The first major offseason milestone will come not long after the final out of the World Series is in the books, with 2022 option decisions due within five days of the end of the Fall Classic.
Depending how things play out, an already star-studded free-agent class could get even more robust.
Here’s a list of players with 2022 options sorted by option type and based on the likelihood that their option will be exercised (or that they’ll opt out of their contract.)
Likely to opt out
Nick Castellanos, OF, Reds
Two years left on four-year, $64 million deal
In his age-29 season, Castellanos posted career-best numbers in many major categories, including homers (34), batting average (.309), on-base percentage (.362) and slugging (.576). He’s in a great position to opt out for a better deal with two years and $34 million in guaranteed money left on his contract.
J.D. Martinez, DH, Red Sox
One year left on five-year, $110 million deal
Martinez told WEEI in late September that he was “right in the middle” in deciding whether to opt out or not. The veteran slugger is guaranteed $19.35 million in 2022. If he opts out, he might have trouble finding a contract that would pay him that much on an annual basis, considering he’s 34 years old and best suited for full-time DH duty.
Unlikely to opt out
Nolan Arenado, 3B, Cardinals
Six years left on nine-year, $275 million deal
Arenado, who had 34 homers, 105 RBIs and a 121 OPS+ during his first season with the Cardinals, isn't going to walk away from the $179 million he’s still owed. “I will not be opting out," Arenado told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in September. "I will be coming back. That was always the plan. I’m absolutely coming back. I feel like this year has been special in a lot of senses. I want to play with all these guys. I’m excited I’ll be back.” Arenado will have another chance to opt out next offseason.
Trevor Bauer, RHP, Dodgers
Two years left on three-year, $102 million deal
Bauer has been on administrative leave since July as MLB investigates assault allegations against him.
Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees
$2.3 million player option; $7.15 million club option ($1.15M buyout)
Gardner could sign on for his 15th season with the Yankees if he exercises his player option. If he declines, New York would likely opt to pay him a $1.15 million buyout instead of picking up his club option.
Kevin Pillar, OF, Mets
$2.9 million player option; $6.4 million club option ($1.4 million buyout)
If Pillar doesn’t exercise his player option, the Mets likely wouldn’t pick up his club option, so he’s basically deciding between $2.9 million or $1.4 million plus whatever he gets in free agency.
Justin Wilson, LHP, Reds
$2.3 million player option; $7.15 million club option ($1.15 million buyout)
Wilson had a 5.29 ERA in 2021, but he pitched to a 2.81 mark after the Yankees traded him to the Reds in July. The reliever market isn’t especially strong this year, so Wilson could decide to decline his player option.
Likely to be picked up
Charlie Blackmon, OF, Rockies
$21 million player option
Blackmon indicated at the end of the 2021 season that he has no plans of leaving Colorado. The outfielder also has a player option for 2023 that is currently valued at $13 million and can max out at $18 million if he reaches various incentives.
Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, Brewers
$9.5 million player option ($6.5 million buyout)
Bradley remains a strong defensive outfielder, but he just became the first player since Mario Mendoza in 1979 to post a sub-.500 OPS while tallying at least 400 plate appearances in a season. Although Bradley would get a $6.5 million buyout if he declines his 2022 player option, he’d also be walking away from a guaranteed $8 million from the buyout on his ‘23 mutual option.
Darren O’Day, RHP, Yankees
$1.4 million player option ($700,000 buyout); $3.15 million club option
Due to injuries, O’Day has thrown just 52 1/3 innings since the beginning of 2018, including 10 2/3 for the Yankees in 2021. He'll be 39 on Opening Day in 2022.
Jurickson Profar, IF/OF, Padres
$7.33 million player option ($1 million buyout)
Profar, who finished 2021 with four homers and an 83 OPS+ over 412 plate appearances, can guarantee himself more than $16 million by exercising his player options in '22 and '23.
Unlikely to be picked up
Tucker Barnhart, C, Reds
$7.5 million club option ($500,000 buyout)
Tyler Stephenson's emergence could make Barnhart expendable for the Reds, although Cincinnati could look to bring back the two-time Gold Glove Award winner on a lower salary.
Kole Calhoun, OF, D-backs
$9 million club option ($2 million buyout)
After undergoing left hamstring surgery in April, Calhoun strained the same hamstring in August and ended up playing just 51 games on the year while posting an 81 OPS+. The rebuilding D-backs are unlikely to spend this much on a 34-year-old corner outfielder.
Matt Carpenter, IF, Cardinals
$18.5 million club option ($2 million buyout)
After Carpenter earned a ninth-place finish in the 2018 NL MVP voting, the Cards signed him to a two-year extension through ‘21. He ended up hitting .203 with 22 homers and an 83 OPS+ over the past three seasons.
Johnny Cueto, RHP, Giants
$22 million club option ($5 million buyout)
Since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2019, Cueto has posted a 4.59 ERA over 38 games (37 starts), and he’ll turn 36 in February.
Ian Desmond, OF, Rockies
$15 million club option ($2 million buyout)
Desmond elected not to play in 2020 and ‘21, which would have been his age-34 and age-35 seasons.
César Hernández, 2B, White Sox
$6 million club option
Acquired from Cleveland prior to the Trade Deadline, Hernández recorded three homers and a .608 OPS in 53 games for Chicago.
Odúbel Herrera, OF, Phillies
$11.5 million club option ($2.5 million buyout)
After being suspended in 2019 for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy and missing all of '20 as well, Herrera returned to the Phillies and hit .260 with 13 homers and a 95 OPS+ over 124 games in '21, likely not enough to convince Philadelphia to bring him back.
Joe Kelly, RHP, Dodgers
$12 million club option ($4 million buyout)
Kelly was an effective member of the Dodgers’ bullpen in 2021 (2.86 ERA, 0.98 WHIP), but only six relievers earned as much as $12 million this past season: Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Will Smith, Zack Britton and Andrew Miller.
Yusei Kikuchi, LHP, Mariners
Club option for $66 million through 2025; $13 million player option
Kikuchi has spent three seasons with the Mariners and owns a 4.97 ERA and a 4.93 FIP, including a 4.41 ERA and a 4.61 FIP in 2021. The M’s have to decide shortly after the World Series whether they want to guarantee the left-hander another $66 million over the next four seasons. If Seattle declines, Kikuchi will receive a player option for 2022.
Carlos Martínez, RHP, Cardinals
$17 million club option ($500,000 buyout)
Martínez was an All-Star as a starting pitcher in 2015 and ‘17 and had success as the Cardinals’ closer in ’19, but his return to the rotation saw him record a 6.95 ERA with a 74-to-46 K/BB ratio in 102 1/3 innings over the past two years.
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Phillies
$15 million club option ($3 million buyout)
McCutchen, 35, still has a strong grasp of the strike zone and solid power, but he was barely above average on offense (109 OPS+) and below average on defense (-4 outs above average) in 2021.
Martín Pérez, LHP, Red Sox
$6 million club option ($500,000 buyout)
Pérez’s club options were declined in each of the past three offseasons, and it could happen again in 2021 after he recorded a 4.74 ERA over 114 innings for Boston.
Roberto Pérez, C, Cleveland
$5.5 million club option ($450,000 buyout)
Injuries limited Pérez to 44 games in 2021, and he hit .149 with a .564 OPS. Cleveland could decline his option and look to bring back the defensive whiz on a lower salary.
Garrett Richards, RHP, Red Sox
$10 million club option ($1.5 million buyout)
Richards was signed to be part of Boston’s rotation in 2021, but he was sent to the bullpen in August and finished the season with a 4.87 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP across 136 2/3 innings.
Kyle Seager, 3B, Mariners
$20 million club option ($2 million buyout)
Mariners fans gave Seager an emotional sendoff in the regular-season finale, possibly his final game in a Seattle uniform.
Josh Tomlin, RHP, Braves
$1.25 million club option ($250,000 buyout)
The Braves brought Tomlin back on a one-year deal last offseason, but he posted a 6.57 ERA in 2021 and ended the season on the injured list with a neck strain.
Jake Diekman, LHP, A's
$4 million club option ($750,000 buyout)
Diekman can miss bats, but after he walked 34 batters and allowed 10 homers over 60 2/3 innings in 2021, it’s possible the small-market A’s will decline the 34-year-old lefty’s option.
Christian Vázquez, C, Red Sox
$7 million club option ($250,000 buyout)
Vázquez has been with the Red Sox organization since they selected him in the ninth round of the 2008 MLB Draft, but he’s coming off a disappointing offensive season (75 OPS+), making the 31-year-old's '22 option more of an uncertainty than it looked like it would be a year ago.
Likely to be picked up
José Álvarez, LHP, Giants
$1.5 million club option ($100,000 buyout)
Álvarez’s one-year, $1.15 million deal worked out well for the Giants, with the left-hander posting a 2.37 ERA over 64 2/3 innings and holding both left-handed and right-handed batters to a sub-.600 OPS.
Wilmer Flores, IF, Giants
$3.5 million club option ($250,000 buyout)
Flores played 30-plus games at first, second and third and tied a career high with 18 homers in 2021 while notching an OPS+ (111) above 100 for the sixth straight season. It’s more likely than not the Giants will exercise his option.
Yuli Gurriel, 1B, Astros
$8 million club option ($500,000 buyout)
The Astros are at risk of losing Carlos Correa in free agency a year after George Springer left to sign with the Blue Jays. Count on Gurriel being back after winning a batting title and recording a career-high 131 OPS+ in 2021.
Pierce Johnson, RHP, Padres
$3 million club option ($1 million buyout)
Johnson has been a reliable relief option for the Padres over the past two years, posting a 3.09 ERA with 104 strikeouts in 78 2/3 innings.
Keone Kela, RHP, Padres
$800,000 club option
Kela’s contract with the Padres had a conditional option that kicked in when he underwent Tommy John surgery in May. San Diego can take a chance on him for less than $1 million in 2022.
Merrill Kelly, RHP, D-backs
$5.25 million club option
The D-backs didn’t end up trading Kelly in July, so it seems likely the club will exercise his option to bring him back for 2022.
Craig Kimbrel, RHP, White Sox
$16 million club option ($1 million buyout)
Kimbrel struggled after being traded from the Cubs to the White Sox in July, but he still has value, whether it’s as a member of the White Sox relief corps in 2022 or as a trade chip during an offseason that lacks elite free-agent relievers. The 33-year-old finished 2021 with a 2.26 ERA and averaged more than 15 K's per nine innings.
Wade Miley, LHP, Reds
$10 million club option ($1 million buyout)
Miley had a rough September, but his season was a success on the whole, as he threw a no-hitter and recorded a 3.37 ERA in 163 innings.
Buster Posey, C, Giants
$22 million club option ($3 million buyout)
After electing not to play during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Posey returned and delivered his best season in years, hitting .304/.390/.499 (140 OPS+) with 18 homers in 113 games for the 107-win Giants. Whether San Francisco picks up his option or signs him to an extension, it’s hard to imagine the catcher will be wearing another uniform in 2022.
José Ramírez, 3B, Cleveland
$11 million club option ($2 million buyout)
This is arguably the biggest lock on the entire list. Ramírez is tied with Aaron Judge for third in bWAR (26.6) among position players since the beginning of 2017, behind only Mookie Betts and Mike Trout. He finished with 6.7 bWAR in 2021 and is entering his age-29 campaign.
Joely Rodríguez, LHP, Yankees
$3 million club option ($500,000 buyout)
Acquired from the Rangers in the trade that brought Joey Gallo to the Bronx, Rodríguez was a serviceable reliever (2.84 ERA) for the Yankees. Per the terms of the trade, the Rangers will pay the $500,000 buyout if Rodríguez’s option isn’t picked up.
Craig Stammen, RHP, Padres
$4 million club option ($1 million buyout)
In his age-37 season, Stammen pitched to a 3.06 ERA over 88 1/3 innings, the most innings for any hurler who made at least 80% of their appearances in relief in 2021. It was the third time in five years with the Padres that he reached the 80-inning threshold.
Mike Zunino, C, Rays
$4 million club option ($1 million buyout)
The Rays declined Zunino’s $4.5 million club option last offseason, only to bring him back on a one-year deal for $3 million guaranteed with a 2022 club option. There’s a much greater chance Tampa Bay will pick up Zunino’s option this time around after he posted career highs in homers (33) and OPS (.860) while flashing elite pitch-framing skills.
Mutual options become guaranteed only when both the player and the team agree to exercise the option. Mutual options are rarely exercised.
Players with options in this category include: LHP Andrew Chafin, A's ($5.25 million option, $500,000 buyout); RHP Tyler Clippard, D-backs ($3.5 million option, $500,000 buyout); RHP Alex Colomé, Twins ($5.5 million option, $1.25 million buyout); OF Adam Duvall, Braves ($7 million option, $3 million buyout); OF Avisaíl García, Brewers ($12 million option, $1.5 million buyout); OF Jake Marisnick, Padres ($4 million option, $500,000 buyout); RHP Mark Melancon, Padres ($5 million option, $1 million buyout); OF Joc Pederson, Braves ($10 million option, $2.5 million buyout); OF Kyle Schwarber, Red Sox ($11.5 million option, $3 million buyout)