Gail Oskin/Getty Images
Jon Lester was rocked by the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.
Dozens of players head toward this winter with 2014 club options. Valuable, durable players like Ben Zobrist will surely be retained by their current teams, whereas the free-agent class figures to expand when several veterans suffering from major injury or statistical decline see their options declined.
Left-hander Johan Santana—$25 million option versus $5.5 million buyout—leads the pack. The former Cy Young Award winner underwent his second shoulder surgery this spring. Although his rehab has been smoother than it was two years ago, per Dave Hutchinson of The Star Ledger, there's no expectation for Santana to return this summer. The New York Mets have no interest in paying him top-of-the-rotation money amid their rebuilding process.
The potential risk and reward associated with Brett Myers is significantly less, but he'll be given an unceremonious goodbye in much the same way. His attempt to re-emerge as a starting pitcher has gone horribly awry. The veteran right-hander posted an 8.02 earned run average in four appearances for the Cleveland Indians prior to suffering an elbow injury, from which he has struggled to heal from.
One name you might not know is 32-year-old Tsuyoshi Wada of the Baltimore Orioles. He signed with the organization only a few weeks after Korean lefty Wei-Yin Chen, but Tommy John surgery in May 2012 prevented him from imitating his success. Wada's latest 10-strikeout performance at Triple-A was extremely impressive, but his overall 5.02 ERA and .285 BAA certainly don't warrant a $5 million salary for next season.
Catcher Kurt Suzuki and outfielder Chris Young will earn more money than ever—$8.5 million and $11 million, respectively—if retained for their age-30 seasons. However, they have atypically regressed into backup roles at what should be the primes of their careers.
According to Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News, Lance Berkman will try to grind through hip and knee injuries to rejoin the Texas Rangers for the stretch run. He's currently on the disabled list and had been contemplating retirement. His selflessness is admirable, but posting a .732 OPS at designated hitter while playing half your games at hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark is not close to validating $12 million in 2014.
Oft-injured Franklin Gutierrez has averaged only 50 major league games per season since 2011. Although healthy right now, his production has been underwhelming at Triple-A. The $500,000 buyout makes much more sense for the Seattle Mariners than picking up the $7.5 million option.
Finally, two more accomplished southpaws, Jon Lester and Barry Zito, have overstayed their welcomes.
Lester shows no signs of improvement coming off his worst campaign ever. He yields way too many extra-base hits and doesn't induce swings-and-misses like he used to. July's acquisition of Jake Peavy—who's signed through next summer—coupled with the surplus of starting pitching in the high minors will convince the Boston Red Sox to buy him out for $250,000. They could potentially re-sign him to a new one-year, heavily performance-based contract.
Not as much thinking is required in the Zito decision. He posted a 5.09 ERA, 1.68 WHIP and averaged barely five innings per start this season prior to being demoted to the bullpen, according to Dayn Perry of CBS Sports. His contract requires a steep $7 million buyout, but that's not so bad when you consider the alternative: $18 million.