Admittedly, few of these decisions come as much of a surprise as they are directly related to the ratio of cost vs. performance or lack thereof.
Let’s first take a look at some of the players staying with their 2012 clubs.
The Mets, unsurprisingly, exercised their options on both David Wright and R.A. Dickey as they are working towards long term deal for both players and did not want have to combat other teams in order to bring them back. Wright had a nice comeback at the right time, his excellent plate discipline and power reemerging. Interestingly, Wright’s fly-ball rate was one of the lowest marks of his career, so it’s actually possible a slight HR total uptick might be possible for 2013. Dickey, 38, threw his knuckleball over 80% of the time, showing an ability to vary its speed and throw it for strikes. So a two to three year deal is actually reasonable given the limited wear and tear of the knuckleball. 2012 was Dickey’s third straight season of posting sub 2.5 BB/9, but his first posting over a 6.0 K/9, so some regression has to be expected.
Dodger Head Scratcher
In the most surprising move thus far, Brandon League parlayed 27.1 innings of a 8.9 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 into a three-year deal with an option for a fourth. League’s been up and down with both his strikeout and his control skills throughout his career, so a commitment of this magnitude could be mistake.
The Tigers quickly picked up the options of Octavio Dotel and Jhonny Peralta. $3.5 M for a pitcher with closing experience and a long history, including 2012, of being able to strike out more than a batter per innings makes sense. The righty is absolute death on righties with a career .186 .252 .331 line against. Meanwhile $6 M is pretty much a steal for a starting shortstop with power, even if Peralta is something of a one-year-on, one-year off type of player with up and down batting averages on balls in play. Given Peralta’s perennial fairly high line-drive rates, 2013 is a far bet for a bounce back season after hitting .239 with a .275 BABIP compared to a career .310 BABIP.
The White Sox tried to make a move to the post season and came up short. While the Sox extended the contract of Jake Peavy for two additional years for $29 M both Brett Myers and Kevin Youkilis were let go. Peavy will turn 32 at the end of next May and is coming off his first 30+ start season since 2007. That said, Peavy’s skills and talents have never waned as the former Padre posted an 8.0 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. In other words, Peavy pitched like the ace the Sox needed and was rewarded as such. Given his health history, however, a one-year-at-a-time approach really seems more prudent. On the open market, however, Peavy probably would have received even more.
The Sox were certainly prudent, when it came to Youkilis, preferring to pay the veteran a $1 M dollar buyout rather than $13 M dollars. The righty will be 34 prior to the start of 2013, has begun to wear down due to injuries and is no longer a significant on-base or power-threat. Youkilis struggles against righties to great degree, batting .234 and .220 against them in back to back seasons. Though the White Sox used Youk at third, there was a reason the Red Sox had been using him primarily at first in recent years. Sad to say, but the Jewish Greek God of walks is now best suited to wrong side of the platoon split duty.
Brett Myers has been rather effective as both a starter and as a reliever for the Astros over the past three seasons. However, the righty’s K/9 has declined each of the past three when one would have at least expected an uptick in 2012 given the change in role to relief, but that was not the case despite a 3 mph improvement in fastball velocity. That’s either a red flag or an anomaly. Like Youkilis, a $10M option for someone likely to be used in a setup role was an easy decision. Now the field is wide open for Myers who can pick amongst offers to either start or relieve.
Hitting Homers Isn’t Everything
In two seasons with the Orioles, Mark Reynolds hit 50 HRs, yet hit .221 with sub .340 OBPs in each of those years while playing a sub-par 3B. So when faced with a $500K buyout vs. a $11 M option, this was once again a rather easy decision. Reynolds is actually still arbitration eligible, but given the likelihood that the righty might actually a, it will be rather shocking to see the Orioles even offer it when the time comes.
The Royals and Twins declined the options Joakim Soria and Scott Baker respectively. Both are working their ways back from Tommy John surgery. Soria had an $8.75 M option with a $500K buyout and Baker a $9.25M option. It is very possible both pitchers will return to their respective clubs at much lower prices with incentives and options for when they return to health. Baker underwent surgery in April of this year, so it is hard to see the righty making much of a contribution before mid-season. Soria’s timetable is slightly better (March surgery) and a relief role may expedite the former closer’s return.
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