Major League Baseball’s free-agent market will not open for business until Monday. Between now and then, teams and players across the league will be making decisions on various kinds of contractual options. Our own Mike Axisa analyzed five of the most intriguing calls elsewhere, including those belonging to right-handed starter Marcus Stroman and shortstop Tim Anderson.
Below, CBS Sports will be chronicling the weekend’s most notable option calls ahead of the official start of business. To improve your reading experience, we’ve separated the options into two handy categories: those that were exercised and those that were declined (making the player a free agent).
Kepler launched 24 home runs and posted the second best OPS+ of his career in 2023. The Twins rewarded him by exercising a $10 million club option (as opposed to a $1 million buyout). Kepler will become a free agent next winter.
Jorge Polanco, 2B, Minnesota Twins
Polanco has missed serious time because of injury over the last two seasons, appearing in just 184 total games. He’s produced when healthy, and that was reason enough for the Twins to exercise a $10.5 million club option. The Twins retained a club option on Polanco for the 2025 season as well.
In what was a mere formality, Bellinger declined his half of a $25 million option, the team announced. He will receive a $5 million buyout and become a free agent. Bellinger, who is still only 28, authored a .307/.356/.525 batting line in 2023, and is poised to sign a nine-figure contract this offseason.
Turner has declined his $13.4 million player option, the Red Sox announced. Turner will collect a $6.7 million buyout and become a free agent. Thanks to the buyout, this was only a $6.7 million decision for Turner. He should have no trouble beating that on the open market, even with his 39th birthday coming up later this month.
As expected, the White Sox declined their $15 million club option on Hendriks, according to the New York Post. His option decision was one of the most interesting of the offseason. The White Sox still owe Hendriks a $15 million buyout, though it will be paid out in $1.5 million annual installments from 2024-35 rather than all in 2024. Hendriks had Tommy John surgery in August and is likely to miss the entire 2024 season.
Mike Clevinger, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Clevinger declined his half of a $12 million mutual option, the White Sox announced Friday. He will receive a $4 million buyout and become a free agent. The 32-year-old had a solid 2023 season — 3.77 ERA and 3.3 WAR in 131 1/3 innings — and figures to seek a multi-year contract in a free-agent market that is thin on quality starting pitchers.
Lugo started a career-high 26 games for the Padres last season, amassing a 3.57 ERA (115 ERA+) and a 3.89 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That was enough for him to decline a $7.5 million player option in favor of testing the open market again.
The Dodgers have declined their $18 million option on Lynn’s services, according to The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya. Lynn, acquired from the Chicago White Sox at the deadline, will instead receive a $1 million buyout. Lynn started 32 games last season, compiling a 5.73 ERA (77 ERA+) and a 2.85 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Merrifield and the Blue Jays each declined their portions of an $18 million mutual option. As such, Merrifield will collect a $500,000 buyout en route to the open market. He made his third All-Star Game last season, though he also finished with the second-lowest full-season WAR total of his career.
That Soler rejected a $13 million player option should come as no surprise. He had one of the best offensive seasons of his career in 2023, homering 36 times and amassing a 128 OPS+. He now profiles as one of the better DH options in the class.