BaseballGB is guided by three main aims and experience has proved that so long as we keep them in mind, seemingly simple ideas can be the foundation of features that are enjoyable and interesting to read and very rewarding to write.Â
ThatÂ leads me to the first instalment of the latest such new feature in which I will round up the main news from the previous seven days or so over the offseason.Â Itâ€™s a straightforward premise, but one that I think will be well worth building on.Â British newcomers to the sport will be able to keep up-to-date with the important news topics (not least the â€œwhoâ€™s gone whereâ€ part of the offseason that can become confusing if you donâ€™t stay on top of it), while established fans can treat it as a useful reference to check and a starting point for discussion.Â
An â€˜Optionsâ€™ overview
The Hot Stove is officially bubbling as players are filing for free agency, teams are making decisions on contract options and trades are being discussed.Â My Baseball Basics for Brits volume on â€˜Players: Development, Contracts and Transactionsâ€™ will hopefully help to explain the rudiments of how player contracts work in MLB, including why so many players (relative to Premiership football, for example)become free agents.Â However, one thing that I didnâ€™t cover in that volume is â€˜contract optionsâ€™ and right now they are a key topic.
Essentially they refer to a part of a playerâ€™s contract in which one party (sometimes both) has the option to extend the contract in line with the specified terms (i.e. how much money the player will be paid).Â It will be referred to as a â€˜club optionâ€™ or a â€˜player optionâ€™ and the relevant party either â€˜exercisesâ€™ the option or â€˜declinesâ€™ it.Â
The decision will normally be based on immediately understandable logic.Â For instance, a team will exercise their option on a player if they want to keep them and are happy with the financial commitment this will entail, or decline the option if either of these two conditions are not met.Â Thatâ€™s an important point because in some cases the news story will state that a team has declined an option, but the team may still want to keep the player.Â For instance, the Rockies have just declined their 2010 option on reliever Rafael Betancourt even though ideally they would like to keep him.Â Colorado would haveÂ been contractedÂ to pay Betancourt a 2010 salary of $5.4m if they had exercised the option and they didnâ€™t want to pay that much.Â Therefore they declined the option and hope to come to a new agreement.Â Obviously the risk for the Rockies is that another team may value Betancourt more highly than they do and will be prepared to offer him a better deal.Â
If a club declines an option, they will normally have to pay a buyout fee as part of the process.Â So, the White Sox declined their $12m option on Jermaine Dye and had to pay him $950k as a result, just as the Orioles declined their $8m option on Melvin Mora and he got $1m as a result (nice work if you can get it).
In terms of contract options being exercised this offseason, the main ones have been:
- the Red Sox exercised their 2010 option on catcher Victor Martinez,
- The D-Backs exercised their 2010 option on pitcher Brandon Webb,
- the Twins exercised their 2011 option on outfielder Michael Cuddyer,
- the Rays exercised their 2010 option on outfielder Carl Crawford,
- the Phillies exercised their 2010 option on pitcher Cliff Lee,
- Manny Ramirez exercised his 2010 option to stay with the Dodgers,
- Jason Varitek exercised his 2010 option to stay with the Red Sox.
All of these were fairly predictable, although Varitek might have decided to decline his option once the Red Sox had brought back Martinez.Â At this stage in Varitekâ€™s career, accepting a reduced role on a contender looks like the right decision.Â The Cuddyer deal is different to the rest as he was already under contract for 2010 and the option related to 2011.Â The Twins had to make a decision on this option within five days of the end of the 2009 World Series as per the contract they signed with him in January 2008.
Note: contract details are from Cotâ€™s Baseball Contracts.
Other Hot Stove news
Of all the moves during the 08/09 offseason, the Angelsâ€™ acquisition of Bobby Abreu on a one-year deal for a guaranteed $5m was one of the very best.Â They received an excellent return on that initial investment and Abreu enjoyed his time with the club so much that he decided to avoid the free agent circus and signed a two-year extension with the Angels that includes an option for 2012.Â Thatâ€™s a good start to what could be a challenging offseason for the Angels, with John Lackey, Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero all hitting the free agent market.
Other players who have decided to prolong their stays with their current clubs include Tim Hudson (who signed a three-year extension with the Braves), Freddy Sanchez (two-year extension with the Giants), Jack Wilson (two-year extension with the Mariners) and Ken Griffey Jr (one-year extension with the Mariners).Â The latter move is of debatable worth to Seattle in terms of on-field production from the future Hall-of-Famer, so the success of the deal lies in what he offers to the organization more broadly (valued as a great presence in the clubhouse and in drawing extra fans to Safeco Field) alongside the cost in terms of the financial investment (which reportedly largely rests on incentives) and a roster spot.Â
The free agent market hasnâ€™t moved much as yet (no surprises there), but there has been a few trades to keep us occupied.Â The Pirates acquired Akinori Iwamura from the Rays in a rare deal that sees Pittsburgh obtaining a Major League regular rather than trading one away.Â The Red Sox decided to take a punt on Jeremy Hermida, picking him up from the Marlins for two left-handed pitchers (Hunter Jones and Jose Alvarez).Â Boston can easily afford his arbitration salary and if they can somehow tap into Hermidaâ€™s much-touted potential then it could be a great bargain move.Â In the AL Central, the Royals and White Sox agreed to an intra-division trade (Chicago received Mark Teahen for Chris Getz and Josh Fields) that doesnâ€™t seem to help either a great deal, while the Twins have added shortstop J.J. Hardy from the Brewers in a trade that sees Carlos Gomez heading to Milwaukee.Â The one surprise with the move was that Hardy wasnâ€™t traded for the pitching talent that the Brewers clearly need; however acquiring Gomez allows them to let centre fielder Mike Cameron depart as a free agent and the money saved may make a subsequent deal (or deals) for a pitcher more possible.
Nationals new manager
The Washington Nationals appointed a new full-time manager this week and, as expected, this resulted in the interim manager Jim Riggleman getting the job on a permanent basis.Â The Nationalsâ€™ win-loss record did improve once Riggleman took over from Manny Acta at the All-Star break and he will now have to prove that this wasnâ€™t just the temporary impact of having a new face in charge.Â There will be more details on the Nationals in my review of the NL East tomorrow.
The first group of 2009 awards was announced with gold gloves being handed out to the AL and NL players deemed to be the best fielders at their respective positions.Â They have caused much debate as fans argue over players who were unfairly overlooked (Franklin Gutierrez being a prime example) and those whose awards look more like a reflection on reputation and/or their batting rather than how they fielded in 2009 (Torii Hunter, Derek Jeter and Orlando Hudson).Â
Joe commented on how fielding differs fundamentally from pitching and hitting in his great recent article and this is reflected by the fact that fielding statistics still seem to be a work-in-progress.Â Certainly judging a playerâ€™s worth in fielding percentage and errors alone doesnâ€™t even begin to resemble an accurate assessment.Â Most people seem to agree that the answer lies in capturing data via a series of cameras and that sort of analysis for MLB games might not be too far off.Â
GMâ€™s meet in Chicago
The thirty General Managers met for two days in Chicago this week; however it wasnâ€™t a very newsworthy event with topics such as expanding the use of instant replay not being discussed formally.Â They will meet again for the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis between 7 and 10 December.