We’re roughly a third of the way through the 2023 season. Players have had a couple months to build something of a performance track record that’ll play a role in their future contracts. With that in mind, MLBTR will take a look over the coming days at players whose contracts contain team or mutual options to gauge the early trajectory for those upcoming decisions.
We’ll go division by division and open things in the National League West:
Chafin lingered in free agency over the winter after opting out of his deal with the Tigers. The seeming lack of market interest was perplexing given the lefty reliever’s consistent effectiveness over the past few seasons. He’s carried that over into his second stint in the desert. Through 20 1/3 innings, Chafin owns a 3.10 ERA. He’s punched out 36% of opposing hitters on a huge 16.2% swinging strike percentage, both of which would be career-high marks. He’s not a prototypical fireballing reliever but he’s demonstrated he’s capable of missing bats and thriving in high-leverage situations for the past few years. The $6.5MM net decision on next year’s option looks more than reasonable if he keeps this up.
- Zach Davies: $5.5MM mutual option ($300K buyout, rises to $500K with 16+ starts)
Davies has been limited to three starts by a left oblique strain. He has allowed eight runs with a modest 10:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 12 2/3 innings. There’s not much to go on yet in terms of 2023 performance but Davies looked like a borderline fifth starter the previous two years. The Diamondbacks have enough young pitching they seem likelier to buy him out unless the soft-tossing righty rediscovers his 2019-20 form for the stretch run.
- Miguel Castro: $5MM option vests with 60+ appearances; would become $6MM player option with 40+ games finished (no buyout)
Castro has already pitched 26 times since signing with Arizona over the winter. He’s on pace to easily surpass the 60-appearance threshold needed to vest next year’s $5MM option if he can avoid the injured list. It could be a closer call as to whether he can turn that guaranteed $5MM salary into a $6MM player option; Castro has finished 12 games thus far, putting him just off the 40-game pace he’d need to do so. (He’s on pace for 36 games finished). Castro has been effective — a 2.22 ERA with roughly average strikeout, walk and swinging strike numbers through 24 1/3 innings — so vesting the player option and retesting the market isn’t out of the question.
Melancon struggled to a 4.66 ERA in 56 innings during his first season in Arizona. He hasn’t pitched this year on account of a Spring Training shoulder strain. Melancon might return in the second half but this is trending towards the team buying him out.
Márquez underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this month. He’ll miss the majority of next season as he rehabs. A healthy Márquez would’ve made this an easy call for the Rockies to exercise but the procedure means they’ll buy him out. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Rox try to bring him back on a lesser salary or a multi-year deal with an eye towards 2025.
Hand’s peripherals had fallen back between 2021-22 from his All-Star peak. He’s continued to keep runs off the board and seen a notable bounceback in his strikeout rate since a Spring Training deal with Colorado. Hand owns a 3.20 ERA through 19 2/3 frames while striking out 33.7% of batters faced on a decent 11.6% swinging strike percentage. The veteran southpaw has dominated left-handed hitters and is yet to allow a home run this season. If he maintains this form, he’ll be one of the top reliever trade candidates this summer. If Colorado hangs onto him, they could be faced with an interesting decision as to whether to keep him around for an extra $6.5MM next winter.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers signed Muncy to a $13.5MM deal last summer even as he was amidst his worst season since landing in L.A. They’ve been rewarded with a massive bounceback showing. Muncy is tied for second in the majors with 17 home runs. He’s only hitting .208 but carrying a strong .340 on-base percentage thanks to an elite 15.8% walk rate. The $10MM price point would be an easy decision for the Dodgers if Muncy keeps up anything approaching this pace.
Los Angeles brought Hudson back last summer on the heels of a season-ending ACL tear. The veteran reliever hasn’t recovered as quickly from that procedure as he’d hoped. Hudson hasn’t pitched yet this season. He told reporters last night he’ll throw a bullpen session this week but is without a timeline for a return to game action (via Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times). It remains to be seen how he’ll look when he takes the mound.
- Alex Reyes: $3MM team option with escalators ($100K buyout)
The Dodgers took a $1.1MM flier on Reyes after he lost the 2022 season to shoulder surgery. He’s on the 60-day injured list and not expected to be a factor until around the All-Star Break. This one remains to be determined based on his post-rehab form.
- Blake Treinen (option value between $1-7MM dependent on time spent on IL)
Treinen underwent surgery to repair the rotator cuff and labrum in his throwing shoulder last November. He won’t pitch much, if at all, this season. Treinen’s contract contains an option with a floating value between $1MM and $7MM depending on how much time he spends on the injured list and the issue that puts him on the shelf. Its precise value is yet to be determined, but MLBTR has confirmed it’ll land towards the lower end of that range given Treinen’s surgery.
San Diego Padres
- Nick Martinez: team has two-year, $32MM option; if declined, Martinez has two-year, $16MM player option
Martinez has taken on a similar swing role as he served during his first year in San Diego. The right-hander started his first four outings and pitched reasonably well. He was nevertheless bumped back into relief thereafter. For the second consecutive season, Martinez has proven a key multi-inning arm out of the bullpen. He’s posted a 1.35 ERA with a quality 20:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 20 relief innings, holding opponents to a pitiful .240/.278/.267 batting line.
There’s little question of Martinez’s effectiveness in a relief role, though a $16MM average annual value could be pricy if the organization isn’t planning on giving him another look out of the rotation. Perhaps Martinez’s production over the final four months makes this a clearer decision for San Diego by season’s end. As of now, it looks like a borderline call — not too dissimilar from Martinez’s question of whether to opt out of three years and $18MM last winter. The Padres liked him enough to subsequently re-sign him to a $26MM guarantee with the complex option structure.
- Michael Wacha: team has two-year, $32MM option; if declined, Wacha has $6.5MM player option (with successive player options for 2025-26)
Wacha lingered in free agency last winter. Clubs seemed reluctant to buy into his solid results for the Red Sox, a reflection of middling strikeout and ground-ball numbers. Since landing in San Diego, he’s basically repeating last year’s script. The run prevention is excellent; he’s allowed a 3.45 ERA through 57 1/3 innings over ten starts. Wacha is again throwing strikes and keeping runs off the board despite roughly average strikeout and swinging strike rates.
Maintaining a mid-3.00s ERA for a second straight season might build confidence in his ability to outperform ERA estimators that suggest he’s more of a solid #4 starter than a mid-rotation arm. That said, Wacha doesn’t look all that different now than he did three months ago, when he signed a four-year guarantee with a $6.5MM average annual value. A jump to the $16MM per-year range could be a tougher sell for San Diego, although there’s little doubt Wacha would opt out of the final three years and $18.5MM on his contract if he keeps pitching like this and the Padres decline their end.
San Francisco Giants
Cobb has pitched well since signing a two-year deal with San Francisco over the 2021-22 offseason. He carries a 3.05 ERA through his first 11 starts this year. Cobb’s 60.6% ground-ball rate is stellar and he’s posted average strikeout and walk numbers (21.3% and 6.7%, respectively). An $8MM net decision would be an easy call for the Giants to exercise if Cobb maintains this pace. He’s dealt with injuries in the past but managed 149 2/3 innings over 28 starts last year and has avoided the IL in 2023.
All stats through play Monday.