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Which MLB contract options are likely to be exercised for the 2016 season?

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All you need to know about team options, player options, vesting options, mutual options and opt outs for the 2016 MLB season.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers are very likely to decline reliever Joe Nathan's contraction option for the 2016 season, instead opting to pay him a $1 million buyout. Other baseball teams -- and a few players -- will have similar decisions to make on contract options for the 2016 season. These decisions have to be made within five days after the end of the World Series. That is the same deadline for teams to make qualifying offers to their own players who are eligible for free agency if they want to receive draft pick compensation.

More than one in four free agent contracts signed contains an option year. The vast majority of those are straight club options -- meaning the team alone can choose to pay the contract -- but some have player options or player opt-outs, mutual options, or vesting options. Many of those options either vest or are exercised, so these decisions can have a significant impact on the free agent market. Here is a look at the players with options for 2016.

OPTIONS LIKELY TO BE EXERCISED
Player Age Team Contract Type Buyout
Nori Aoki 34 Giants $5.5 million Team $700,000
Jose Bautista 35 Blue Jays $14 million Team $1 million
Joaquin Benoit 38 Padres $8 million Team $1.5 million
Clay Buchholz 31 Red Sox $13 million Team $245,000
Wade Davis 30 Royals $8 million Team $1.5 million
R.A. Dickey 41 Blue Jays $12 million Team $1 million
Edwin Encarnacion 33 Blue Jays $10 million Team $2 million
Alcides Escobar 29 Royals $5.25 million Team $500,000
Jaime Garcia 29 Cardinals $11.5 million Team $500,000
J.P. Howell 33 Dodgers $6.25 million Player $250,000
Adam Lind 32 Brewers $8 million Team $500,000
Alexei Ramirez 34 White Sox $10 million Team $1 million
Brendan Ryan 34 Yankees $1 million Player None
Brad Ziegler 36 Diamondbacks $5.5 million Team $1 million

Most of these players are virtually certain to have their options exercised by their current teams. Ramirez and Escobar are less certain than others coming off subpar seasons, but probably have trade value. Some players listed below will also have their options exercised, but are less certain than those listed above.

MUTUAL OPTIONS
Player Age Team Contract Buyout
Justin Morneau 35 Rockies $9 million $750,000
Casey Janssen 34 Nationals $7 million $1.5 million
Jeremy Guthrie 37 Royals $10 million $3.2 million
Burke Badenhop 32 Reds $4 million $1.5 million

Both the player and the club must agree to exercise a mutual option before the salary terms are locked in. In most cases, either one side or the other benefits by not agreeing, so most mutual options do not become effective. These terms often provide for a higher "buyout" amount should the team decline the option, but no such terms were indicated by Cot's contracts for any of these players.

OPTIONS NOT AS LIKELY TO BE EXERCISED

Player Age Team Contract Type Buyout
Bronson Arroyo 39 Dodgers $13 million Team $4.5 million
Jonathan Broxton 32 Cardinals $9 million Team $1 million
Marlon Byrd 38 Giants $8 million Team None
David DeJesus 36 Angels $5 million Team $1 million
Jonny Gomes 35 Royals $3 million Team None
Alex Gordon 32 Royals $12.5 million Player None
Maicer Izturis 35 Blue Jays $3 million Team $1 million
Cliff Lee 37 Phillies $27.5 million Team $12.5 million
Nate McLouth 33 Nationals $6.5 million Team $750,000
David Murphy 34 Angels $7 million Team $500,000
Joe Nathan 41 Tigers $10 million Team $1 million
Joel Peralta 40 Dodgers $2.5 million Team None
Chad Qualls 37 Astros $3.25 million Team $250,000
Ryan Raburn 35 Indians $3 million Team $100,000
Skip Schumaker 36 Reds $2.5 million Team $250,000

Some of the above listed players may have their options exercised by their current teams, and some may be traded, rather than their teams just letting the players leave.

Gordon stands to earn quite a bit more as a free agent, despite expressing his desire to remain in Kansas City. Any player here who has their option declined by their club will not be receiving a qualifying offer and they will be unrestricted free agents if they have six years' major league service time.

Corey Luebke of the Padres has a $7.5 million club option, and Josh Collmenter of the Diamondbacks has a $1.825 million club option, but neither player has the required service time for free agency, so they would still be eligible for arbitration if their options were declined by their respective teams.

VESTING OPTIONS
  • Nori Aoki's $ 5.5 million option would have vested with 550 plate appearances. He finished with only 392 PAs, so the Giants still hold his option.
  • J.P. Howell's $6.25 million club option converted to a player option when he appeared in 65 games in 2015. He will now likely exercise the option with the Dodgers.
  • Joaquin Benoit's $8 million option would have vested with 55 games finished, but he was not used as a closer.
  • Marlon Byrd's$8 million team option would have vested with 550 plate appearances, but the Giants rested him at the end of the season to prevent that from happening. The Phillies paid half of his $8 million salary for 2015, and San Francisco views him as a part-time player now, so they will decline his option.
  • Santiago Casilla's $5.5 million option with the Giants vested with 55 games finished. He tallied exactly that amount, so he will not be a free agent.
  • David Ortiz's $11 million option with the Red Sox easily vested when he reached 425 plate appearances.
  • Jonny Gomes' $3 million option would have vested with 325 plate appearances, but he logged just 262 between two teams. Kansas City now holds the team option.
  • Cliff Lee spent the season on the disabled list and did not meet the innings required for his 2016 option to vest.
  • Brandon League was released by the Dodgers during the season, so his option did not vest.
  • Chase Utley had a $15 million option with the Dodgers that did not vest after he was relegated to bench duty.
  • Bronson Arroyo's $ 11 million option became a $ 13 million option when he was traded. The Dodgers ate his bloated contract to get the players they wanted from Atlanta at the trade deadline.
  • Jonathan Papelbon's $13 million option for 2016 was converted into a guaranteed $11 million contract when he was traded to the Nationals.

Each of the players here whose options have not vested, has been included among our lists of free agents. Some will still have their options exercised and will not become free agents.