Tuesday, December 5, 2023

MLB free agency: Marcus Stroman, Cody Bellinger, Eduardo Rodriguez, more on market after options, opt-outs

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).


Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Detroit Tigers

Rodriguez had three years and $49 million left on his contract with Detroit, but Jon Heyman reports that he’s opted out and chosen free agency. Rodriguez in his age-30 season re-established his value quite nicely by registering a 3.30 ERA and 2.98 K/BB ratio in 152 2/3 innings for the Tigers. He owns an ERA+ of 112 across parts of eight MLB seasons.

Marcus Stroman, RHP, Chicago Cubs

Stroman exercised his opt-out with one year and $21 million remaining on his Cubs pact, Jon Heyman has reported. That means he’s a free agent and thus available to all teams. Stroman, 32, is coming off a 2023 season in which he pitched to a 3.95 ERA/113 ERA+ with a K/BB ratio of 2.29 in 136 2/3 innings — an innings total compromised by a hip injury that cost him almost six weeks. This past year, Stroman was named an All-Star for the second time in his career. 


Max Kepler, OF, Minnesota Twins

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.

Andrew Heaney, LHP, Texas Rangers

Heaney has exercised his $13 million player option for the 2024 season. He posted a 4.15 ERA (107 ERA+) and a 2.52 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 34 appearances with the Rangers.

José Leclerc, RHP, Texas Rangers

The Rangers exercised Leclerc’s club option worth $6.25 million. He appeared 57 times for the Rangers in 2023, compiling a 2.68 ERA (167 ERA+) and a 2.39 strikeout-to-walk ratio.


Joey Votto, 1B, Reds

The club announced that it was moving on from the franchise legend, which means they’ll pay his $7 million buyout rather than picking up the $20 million team option for 2024. Votto, 40, is coming off a 2023 season in which he slashed .202/.314/.433 with 14 home runs in 65 games. Given his age and recent injury history, Votto may opt for retirement. Whatever the case, he stands as one of the greatest players in Reds history.

Cody Bellinger, OF, Chicago Cubs

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.

Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox

The White Sox have declined their $14 million option on Anderson and instead opted for the $1 million buyout. That makes Anderson, 30, a free agent coming off the worst season of his career. In 2023, he batted just .245/.286/.296 with only one home run in 123 games. Anderson also showed signs of decline in the field, so it could be a tough market for the two-time All-Star.

Justin Turner, DH, Red Sox

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.

Liam Hendriks, RHP, Chicago White Sox

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.

Nick Martinez, RHP, San Diego Padres

Martinez and the Padres have declined their respective options — a $16 million club option for 2024 and an $8 million player option. That puts Martinez on the market. This past season, he made nine starts and 54 relief appearances for San Diego. Over that stretch, Martinez had an ERA of 3.43 in 110 1/3 innings. He’s 33 years of age.

Hector Neris, RHP, Houston Astros

Neris has passed on his his $8.5 million player option for 2024 and will become a free agent, Chandler Rome reports. Neris, 34, is coming off an excellent season in the Houston bullpen. In 68 1/3 relief innings for the Astros, he put up an ERA of 1.71 with 77 strikeouts.

Seth Lugo, RHP, San Diego Padres

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.

Lance Lynn, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

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.

Whit Merrifield, 2B/LF, Toronto Blue Jays

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.

Jorge Soler, OF, Miami Marlins

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.

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