First Pitch: There Could Be Some Values on MLB’s Open Market

If the last few days have been any indication, there could be some values available on the open market this offseason for any team willing to spend.

The Cleveland Indians designated relief pitcher Brad Hand for assignment, obviously hoping that another team picks him and his $10 M option price tag up. Hand had a 2.05 ERA in 22 innings this past season, with a 29:4 K/BB ratio. He’s been the seventh best reliever in the majors since 2016, ranked by fWAR.

The price tag of $10 M for a reliever is a lot for some teams, especially when that reliever is going into his age 31 season. But in a normal year, it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine Hand’s option easily getting picked up.

Then there’s Kolten Wong, whose $12.5 M option was declined entering his age 30 season. The Cardinals chose a $1 M buyout as an alternative. This move makes a bit more sense. Wong is coming off a down year, with his value being largely tied to his defense.

A team could take the chance that Wong’s 2020 season doesn’t really tell the whole story of his future potential. It could just be a down year, at which point a $12.5 M price tag would be worth his normal 2.5+ WAR range. We’ll probably see that happen at a lower price tag this year.

Wong isn’t guaranteed to bounce back. Hand isn’t guaranteed to maintain his production from the last five seasons. Both of them do look like players who could help a contending team. They also look like signs that the league might be crying poor this offseason.

The Pirates aren’t a team that could contend in 2021. They could be a team that benefits from other teams crying poor, as long as they go against the grain.

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