Hot Stove Rumor Roundup: More Decisions Looming

Good morning, Mets fans! While the rumor mill has yet to get cranking, there are still an array of team and player options to be declined or accepted, along with a number of contracts that were determined yesterday… many of which could shape the Mets’ offseason plans as they look at potential upgrades behind the plate, along the bench, and within the bullpen.

Option Deadline on Kershaw Pushed Back

The Los Angeles Dodgers are set to find out whether or not three-time Cy Young award winner and 2014 NL MVP Clayton Kershaw will strap in for another year, as the team announced earlier yesterday. Kershaw, 30, just finished the fifth year of a seven-year contract that includes player options he can decline both this offseason and the 2020 offseason. In 26 starts, the lefty posted a solid 2.73 ERA, but averaged just 8.6 K/9 as his WAR tapered off at 3.3 – both stats career-lows dating back to his debut in 2008.

That said, Kershaw remains one of the very best pitchers in Major League Baseball, and would most definitely reel in a lucrative deal should he decline his option. He has spent time on the disabled list for parts of the last three seasons, however, and could take a $34.5M mulligan as he vies for his first 3o-start season since 2015.

Astros Decline Options on McCann, Harris

In an unsurprising move, the Houston Astros have pulled the plug on catcher Brian McCann. Per a club announcement, McCann will hit the free agent market after the team declined his $15M option for 2019. Knee problems that would ultimately require surgery limited the 34-year old to just 63 games in 2018 as he lugged through the worst offensive season of his career, as he hit just .212/.301/.339 with seven homers and 23 RBI.

With that said, McCann also posted his highest dWAR (0.9) since 2014, throwing out 32% of baserunners for the third-highest mark of his career, and will enter a relatively thin pool of backstops. From 2015 to 2017, he had the fourth-most homers (64) and boasted the fifth-highest walk-rate (10.1%) among catchers. He certainly doesn’t own the credentials of a Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos, but could still benefit a team in need of a strong backup or, at the very least, veteran voice.

The Astros also cut ties with right-handed reliever Will Harris, as first reported by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Despite posting a meek 3.49 ERA beneath the likes of Chris Devenski, Roberto Osuna, and Collin McHugh, He did manage a 2.44 FIP, averaging 10.2 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 in 61 games. Harris, 34, would have been owed $5.5M had the Astros thrown him a bone, but given his 1.33 ERA from July 27 through the end of the regular season and his curveball registered as the fifth-best in the majors at 7.8 runs above average. He may fly under the radar with this offseason’s current crop of unemployed relievers, but could definitely be of use should the Mets seek out a smaller-scale option to work middle innings.

Other Exercised Options/Retained Players

Marco Gonzales (26), Seattle Mariners – The lefty starter was projected to make league minimum over the next two seasons before going to arbitration, but the organization is clearly pushing more of its chips to the middle of the pile by essentially handing him an extra $900K with a 2-year, $1.9M contract (first reported by Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports). His swinging-strike percentage on pitches outside the zone (35.9%) was fifth-highest in the majors.

Eduardo Nuñez (31), Boston Red Sox – Nuñez accepted his $5M player option after serving a utility role along the infield in 2018. He slashed just .265/.289/.388 in his first full season with Boston, but clicked in the second half (when healthy), as his .282/.301/.435 line can confirm. His -14 DRS was the third-worst among big-league second basemen, behind two familiar names in Asdrubal Cabrera (-17) and Daniel Murphy (-18).

Pedro Strop (33), Chicago Cubs – Having exercised his option, the Cubs will owe the righty $6.25M for the final season of a three-year contract he signed in 2017 (team announcement). Working primarily in middle relief, Strop only amassed 13 saves and nine holds, but still owned a shiny 2.26 ERA and 0.989 WHIP as he notched 60 appearances for the sixth time in seven years.

David Freese (35), Los Angeles Dodgers – The Dodgers’ decision surrounding Freese’s player option was expected to be announced later today, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported last night an agreement between the two. Freese makes $500K in the buyout as his current option is declined, but he still makes $4.5M in his new deal. The corner infielder hit .385/.489/.641 across 47 plate appearances in a month with Los Angeles, serving primarily as a right-handed platoon option at first base.

Updates on Familiar Faces

In other news, the Baltimore Orioles inked former Met pitcher Gabriel Ynoa to a minor league contract while outrighting former lefty specialist Sean Gilmartin off of the 40-man roster (Brittany Ghiroli, MLB). Gilmartin has elected free agency.

Ynoa was first sold to the Orioles in February of 2017 after six solid years in the minor leagues (3.42 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 5.7 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, and 0.7 HR/9 in over 800 innings) and a brief taste of big-league action in 2016 (13 earned runs in three starts and seven relief appearances totaling 18.1 innings). He made just two starts in 2018 with the Orioles’ Double-A Bowie team, nursing a stress reactor in his shin through most of the season. All-in-all, Ynoa’s only experience with Baltimore’s major league club comes in nine appearances (four starts), a 4.15 ERA, and a 1.36 WHIP.

As for Gilmartin, he has struggled to find consistent work since being claimed off waivers by the St. Louis Cardinals in July of last year. After posting a sparkling 2.67 ERA through 50 games in his 2015 rookie campaign, Gilmartin fell victim to the long-ball, allowing six homers through his next 21 innings over two brutal seasons shuttling between New York and Las Vegas. He tossed 27 innings of long-relief with the Orioles last year, allowing just nine runs albeit on four home runs, and a weak 1.36 K/BB ratio accounted for his 5.42 FIP.

Though his struggles are less extreme in the minors, Gilmartin still owns a 5.86 ERA across his last two years between Double-A and Triple-A, with hits (131 through 106 innings) and homers (15) accounting for the lion’s share of his issues.

About Jack Hendon 139 Articles
Jack Hendon (@jack_hendon99 on Twitter) is a sophomore at Haverford College, special assistant/statistician for the baseball team, prospective English major and psychology minor, and contributor to MetsMerized Online. He was seven when he saw Carlos Beltran take strike three in the 2006 NLCS, and since then has concentrated his love for the Mets through writing about particular fan memories, while also devoting time to recapping games, analyzing pitchers, and heckling (when appropriate) at Citi Field. LGM!