Club Option Clock Keeps Ticking Away


Jed Jacobsohn/ Getty Images

A funny thing happened behind the scenes around the MLB about the time New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera visualized Phillies hitter Shane Victorino swing and sent an easy ground ball towards Robinson Cano at second base last night. We on the surface saw the play send the Yankee Stadium crowd into hysteria while celebrating their 27th World Series title.

And that sparked a sea of celebrations all over the country and on that same field, but it also silently ushered in a 14-day time period that will have Major League Baseball free agents and  some players sitting on the “club option” fence wondering if their teams really do want them.

I kind of see this next two weeks like those wild and crazy hallway chatter that we all had back in High School. You know the ones I am talking about here. You will hear a lot of chatter some thrown out as ramblings, and “he said/she said” sound bytes, but it might simply be camouflage to the real intentions. And even the words “trust me” have to be taken with a grain of salt, even from your BFF. 

It is a time where team actions will mean more than words, and someone in that hallway always seems to end up with a broken heart or crushed ego. And this is that short slice of time where not everyone will get what they want,or even what they deserve before the time clock clicks to zero.

Some players will be booted to the curb outside their stadiums and offered small buyouts as consolation prizes. And some might get lucky enough to be asked to sign a contract to make them a financial fit for another team to acquire them and relieve their old team of any financial burdens. It is that weird slice of time where the  season’s accolades and rewards all might dissolve instantly away and you get power plays via the fiscal market.

And you can be sure there will be more than a few MLB players’ agents wandering the hotel halls in Chicago wanting a few moments to get some  good vibes or even comfort for their clients before this 2 week team bloodletting is over. You will see more than a few agents firmly attached to their cells or to a team reps arm to confirm or even deny even the dumbest rumors and facts hitting the hallways.

Canadian Press

And in these clandestine chats some words will not be what the agents and their clients want to hear at all. Take today’s announcement that the New York Mets are parting ways with once highly loved closer/set-up guy J J Putz  by declining his 2010 season. The Mets were infatuated with Putz when they acquired him originally as an insurance policy if K-Rod faltered, but now they would rather release him and give him a $1 million “walk away” parting gift prize instead and let him hit the open market.

But even within the first few hours of this  timed free-for-all, there has been a winner in the guessing game. And you have to think that this move has been going on behind the scene, but a conclusion to the World Series can bring about a “official” announcement. Angels rightfielder Bobby Abreu, who  originally signed a low ball figure of $ 5 million to play in 2009, got a multi-year contract today of at least $ 19 million guaranteed over the next two seasons.

Not only has Abreu done everything the Angels asked of him, and more, but he did it at below market value to show his interest in remaining with the team. Some thought it was ill-advised when he first signed in the Spring of 2009, but now it has blossomed into a nice 2-year $9 million dollar per season contract (2010-2011) with a  club option at the same amount could vest based on plate appearances for 2012.  And even if he is not retained past 2011, he can get a $1 million consolation prize out of the deal.

And in the next few days there will be many more players like former Arizona pitcher Daniel Cabrera who will option for free agency instead of a minor league assignment. During this short time some teams will tease players with minor league assignments to test their willingness to stay in the team’s good graces than to take the option of free agency.

And you know there are more than a handful of players whispering the words trying to get them out through the hallways and byways of the Internet that some guys thought to be safe with their teams might be fighting for their careers with their clubs to vest their options before all is said and done in 14 days.

Guys like ex- Diamondback Chad Tracy and ex-Dodger pitcher Jon Garland have already seen their options turned down and are heading to the free agent market again. But both of these announcements might not be as surprising considering Tracy’s $ 7 million and Garland’s $ 10 million option amounts. Finances play a huge role in these decisions, and have to be done without emotional attachments to the players. 

Eric Mangin / Getty Images

There is even a sense of uneasiness in the celebrating clubhouse of newly crowned World Champion New York Yankees that some roster mates who celebrated into the late morning today might have celebrated their last night as a Yankee. You have to consider that starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang will not be pitching for the Yankees come Spring Training in 2010. That the team might use his latest injuries as an indicator that he might be a durable option come 2010 and search for alternatives. But there are others even within their opponents locker room who might also feel some intense heat before all is said and done over the next 14 days.

You have to consider that the Phillies brain trust has already been throwing ideas and possible solutions via a “Plan B” for the increasing run mudslide that closer Brad Lidge produced during the 2009 regular season and also in the playoffs. There will be a nice wealth of closers in the free agent market, and Lidge might be spending his last days in red pinstripes. But the Philadelphia team also has a huge decision to make about their third base options in the next few days.

Current third baseman Pedro Felix has a $5 million option  on the table with a $500 thousand buyout that the team has to be considered before they even swirl the free agent waters. Could he be on the way out with someone like ex-Mariner Andre Beltre wading his toes in the free agent marketplace. Some say a Beltre hook-up with Philly would be a match made in heaven, but we have heard that all too often in the past to believe in the fairytale. And you can be sure the Phillies might wait until the last moment to announce anything concerning Felix.

As every MLB team
has a chance to tease and please their current players with club options and possible extended deals  over the next few weeks,their are more than a few who could be pushed out by dollar signs and not true talent evaluations. I actually think that the trade  announcement of multi-dimensional player Mark Teahen going to the Chicago White Sox from the Kansas City Royals is a perfect indicator of teams loving their player, until a deal comes around they can not pass over.

It should be interesting over the next 14 days with more than a few surprises, and hopefully more anti climatic moments for some teams and their players. But you can be sure that there will be more than few declined options or even last moment trades that will bring out a shock and awe to all of us. there is always one guy thought to be on solid ground that all of a sudden is either sent packing or sent to a rival without hesitation.

but that is the nature of the game time of the season. It is not like they do not want to keep these players on their team, or do not covet them as contributors, but the end result might be that the team really was not just that into the player and saw a way out of the relationship.

Yep, just like High School, the deal might be conveyed from friend of a friend, or a causal phone call from their agent, but in the end, it will not be personal, it will be business. And that is a sucky part of the whole process. Sometimes talent and ability is weighed down by dollar signs and the end is in plain view for a player this time of year. Banner years and fan love are not played into the equations this time of year, the reality of the game owns this time of the year.

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