2017 MLB Postseason: Players Making and Losing the Most Money This October
The MLB postseason is a small sample size in the grand scheme of things—a one-month event with regular off days for a sport whose regular season stretches six months and 162 games.
However, how a player performs in that brief time frame can have a profound effect on his earning power.
Whether it's an upcoming free agent impacting his stock on the open market or an arbitration-eligible player further building his case for the bargaining table, October baseball can make a world of difference.
With that in mind, we've taken a quick run through the players who have earned and lost the most money as a result of the postseason, as well as a few notable guys whose stock remains largely unchanged.
Wild Card: Masahiro Tanaka (Opt-Out Eligible)
What will Masahiro Tanaka do about his opt-out clause?
It's one of the biggest questions hanging over the MLB offseason and an unavoidable talking point after he turned in another dominant performance on Wednesday night.
The 28-year-old has three years and $67 million left on his current deal, and he's coming off a regular season where he went 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 178.1 innings.
That included a pair of brutal September starts where he allowed a combined 14 earned runs in 9.1 innings.
However, he's looked every bit the part of staff ace this postseason.
- ALDS G3: W, 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
- ALCS G1: L, 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
- ALCS G5: W, 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K
Will that be enough for teams to overlook an inconsistent regular season—and the fact he's still pitching with that partially torn UCL—to give him a huge payday?
That's the question he'll need to answer when the postseason wraps up, and it makes him the big wild card in this conversation.
Losing Money (Reliever): Justin Wilson (Arbitration Eligible)
Justin Wilson has made one appearance this postseason in what was essentially mop-up duty in Game 4 of the NLDS.
That's not what the Cubs envisioned when they acquired him from the Detroit Tigers at the deadline.
The 30-year-old was enjoying the best season of his career at the time of the trade, and he had taken over the closer's role following the struggles and eventual release of veteran Francisco Rodriguez.
- 2017 (DET): 42 G, 13/15 SV, 8 HLD, 2.68 ERA, 3.6 BB/9, 12.3 K/9
With those stellar numbers and team control through the 2018 season, the Cubs gave up highly regarded prospects Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes in that trade, thinking they were getting a guy who could step into a setup role immediately and perhaps serve as the closer next season.
What they got was someone who completely forgot how to throw strikes.
- 2017 (CHC): 23 G, 0/1 SV, 1 HLD, 5.09 ERA, 9.7 BB/9, 12.7 K/9
That 9.7 BB/9 mark isn't a typo, he walked 19 hitters in 17.2 innings after the trade.
He's projected for a $4.3 million salary next season, up from $2.7 million this year, but the team's complete lack of faith in him this postseason—especially considering the current state of the bullpen—won't help his cause at the bargaining table.
Stock Unchanged (Reliever): Wade Davis (Free Agent)
Wade Davis is the top closer option on the free-agent market and there's nothing he could have done this offseason to change that perception.
With a faltering relief corps crumbling around him, he's already been asked to nail down a seven-out save in Game 5 of the NLDS and a six-out save with the team again facing elimination in Game 4 of the NLCS.
He's answered the bell both times and kept the Cubs' season alive in the process.
Still, little has changed as far as his free-agent stock is concerned.
Davis is three years older than Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman were when they hit the open market last offseason and landed five-year deals of $80 million and $86 million, respectively.
Chances are that will limit his next contract to four years with a little room to negotiate up from the four-year, $60 million deal that Mark Melancon signed with the San Francisco Giants.
Will the Cubs be willing to pay that price, or is he headed elsewhere?
Making Money (Reliever): Tony Watson (Free Agent)
Tony Watson had established himself as one of the best left-handed relievers in the game heading into 2017.
Over the previous three seasons, he posted a 2.16 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 while recording 98 holds and 18 saves in 225 appearances.
With Mark Melancon and Neftali Feliz both gone, the closer's job was his to lose, and he had a chance to significantly boost his stock heading into free agency.
Instead, he converted just 10 of 15 save chances with a 4.28 ERA before being removed from the ninth-inning gig in early June.
The 32-year-old got things back on track after returning to a setup role and was eventually traded to the Dodgers, where he was lights out down the stretch with a 0.61 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and five holds in his final 17 appearances.
Despite allowing two runs in Game 2 of the NLDS, he's looked sharp this postseason, and he's retired all seven batters he's faced in the NLCS.
He's not going to get closer money, but his stellar finish to the regular season and strong showing this October puts him in a good position to exceed the four-year, $30.5 million deal Brett Cecil signed with the St. Louis Cardinals last offseason.
Losing Money (Hitter): Jonathan Lucroy (Free Agent)
This situation is all about missed opportunity, not poor performance.
Jonathan Lucroy might have been looking at the five-year, $82 million deal Russell Martin signed with the Toronto Blue Jays as his floor in contract negotiations if he had hit the open market last offseason.
Instead, he saw a precipitous drop in offensive production in his contract year.
- 2016: .292 BA, .855 OPS, 123 OPS+, 24 HR, 81 RBI, 3.9 WAR
- 2017: .265 BA, .716 OPS, 84 OPS+, 6 HR, 40 RBI, 0.6 WAR
However, a change of scenery appeared to do him good as he joined the Colorado Rockies at the deadline and posted a 115 OPS+ with 11 extra-base hits in 175 plate appearances the rest of the way.
Taking that a step further, he was red-hot down the stretch with a .481/.611/.704 line in his last 10 regular season games, and he went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles in the Wild Card Game.
Had his season not come to an abrupt halt prior to the Division Series, he might have been on his way to a huge postseason performance.
While a strong showing in the small sample size that is the playoffs doesn't generally move the needle much when it comes to established veterans, it could have done wonders for Lucroy's stock.
He's still the top catcher on the market and a safe bet for a multi-year deal, but the Rockies' early exit cost him valuable audition time while he was swinging a hot bat.
Stock Unchanged (Hitter): J.D. Martinez (Free Agent)
J.D. Martinez cemented his status as the biggest bat on the upcoming free-agent market with a historically good run following his trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In 62 games with the team, he posted a 1.107 OPS with 29 home runs and 65 RBI, bringing his season totals to 45 home runs and 104 RBI, despite the fact he missed time early and only played 119 games overall.
Nothing he did this offseason was going to have a significant impact on his stock one way or the other and the D-backs' early exit from the playoffs only furthered that sentiment.
After a 0-for-4 showing in the Wild Card Game, he went 4-for-11 with a home run while the team was swept in three games by the Dodgers in the NLDS.
Expect a deal north of $100 million and far exceeding what any other free-agent outfielder earns this winter.
Making Money (Hitter): Didi Gregorius (Arbitration Eligible)
Didi Gregorius was already going to receive a hefty raise in arbitration after putting together a career year offensively.
In his third season with the Yankees, the 27-year-old set new personal bests in batting average (.287), OPS (.796), home runs (25), RBI (87), runs scored (73) and WAR (3.7).
He also spent much of the second half of the season hitting in the cleanup spot in the batting order, as the team began counting on him more and more as a steady run producer.
After earning $2.425 million and $5.1 million in his first two years of arbitration, he is projected for another healthy raise to $9 million this time around.
Might that figure climb even higher if he continues his strong postseason showing?
Starting with a first-inning home run in the Wild Card Game, he's hitting .275/.383/.575 with five extra-base hits—including three home runs—and seven RBI in 11 postseason games.
Given his age and steadily improving offensive game, he may also be a candidate for an extension as the Yankees continue to build toward a sustainable future.
Losing Money (Pitcher): Brad Peacock (Arbitration Eligible)
Brad Peacock began spring training on the roster bubble and spent most of the first two months of the season pitching out of the bullpen.
However, by season's end, he was throwing the ball well enough out of the starting rotation to earn the Game 3 start over Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. in the ALDS.
All told, he went 13-2 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 161 strikeouts in 132 innings, but his split roles make him a tricky case in his first year of arbitration.
What is his role going forward: Starter? Reliever? Swingman?
Tim Dierkes of MLBTradeRumors projected a $2.9 million salary figure, which puts him in the same tier as guys such as Mike Foltynewicz ($2.7 million), J.C. Ramirez ($2.6 million), Kendall Graveman ($2.6 million) among other first-time starting pitchers.
With a strong postseason, he might have been able to move up a tier.
Instead, he lasted just 2.2 innings in his ALDS start, and the Astros opted to go with McCullers in his place in the ALCS rotation.
Stock Unchanged (Pitchers): Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish (Free Agents)
A September hamstring injury and a shaky NLDS start are easily forgotten when Jake Arrieta flashes the plus-plus stuff he had on Wednesday night.
With the Cubs facing elimination, the 2015 Cy Young winner allowed just three hits and one earned run while striking out nine over 6.2 innings.
Even before that strong start, it's unlikely he had cost himself any money with a minor injury and one short outing. Now he looks to be right back where he was heading into September—a safe bet for a five-year deal in excess of $100 million.
The same goes for Yu Darvish.
The 31-year-old went 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA over his final three starts of the regular season and that has carried over to the postseason.
He's allowed eight hits and two runs over 11.1 innings in two starts, walking one and striking out 14.
However, performance was never the question with Darvish.
It's the fact he has 2,127.2 innings under his belt at the professional level—including his time in Japan—that might scare teams away from giving him big money this winter.
By comparison, Arrieta only has 1,669 innings on his arm.
Regardless of how they performed this October, nothing short of a significant injury was going to keep these two from getting paid as the two best arms on the market.
Making Money (Pitcher): CC Sabathia (Free Agent)
CC Sabathia quietly put together his best season since 2014, going 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 148.2 innings.
The 37-year-old was going to have to take a pay cut next year regardless. No one in their right mind would give him $25 million at this point in his career.
However, in a thin market for starting pitching—especially lefties—his strong showing this postseason could go a long way in expanding his field of suitors.
After tossing a pair of no-decisions in the ALDS where he kept his team in the game but failed to finish six innings, Sabathia was brilliant in Game 3 of the ALCS, allowing just three hits over six scoreless innings.
He's learned how to pitch with lesser stuff and his balky knee looks as healthy as it's been in years.
After seeing the money given to R.A. Dickey (one-year, $7.5 million with an $8 million option) and Bartolo Colon (one-year, $12.5 million) last winter, he should have no trouble securing at least one more decent payday.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, unless otherwise noted.