his mid-30s than ever before. 

Braves reliever Darren O'Day

The 38-year-old right-handed submariner was bought out for $500,000. The Braves' option on him was $3.5 million, a fair price for a guy who has a 2.51 career ERA.

O'Day averaged 62 appearances per year from 2012-17 but has been limited to just 47 appearances total the last three seasons. He missed ample time with forearm and hamstring injuries.

O'Day reestablished his value this summer with a 1.10 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 19 appearances.

Rangers SP Corey Kluber

This one was not surprising as Kluber's option was for $18 million. 

Kluber, the AL Cy Young-winner in 2014 and 2017, was the Rangers' opening day starter this year but pitched just one inning before suffering a fractured forearm on a comebacker. That was it for his 2020 season.

The 34-year-old has made just eight starts the last two seasons after going 83-45 with a 2.85 ERA the previous five with the Indians.

Cardinals 2B Kolten Wong

The Cardinals did not pick up Wong's $12.5 million club option, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, though they could look to re-sign him to a more manageable number. 

Wong was a Gold Glover in 2019 and has hit a respectable .273/.356/.398 the last four years. He's spent 98% of his innings with the Cardinals at second base.

4 Nationals, including OF Adam Eaton

The Nats declined their 2021 options on Eaton, Anibal Sanchez, Eric Thames and Howie Kendrick.

Eaton's club option was for $10.5 million with a $1.5 million buyout. It's clear that teams just won't be paying eight-figure salaries to mid-tier players in 2021.

Sanchez's option was for $12 million. Thames' was for $4 million. Kendrick's was for $6.5 million with a $2.25 million buyout.

The Nats' biggest financial matter this winter will be Juan Soto's salary. According to NBC Sports Washington, Soto is likely to go to arbitration this year for the first time as a Super Two player. He could make about 10 times more in 2021 than he made in 2020 ($629,400 before salaries were prorated).

Yankees SP J.A. Happ and OF Brett Gardner

The Yankees declined both options. It was a no-brainer to decline Happ's $17M club option, which is almost equivalent to the 2021 qualifying offer.

Happ went 21-10 with a 4.13 ERA in 50 starts with the Yankees.

Gardner could end up back in the Bronx, where he's played his entire 13-year career. The $10 million option was just too expensive for a league-average outfielder.

The Yankees did pick up their 2022 club option on Zack Britton for $14 million. Britton could have opted out of the final year of his contract (2021) if the Yankees didn't pick up the 2022 option after the 2020 World Series.

Twins reliever Sergio Romo

Romo's option was for $5 million. He's still effective and will find a role somewhere. That frisbee slider has kept him effective for a long, long time.

Romo has a 2.95 ERA in 732 career appearances. Over the last five years, he has a 3.49 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with 30 more K's than innings.

Brewers OF/1B Ryan Braun

The Brewers went for Braun's $4 million buyout rather than pay the $15M club option, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Not a shock, even for a guy who's played 14 years in Milwaukee and hit 352 homers. Braun has become more of a part-time player the last few years. The shortened 2020 season was his worst offensively, with a .233 batting average and .281 OBP in 141 plate appearances.

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