The World Series has officially wrapped, but MLB free agency doesn’t officially begin until Monday, Nov. 6. In the intervening days, players and teams across the league will be making decisions on contract options for 2024 and beyond – whether to pick them up or decline them and roll the dice on the open market.
There are some big names in that group this winter, from Cubs righty Marcus Stroman to White Sox infielder Tim Anderson and more. And to help you keep on top of it all, we’re going to be keeping track of all the most notable decisions, broken up into options that were exercised and those that were declined.
Eduardo Rodriguez, SP
There was talk that Rodriguez and Tigers were working on restructuring his contract to keep him in Detroit, but in the end the veteran lefty chose to simply opt out of the three years and $49 million left on his deal and enter free agency. It’s not hard to understand why, after a career year in which he posted a career-best 3.30 ERA 152.2 innings — although it does make his refusal to accept a trade to the Dodgers back in August even more puzzling.
Marcus Stroman, SP
Stroman had possibly the most interesting decision to make of the early offseason, coming off a year in which the 32-year-old looked like a Cy Young candidate in the first half before a hip injury derailed things. In the end, though, delaying free agency for another year was simply too risky, and the righty opted out of the one year remaining on his deal (worth $21 million) in favor of cashing in now — and trying to convince prospective teams that the balky hip was the only reason for his second-half struggles.
Max Kepler, OF, Minnesota Twins
Jorge Polanco, 2B, Minnesota Twins
We’ll deal with these two teammates together. Kepler put together a career year at the right time, convincing Minnesota to pick up his $10 team option for 2024 after launching 24 home runs and posting the second-best OPS of his career. Polanco, meanwhile, has battled injury concerns over the past couple of seasons but has produced whenever he’s been on the field, with a 120 OPS+ over the last three years. Minnesota exercised his $10.5 million option for next season, while retaining a club option for 2025 as well.
Kyle Hendricks, SP, Chicago Cubs
Both Ted Ricketts and Jed Hoyer more or less confirmed as much earlier this fall, but the Cubs have indeed picked up the $16.5 million option to keep Hendricks in Chicago for an 11th season. The 33-year-old was solid once again in 2023 despite missing Opening Day as he recovered from shoulder surgery, with a 3.74 ERA in 24 starts.
Josh Bell, 1B, Miami Marlins
Bell felt like he could go either way based on how good he was after his trade to the Marlins, but $16.5 million in 2024 was too hard to turn down given how cold the market typically is for first basemen. The 31-year-old will slot into the middle of Miami’s lineup next season after hitting hit .270/.338/.480 in 53 games for the Fish.
Andrew Heaney, SP, Texas Rangers
One of Texas’ many World Series heroes has decided to run it back for another year, exercising his $13 million player option after an up-and-down regular season in which he posted a 4.15 ERA while moving in and out of the Texas rotation.
Jose Leclerc, RP, Texas Rangers
Speaking of World Series heroes: Leclerc was a revelation for Texas all October long, but rather than try and cash in on those postseason heroics he’ll be returning to the Rangers for $6.25 million in 2024. The righty posted a 2.68 ERA in the regular season, finally getting his command issues (mostly) under control.
Ross Stripling, SP/RP, San Francisco Giants
There seemed to be some bad blood between Stripling and the Giants as they couldn’t agree on just how healthy the righty was down the stretch. With a new manager in town, though, Stripling exercised his player option and will return to San Francisco for another season hoping to improve on his 5.36 ERA in 89 innings in 2023.
Michael Wacha, SP, San Diego Padres
San Diego must really, really need to clear out payroll this winter. The team declined the two-year, $32 million club option they had on Wacha, a 3.22 ERA in 24 starts. Now the righty will almost certainly decline his $6.5 player option, sending him to free agency amid a fairly thin pitching class.
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
For the first time since 2002, Votto is not employed by the Reds. Cincy was always going to have a hard time paying the franchise legend $20 million in 2024 given his age and checkered recent injury history, and now the question becomes whether the former MVP will retire or try to catch on with another team for the first time in his career. He slashed .202/.314/.433 with 14 home runs in 65 games this season.
Cody Bellinger, OF, Chicago Cubs
This was merely a formality, as Bellinger was never going to pick up his player option for next year after going 20/20 with a .307/.356/.525 line in 2023. He immediately becomes among the most coveted free agents on the market, and could be in for a nine-figure payday.
Tim Anderson, 2B/SS, Chicago White Sox
There remained some possibility that the White Sox would pick up Anderson’s $14 million option despite how bad he was this season — the middle-infield market is bleak, and they could always try to flip him in a trade — but Chicago opted for a $1 million buyout instead to send their long-time shortstop to free agency. Anderson hit just .245/.286/.296 with only one home run in 123 games and sketchy defense at the 6, so his market could be a tough one.
Justin Turner, INF/DH
Turner declined his $13.4 million option with the Red Sox, instead choosing a $6.7 million buyout to enter free agency. He’ll have no trouble clearing that number on the open market after a resurgent season in which he hit 23 homers with an .800 OPS — even in his age-39 season.
Liam Hendriks, RP
With Hendriks rehabbing from elbow surgery, the White Sox made the easy move to decline his $15 million option for next year. The righty will still get his money, though, as Chicago will still pay him a $15 million buyout in $1.5 million installments over the next decade.
Mike Clevinger, SP
The White Sox are also moving on from Clevinger, who declined his half of a $12 million mutual option. He quietly had a solid season in 2023, with a 3.77 ERA in 131.1 innings, and he could get a multi-year deal in a market thin on legit starters.
Nick Martinez, SP/RP
The Padres’ pitching staff will look very, very different in 2024, as the 33-year-old Martinez joined Wacha and Seth Lugo in moving on from San Diego. Martinez was an important if unheralded piece the Padres in 2023, compiling a 3.43 ERA in 110.1 innings that included nine starts throughout the year.
Hector Neris, RP
Neris, 34, had an excellent year as the setup man in Houston, with a 1.71 ERA and 77 strikeouts over 68.1 innings of relief for the Astros. He’ll look to cash in on that on the open market after turning down an $8.5 million player option for 2024.
Jorge Soler, DH/OF
After popping 36 homers for the Marlins in 2023, Soler turning down a $13 million player option should come as no surprise. There are plenty of DH types on the free-agent market this winter, but Soler is still just 31 and carries unmatched upside at the plate when he gets it rolling.
Lance Lynn, SP
Given Clayton Kershaw’s shoulder surgery and all the other unknowns in the Dodgers rotation entering 2024, there remained a chance that the team would exercise Lynn’s $18 million option despite his middling performance after coming to L.A. at the trade deadline. The righty will receive a $1 million buyout instead, as Andrew Friedman and Co. now turn their attention to a free-agent class that features the likes of Blake Snell, Eduardo Rodriguez and Lucas Giolito.
Seth Lugo, SP
Amid a deeply disappointing year for the Padres, Lugo was a rare bright spot, posting a 3.57 ERA over a career-high 26 starts. He’s in position to cash in with a multi-year deal on the open market this winter, so turning down a $7.5 million player option was more or less a no-brainer.
Whit Merrifield, INF/OF
Merrifield and the Blue Jays each declined their halves of an $18 million mutual option, meaning the former Royals star 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.