As we discussed earlier, one of the first orders of business for players and teams after the World Series ends is making decisions on options for 2017, which must occur within five days of the end of the World Series (so that would be the very end of the day on Monday night).
Several options decisions have already been made around baseball. To name just a few of the bigger ones: Yoenis Cespedes opted out of his deal with the Mets and back into free agency (technically, that’s a player option), the Cardinals retained Jaime Garcia for $12 million, the Red Sox retained Clay Buchholz for $13.5 million, and the Tigers picked up Cameron Maybin’s $9 million option and then traded him to the Angels.
For the Cubs, there are two options decisions to make in the coming days. The first, which we’ll discuss in greater detail separately, is a $12 million club option on pitcher Jason Hammel, which comes with a $2 million buyout. Early best guess? Given the weak free agent market and the Cubs’ relative lack of starting pitching depth, I’m thinking the Cubs are more likely than not to pick up the option.
The other option decision for the Cubs would be a no-brainer on their side, but it’s a mutual option. Dexter Fowler, you’ll recall, re-signed with the Cubs in a dramatic Spring Training turn, after a long and disappointing offseason, and after the Orioles wouldn’t put together a compelling offer. The deal with the Cubs was a one-year, $8 million contract that came with a $9 million mutual option and a $5 million buyout for 2017. In essence, we’ve been thinking of it as a one-year, $13 million deal, with some downside protection in case of injury or serious performance degradation.
Since neither of those things happened, then, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that Fowler, 30, plans to decline his half of the mutual option, locking in the buyout, and thus completing the one-year, $13 million deal we all anticipated it would be. (And what a perfect deal that was for the Cubs, and, arguably, a perfect situation for Fowler, too.)
Speaking on ESPN’s SportsCenter last night, Fowler said he will enter free agency this year, and hopes that it’s a quicker process than last year. It remains to be seen whether the Cubs aggressively pursue Fowler, who will be one of the better free agents available in a weak class. He’s coming off of a great season, and was clearly integral to the Cubs’ success this season. With Albert Almora Jr. waiting in the wings to claim an outfield spot, though, it’s possible the Cubs decide Fowler’s market will be too robust for them to devote their future resources in that way (particularly when you consider an already crowded outfield, and needs on the pitching side (hey, I could have, and probably did, type that exact sentence last year!)).
Whether they pursue him or not, the Cubs will make him a qualifying offer by Monday’s deadline to do so. The one-year offer is for $17.2 million, and will presumably be declined by Fowler. If he declines and signs with another team, and if the free agent compensation rules remain in place this offseason, the Cubs will get a compensatory draft pick next year.