LOS ANGELES — Baseball’s business season began Thursday when 149 players became free agents just nine hours after the Houston Astros won their first World Series title.
Rather than opt out of his contract and go on the market again, All-Star outfielder Justin Upton agreed to a $106 million, five-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels. He signed a $132.75 million, six-year contract with Detroit before the 2016 season and could have terminated the agreement, forfeiting the remaining $88.5 million he was due.
While executives and fans are looking ahead to next autumn’s free agent class — which includes Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel and potentially Clayton Kershaw — the more immediate focus is on this year’s group. Among the pitchers is Yu Darvish, who lost Games 3 and 7 of the World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Personally I want to come back to the Dodgers,” he said after allowing five runs and getting just five outs in Wednesday night’s 5-1 loss in Game 7.
Miami also could be a focal point of the offseason. Slugger Giancarlo Stanton said last week he had not yet decided whether he would prefer to be traded by the Marlins’ new ownership group, which put former New York Yankees star Derek Jeter in charge of baseball and business operations. Stanton is owed $275 million over the final 10 seasons of his record $325 million, 13-year contract, and he’s not sure whether Miami will pursue a trade.
“I’ve had thoughts on both sides,” Stanton said.
Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka must decide whether to opt out of the remainder of his contract, which calls for him to receive $67 million over three seasons.
Japanese star Shohei Otani, prized as a right-handed pitcher and outfielder, also could be a factor in the market if he tries to come to the major leagues. MLB’s current rules limit his signing bonus, with Texas able to pay $3,535,000 and the Yankees $3.25 million. He’s talented enough to command more than $100 million if he waits two years.
As for this year’s free agent class, Jake Arrieta, CC Sabathia, Alex Cobb and Brandon Morrow are among the pitchers available, along with closer Wade Davis.
Kansas City has a large number of talented offensive players who can leave, among them third baseman Mike Moustakas, first baseman Eric Hosmer, shortstop Alcides Escobar and outfielder Lorenzo Cain.
Outfielders available include Jay Bruce and J.D. Martinez, and among the catchers are Jonathan Lucroy and Alex Avila.
About three dozen players have options that must be exercised before Monday, when clubs decide whether to make $17.4 million qualifying offers to free agents, which attaches draft-pick compensation.
In option decisions Thursday:
—Boston exercised closer Craig Kimbrel ($13 million) and left-hander Chris Sale ($12.5 million)
—Seattle declined right-handers Yovani Gallardo ($2 million buyout instead of $13 million salary) and Hisashi Iwakuma ($1 million buyout instead of $10 million salary)
—Oakland exercised second baseman Jed Lowrie ($6 million)
—Washington said a mutual option had been declined on first baseman-outfielder Adam Lind ($500,000 buyout instead of $5 million salary).
—The Chicago White Sox declined backup catcher Geovany Soto ($250,000 buyout instead of $3 million salary)