MLB free agency: Marcus Stroman, Cody Bellinger, Eduardo Rodriguez, more on the market after picks, opt-outs
Major League Baseball’s free agent market does not open for business until Monday. Between now and then, teams and players around the league will be making decisions on various types of contractual options. Our own Mike Axisa analyzed five of the most interesting calls elsewhere, including those involving right-handed starter Marcus Stroman and shortstop Tim Anderson.
Below, CBS Sports breaks down the weekend’s most notable draft picks before business officially begins. To improve your reading experience, we have separated the options into two corresponding categories: those used and those rejected (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Rodriguez had three years and $49 million left on his contract with Detroit, but Jon Heyman reports that he has withdrawn and chosen a free agency. Rodriguez in his age-30 season re-established his value quite nicely by posting a 3.30 ERA and 2.98 K/BB in 152 2/3 innings for the Tigers. He owns an ERA+ of 112 over 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 contract, Jon Heyman has reported. That means he is a free agent and therefore 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 2.29 K/BB ratio in 136 2/3 innings — a total of innings compromised by a hip injury which cost him nearly six. weeks. This year, Stroman was named an All-Star for the second time in his career.
Max Kepler, OF, Minnesota Twins
Kepler hit 24 home runs and posted the second-best OPS+ of his career in 2023. The Twins rewarded him with a $10 million club option (versus a $1 million buyout). Kepler will be a free agent next winter.
Jorge Polanco, 2B, Minnesota Twins
Polanco has missed significant time due to injury over the past two seasons, appearing in just 184 total games. He’s produced when he’s healthy, and that was reason enough for the Twins to exercise his $10.5 million club option. The Twins also retained a club option on Polanco for the 2025 season.
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 made 57 appearances for the Rangers in 2023, compiling a 2.68 ERA (167 ERA+) and a 2.39 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Michael Wacha, RHP, Padres
The Padres have declined Wacha’s two-year, $32 million club option. Wacha is now expected to decline his $6.5 million player option, making him a free agent, according to The Athletic’s Dennis Lin. Wacha started 24 times for San Diego, posting a 3.22 ERA (127 ERA+) and a 2.88 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Joey Votto, 1B, Red
The club announced that it was, which means they will pay his $7 million buyout rather than pick 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. 65 games. With his age and recent injury history, Votto may choose to retire. 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, still only 28, posted a .307/.356/.525 batting line in 2023, and is set to sign a nine-figure contract this season.
Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
The White Sox declined their $14 million option on Anderson and instead opted for the $1 million buyout. That leaves Anderson, 30, a free agent coming off the worst season of his career. In 2023, he batted just .245/.286/.296 with just 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 purchase, this was only a $6.7 million decision for Turner. He should have no problem hitting 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. . The White Sox are still responsible for a $15 million buyout for Hendriks, although it will be paid out in annual installments of $1.5 million from 2024-35 rather than all in 2024. Hendriks had Tommy John surgery in August and will likely 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 multiyear deal in a free agent market thin on quality starting pitchers.
Nick Martinez, RHP, San Diego Padres
Martinez and the Padres have declined their options — a $16 million club option for 2024 and an $8 million player option. That puts Martinez on the market. Last season, he made nine starts and 54 relief appearances for San Diego. Over that stretch, Martinez had a 3.43 ERA in 110 1/3 innings. He is 33 years old.
Hector Neris, RHP, Houston Astros
Neris has surrendered his $8.5 million player option for 2024 and will become a free agent, Chandler Rome reports. Neris, 34, is having a good season in the Houston bullpen. In 68 1/3 innings of relief for the Astros, he posted a 1.71 ERA with 77 strikeouts.
Seth Lugo, RHP, San Diego Padres
Lugo started a career-high 26 games for the Padres last season, compiling 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 to test 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, who was 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 declined their shares of each other’s $18 million option. Therefore, Merrifield will collect a $500,000 purchase on the way to the open market. He made his third All-Star Game last season, though he also finished with the second-lowest overall WAR season of his career.
Jorge Soler, OF, Miami Marlins
That Soler turned down a $13 million player option should come as no surprise. He had one of the best offensive seasons of his career in 2023, hitting 36 home runs and compiling a 128 OPS+. It now ranks as one of the best DH options in the class.