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Tag:MLB Free Agents
Posted on: October 31, 2011 10:43 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 10:58 pm
 

Monday brings plethora of option decisions

By Evan Brunell

As baseball readies for free agency, numerous decisions on options are being made. Those either free up players to hit the market or tie them to their 2011 club for one more season. Sunday's list is right here. Let's take a look at what happened Monday...

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View the free-agent tracker here.

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Posted on: October 31, 2011 10:02 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 10:03 pm
 

Blue Jays bring Encarnacion back, dump Rauch

Encarnacion

By Evan Brunell


The Blue Jays have declined their club option on reliever Jon Rauch, but will bring DH Edwin Encarnacion back.

Rauch was one of several who tried to close games out for the Jays, a team that had trouble finding that stopper. Rauch wasn't quite the man, despite notching 11 saves. The righty allowed 11 homers after giving up just three in 2010, finishing the season out with a 4.85 ERA in 52 innings. His season was cut short by knee surgery in September, but pitched well enough to qualify as a Type B free agent. This may have been what led to declining the $3.75 million option on Rauch, which is a reasonable price. The Jays are one team that tries to collect as many draft picks as possible, and with Rauch fetching back a compensatory pick should (once) he signs elsewhere, it likely made more sense to Toronto to grab a different unspectacular middle reliever in order to perhaps draft the next great Blue Jay.

Encarnacion's return, meanwhile, jams up first base and DH, which could complicate any chance of getting any slugger who plays one of these positions. But bringing Encarnacion back for $3.5 million was a no-brainer. It wasn't before June 5, when the righty woke up with a .243/.275/.342 line, but netted three hits that night and played the rest of 2011 at a .286/.359/.505 clip, hammering 16 homers in 370 plate appearances. The Jays seem to have finally given up on Encarnacion at third, so he's limited to first and DH, although the club could stick him in left field a few times next season. Toronto has Adam Lind, Travis Snider and Eric Thames all vying for at-bats in varying degrees between first, left and DH, so Encarnacion will have to fight for playing time barring a trade.

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Posted on: October 31, 2011 8:19 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 8:49 pm
 

Price opts for arbitration, Rays rope in Shields

Shields

By Evan Brunell


The Rays made three moves to shape their 2012 team on Monday, bringing back starting pitcher James Shields and closer Kyle Farnsworth while cutting ties with catcher Kelly Shoppach.

Starting pitcher David Price also rejected a player option on his contract, signed when he was first drafted in 2007. Price was set to make $1.5 million in 2012 had he not been arbitration-eligible, but thanks to qualifying for Super 2 arbitration status, he gained the right to opt out. Price will easily do far better than $1.5 million in arbitration, especially since he earned just over $2 million in free agency. He could see quite the jump and there is the chance he could clear $5 million in arbitration.

The team does have a record of giving their young stars long-term deals, so this could hurry along a long-term deal between both sides. Tampa would likely love to lock Price up for at least the next four years (as he's tied to the team for that length anyways) in exchange for locking in what he will make over the next four years and receiving a bit of a discount as well, given the club will be guaranteeing the next four years as opposed to going year by year. Of course, Price could decline and take the risk that his arm and effectiveness holds up. Going through the arbitration year by year would certainly maximize the lefty's salary, but again, it comes at significant sik.

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The Rays freed up some money for Price in declining Shoppach's option, although the club is interested in bringing him back. The baclstop will get a $300,000 buyout instead of receiving $3.2 million in 2012 salary. That was a no-brainer, as Shoppach's power disappeared, hitting a paltry .178/.268/.339 in 253 at bats. This is a man who once hit 21 homers (in 2008), though, so he will have several suitors. He also has a reputation for strong work behind the plate.

In other news, two linchpins of the pitching staff are back. Ace James Shields, who made his first All-Star team and led the bigs with 11 complete games, returns for $7.5 million (with an extra $500,000 due depending on Cy Young balloting) in 2012. It's possible that Shields will be dangled on the trade market, as the Rays will be looking to capitalize on his big year, save cash and integrate Matt Moore into the rotation.

"Im glad it's over with," Shields (pictured) told the St. Petersburg Times. "I had some confidence they were going to pick my option up. What I did this last season, I think it definitely helped the cause out a little bit. Other than that, it's kind of one of those things where it's always nice to know I was in their plans."

Farnsworth broke out in a big way in Tampa, serving as closer for the season and nailing down 25 saves, posting a 2.18 ERA in the meantime. The 35-year-old seems to only get better with age, and exercising his $3.3 million option was a no-brainer. He struggled down the stretch with elbow discomfort, but is still the favorite for saves in Tampa next season.

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Posted on: October 31, 2011 7:59 pm
 

Sabathia deal boosts free agent pitching market

Sabathia

By Evan Brunell


CC Sabathia is off the market before free agency even began, agreeing to return to the Yankees with a one-year extension worth $25 million, plus a vesting option for 2017 for the same amount.

The news will have an immediate impact on free agency, as it increases the price of pitchers set to be free agents. While many did expect Sabathia to return to New York, many didn't think the lefty would sign away before he got to see what was on the market. It's all that much more surprising that Sabathia signed early, given he's only receiving one additional guaranteed year. But he did, and now C.J. Wilson has to be licking his chops. Teams that would have otherwise started their shopping with Sabathia at the top of the list will be forced to turn to lesser names in Wilson and others.

The move may also sway starting pitcher Yu Darvish to come stateside this season. The phenom ace, whom many say is far better than Daisuke Matsuzaka, has been unsure whether or not he will jump to MLB this season. With the price of Sabathia's contract easily keeping the club in play to win a Darvish bidding, plus the desperation of other clubs to get a top starter, the time is now for Darvish -- not after 2012, when multiple quality pitchers will become free agents.

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Obviously, the Yankees benefit well from Sabathia re-upping at what appears to be a discounted price. The total package of Sabathia moving forward is now five years and $122 million guaranteed, with $5 million of the guaranteed price coming on a buyout of 2017's potential vesting option. Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the option vests automatically unless Sabathia is sidelined by a left-shoulder injury. If Sabathia finishes 2016 on the DL, spends more than 45 days sidelined the entire season with a left-shoulder issue, or makes at least six relief appearances due to shoulder issues, the option can be declined.

The Yankees wanted to avoid any long-term commitment spanning longer than five years, and they have accomplished their goal by convincing Sabathia to accept just one extra year guaranteed. On the market, he probably could have commanded at least six years to start, but Sabathia made no secret about wanting to remain with the Yankees. He also gets to beat out ex-teammate Cliff Lee for highest average annual value on a multi-year deal for a pitcher. Lee's five-year, $120 million deal was previously the highest, but now Sabathia takes it with an AAV of $24.4 million. No matter how you slice it, it's a fantastic deal for the Yankees, and clearly Sabathia walks away pleased as well. If he can stay healthy and effective, becoming a free agent at the age of 36 may still net him one more solid contract.

Interestingly enough, Sabathia and Lee's former team in the Indians benefit. The club just picked up a $7 million option on starter Fausto Carmona and traded for Derek Lowe before all the news hit. Again, while Sabathia returning to New York was expected and not a surprise, it's fair to wonder if Carmona's interest in free agency would have spiraled beyond $7 million despite a 5.25 ERA in 32 starts. The youngster has shown previous success, and the Indians now retain the right to keep the 27-year-old through 2014. Meanwhile, Lowe comes to the Indians at a small price of $5 million and giving up a minor leaguer that will be lucky to ever hit the bigs.

The Braves wanted to move Lowe fast and the Indians obliged. But Atlanta may have been better served to wait out the market for starting pitching. If Darvish somehow opts to stay in Japan, teams will grow more and more desperate, and the Braves may have found a better deal. It works in the Indians' favor, though, who now have two pitchers under contract whose values are now slightly higher with Sabathia's return to New York. With Sabathia, Carmona and Lowe removed as options, free agents can now expect to see more dollar signs.

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Posted on: October 31, 2011 6:37 pm
 

Royals pick up closer Soria's option

SoriaBy Evan Brunell

The Royals exercised its 2012 club option on Joakim Soria, the team announced on Monday.

Soria will earn $6 million in 2012 as his guaranteed three-year, $8.75 million deal expired after the season. Kansas City holds three straight options on Soria, with 2012 the first season. The Royals can also bring Soria back for $8 million in 2013 and $8.75 million in 2014.

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“This decision was more of a formality,” Royals GM Dayton Moore said in a news release.  “Joakim has been an exceptional closer for the last five years.  For us to put together a strong pitching staff in 2012, it is important that Joakim remain a key component at the back end of the bullpen.”

The 27-year-old has been one of baseball's best relievers since being selected in the 2007 Rule 5 draft. He got 2011 off to a poor start, finishing with a career-worst 4.03 ERA and just 28 saves after breaking 40 twice in 2008 and 2010. Still, Soria should return to previous levels of talent as nothing indicates he is a worse pitcher. Batted balls fell in for hits 2.1 percent more than league average for Soria this past season, and 4.4 percent more than his career levels. That may not sound like much it is fairly significant, and defense-independent ERAs say Soria's ERA should have been in the low 3.00s instead of 4.03.

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Posted on: October 31, 2011 5:40 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 6:21 pm
 

Reds pick up Phillips' option, decline Cordero

Phillips

By Evan Brunell


The Reds picked up the team option on second baseman Brandon Phillips and declined closer Francisco Cordero's option, the team announced.

In addition, the Twins claimed left-handed starter Matt Maloney off waivers from Cincinnati. The moves altogether will drop Cordero and Maloney from the Reds' 40-man roster.

Phillips' option is for $12 million, and exercising the option has been expected for months, However, the two sides are discussing a long-term deal, although the Reds may not be able to meet the price Phillips is setting. The second baseman hit .300 for the first time in his career, adding 58 extra-base hits, scoring 94 and driving in 82 runs. The two-time All-Star is also a finalist for his third Gold Glove. All told, the 30-year-old could fetch a significant price in free agency, whether this year or next year. And Phillips knows it, saying, "This is my last contract,” in September. “There is no homeboy hookup. I just want to be paid what I am worth.”

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Earlier in the month, Phillips addressed the option specifically, saying he wanted a new deal instead of just exercising the option -- but hadn't heard anything from the team.

"I've always said from Day 1 that this is where I want to be at," Phillips said. "I thought there might be some talks going on during the season but I haven't heard anything all year. I was very disappointed about it. It hurts bad that this is where I want to be at and I've paid blood, sweat and tears for this organization, but the only thing I can do is thank them very much for giving me a second opportunity. I can't really trip about anything that much. I came here and got my career back to where it should be going."

GM Walt Jocketty has displayed an interest in extending Phillips, but it's also no surprise that he chose to wait until after the season. Many teams prefer not to discuss contracts during the year and with the plum option working in the Reds' favor, there was no hurry to get Phillips inked. However, Phillips fired a warning shot when talking about the chance of his option being picked up with no new deal.

"If they just pick my option up and don't extend me, I feel like that's a slap in my face," he Phillips. "If the team wants you, they will make room. They will show you they want you here, period. They did it for some of the other guys."

Whatever happens, the Reds will have an All-Star second baseman opening the season in Cincinnati. Past that, who knows?

One thing's for sure -- Phillips likely wont have Francisco Cordero as a teammate next season. Cordero's $12 million option was declined, handing the righty a $1 million buyout. This move is a bit surprising, as Cordero saved 37 games in 2011 with a 2.45 ERA. While Cordero turns 37 next May, he has 194 saves over the last five seasons, the last four with Cincinnati, and his option would have only tied him to the team for one more season, which can be a luxury when dealing with relievers and their maddening inconsistency. Oh, and Aroldis Chapman is being transitioned to a starter, so there's that much less depth behind Cordero.

However, while Cordero's walks plunged this year to its best rate since 2007, he also struck out far less batters. In fact, on a rate basis, it was a career-worst. In that way, Cordero's newfound control could be misleading -- he's always been one to walk hitters but makes up for it by throwing gas. This year, his average fastball velocity dropped to 93 mph, far below his career mark of 95 mph. In fact, last season's 94.5 mph was the first time his average velocity fell below 95. When velocity drops, pitchers can easily command their pitches more, which could explain Cordero's ability to limit walks. But that is misleading, and it becomes clear why the option was declined. The Reds simply don't have confidence that he can live up to the money he would receive and fulfill his role as the team's closer.

There will be a handful of closers on the free-agent market, so the Reds should be able to find a better option out there than Cordero. There is also the trade route, or promoting an internal reliever. Nick Masset makes the most sense in that role. They won't be able to consider Matt Maloney for the role, though. The 27-year-old was claimed off waivers by the Twins after Maloney's forgettable season with Cincinnati resulted in a 9.16 ERA in 18 2/3 innings, making two starts. However, he had a 2.99 ERA in Triple- A and will give the Twins depth. Minnesota also claimed reliever Jeff Gray off waivers from Seattle.
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Posted on: October 31, 2011 2:59 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 3:12 pm
 

Rangers exercise option on Colby Lewis

By Matt Snyder

Colby Lewis will remain with the Texas Rangers, as the team has decided to pick up his $3.25 million club option for the 2012 season.

Lewis, 32, will easily remain in the Rangers' rotation next season. He may even be the opening day starter, if C.J. Wilson leaves via free agency. In fact, it seems like the Rangers could handle that loss. Lewis, Matt Harrison and Derek Holland could be joined in the rotation by two from the group of Scott Feldman, Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando -- should the Rangers choose to take that path. Jon Daniels did say Monday that Feliz would be considered as a rotation candidate (T.R. Sullivan) and that's not surprising at all considering there have been similar discussions in the past.

Lewis was 14-10 with a 4.40 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 169 strikeouts in 200 1/3 innings during the regular season in 2011. His ability to raise his game in the postseason is a huge plus, too. He's 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA in eight career postseason starts.

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Posted on: October 31, 2011 11:39 am
Edited on: October 31, 2011 5:52 pm
 

Indians decline Grady Sizemore's option

By Matt Snyder

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The Cleveland Indians have decided against picking up center fielder Grady Sizemore's club option for 2012, meaning he's now a free agent. The ballclub also announced that it did pick up starting pitcher Fausto Carmona's club option, which is worth $7 million.

Sizemore's option would have been $9 million, but the Indians instead elected to buy his contract out for $500,000.

Sizemore, 29, was once headed to an outstanding career, but injuries have derailed him the past several seasons. He was an All-Star three straight seasons (2006-2008) and widely known as one of the best all-around players in baseball. He could hit for power, steal bases and play great defense in center. In the past three seasons, however, Sizemore has only managed 210 games and his numbers suffered with the injuries as well. He hit just .224/.285/.422 in 71 games in 2011. It will be interesting to see the market for Sizemore. It's entirely possible he can still return to elite form, but he carries some significant risk as well. The best guess is a one-year offer full of incentives is what he has to take.

And don't rule out a return to Cleveland.

"Grady is not going to rule out playing for anyone, including the Indians," said Joe Urbon, Sizemore's agent (Cleveland.com). "The only difference is now he is able to engage with all 30 teams."

Carmona, 27, was 7-15 with a 5.25 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and 109 strikeouts in 188 2/3 innings in 2011. He was an All-Star in 2010 and finished fourth in Cy Young voting back in 2007. Carmona is now signed through 2012 with club options for 2013 and 2014.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com