As September nears, and pennant race heat intensifies, it is becoming clearer what Major League teams will do in the off-season with players who have club options.
Some decisions are tough. For example, Kansas City closer Joakim Soria underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year and will not throw a pitch in 2012. The Royals must choose whether to pick up his $8 million team option for 2013 or pay a $750,000 buyout. They could decide to give him the buyout and attempt to bring him back under more affordable terms. Of course, the alternatives are banking that he will return to pre-Tommy John surgery form and picking up the option, or just letting him walk via free agency.
Some decisions are easy. The Mets won’t hesitate to exercise R.A. Dickey‘s $5 million option while the Twins will surely let injured right-hander Scott Baker test free agency instead of picking up his $9.25 million club option.
Here are seven players whose options will most likely be declined:
Kevin Youkilis – The 33-year-old corner infielder, who was acquired from Boston for Brent Lillibridge and Zach Stewart on June 24, will reportedly be a rental for the Chicago White Sox. Media reports indicate the team will not exercise his $13 million option and instead give him a $1 million buyout. Youkilis has 10 home runs, 29 RBI, a .252 average and a .875 OPS for the White Sox after batting .233 this year with Boston.
Aubrey Huff – The 35-year-old Huff has been on the DL three times this season and currently resides there. He has a $10 million club option and a $2 million buyout. The Giants will undoubtedly select the latter, especially with the presence of promising first base prospect Brandon Belt. Huff has a .148 average this season in 61 at-bats. He had a key role on the 2010 World Series winning club, hitting .290 with 26 home runs and 86 RBI, but he hasn’t been the same since.
Orlando Hudson – The 34-year-old infielder is a shell of what he once was on the diamond. This season, he has a .196 average in 230 at-bats between the Padres and White Sox. He was released by San Diego in May and signed by the White Sox less than a week later. Hudson has an $8 million team option and a $2 million buyout.
Mark Reynolds – With the newfound presence of 20-year-old rookie sensation Manny Machado, there is no room for the 29-year-old Reynolds, who is known for hitting home runs and collecting strikeouts in bunches. This year, in 289 at-bats for the Orioles, Reynolds has only hit nine home runs, owns a .211 average and has fanned 107 times. He has an $11 million club option and a $500,000 buyout. The latter would likely happen even if Machado wasn’t opening eyes in his recent big league debut.
Travis Hafner – Since belting 24 home runs and driving in 100 in 661 plate appearances in 2007, the Indians DH has struggled to remain healthy. Over the last five seasons, he has appeared in more than 100 games just once (118 games in 2010). Last Thursday, the 35-year-old Hafner was placed on the DL with a bulging disc in his lower back, the second DL stint this season and the ninth in his 11-year Major League career. This season, Hafner has a .239 average and 11 home runs. He has a $13 million team option and a $2.75 million buyout. Cleveland is parting ways with veterans – as it showed by recently cutting ties with Johnny Damon, Derek Lowe and Jeremy Accardo. Hafner’s tenure with the Indians will likely reach an end, unless they choose to bring him back under more affordable terms after declining his option.
Jorge De La Rosa – Fourteen months removed from Tommy John surgery, the 31-year-old right-hander continues to rehab in an attempt to pitch again for the Colorado Rockies. He won 16 games for the Rockies in 2009 and was 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA in 10 starts last season when he underwent the procedure. If he returns to Colorado, it won’t be because the team picke dup his $11 million option. Instead, the Rockies will likely exercise their $1 million buyout and potentially sign him at a more reasonable rate.
Ervin Santana – The Angels have a well-stocked rotation with Jered Weaver, Zack Greinke, C.J. Wilson and Dan Haren. The 29-year-old Santana won 17 games for the Angels in 2010 but is 5-10 with a 5.82 ERA in 22 starts this year. Haren has a $15.5 million team option with a $3.5 million buyout. Santana has a $13 million club option with a $1 million buyout. The Angels are more likely to bring back Haren at that salary than Santana.