ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — What figures to be a down and perhaps brutal market for baseball free agents in the offseason following the pandemic began Wednesday when a dozen players were told their contract options had been declined, among them St. Louis Cardinals Gold Glove second baseman Kolten Wong.
The 30-year-old Wong will receive a $1 million buyout. Wong, a first-round pick in the 2011 draft, made his big league debut in 2013 and spent his first eight seasons with St. Louis. Wong hit. 265 with a homer and 16 RBIs in 53 games during the pandemic-shortened season, helping the Cardinals make the playoffs for the second straight year. They were eliminated by San Diego in the first round.
“STL will always have a special place in my heart and I will never forget all the amazing people who impacted me along the way! Much love,” Wong said Wednesday in an Instagram post.
Many teams are cutting costs following a shortened regular season played with no fans in attendance due to the novel coronavirus. Many teams already have eliminated front-office staff and many scouts to cut expenses, uncertain what attendance and revenue can be expected in 2021.
Baseball’s labor contract expires after the 2021 season, putting 2022 at risk of a work stoppage.
Wong won his first Gold Glove last year. He is a finalist again this season, with the winner announced on Tuesday.
John Mozeliak, the president of baseball operations for the Cardinals, said he spoke with Wong on Wednesday.
“I told him that with some of the uncertainties, we’re just not in a position to do that,” Mozeliak said. “We both agreed to keep the door open, and so as we progress in this, it’s something that we’re not ruling out for a future return.”
Wong is only one year removed from perhaps his best season in St. Louis, batting .285 with 11 homers, 59 RBIs and a career-high 24 steals in 2019. He is a .261 hitter with 53 homers, 281 RBIs and 88 steals in 852 career games.
While leaving open the possibility of Wong’s return, Mozeliak mentioned giving Tommy Edman a shot at second base.
“Not speaking in absolutes, not saying anything’s for sure, but, as we approach this offseason, it’s definitely going to require some creativity, some patience and good timing,” Mozeliak said.
Others cut free included;
—Arizona pitchers Mike Leake ($5 million instead of $18 million) and Hector Rondón ($500,000 instead of $4 million)
—Washington right-hander Anibal Sanchez ($2 million buyout instead of $12 million salary), outfielder Adam Eaton ($1.5 million instead of $10.5 million), and infielders Howie Kendrick ($2.25 million instead of $6.5 million) and Eric Thames ($1 million instead of $4 million)
—Colorado first baseman Daniel Murphy ($6 million instead of $12 million)
—Seattle second baseman Dee Strange-Gordon ($1 million instead of $14 million)
—New York Mets catchers Wilson Ramos ($1.5 million instead of $10 million) and Robinson Chirinos ($1 million instead of $6.5 million) and infielder Todd Frazier ($1.5 million instead of $5.75 million).
About 50 more players would be eligible for free agency if their options are declined by Sunday, among them Chicago White Sox designated hitter Edwin Encarnación and left-hander Gio González; Cleveland first baseman Carlos Santana, catcher Roberto Pérez and left-hander Brad Hand; Yankees left-handers JA Happ and outfielder Brett Gardner; Texas right-hander Corey Kluber; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo; and Pittsburgh right-hander Chris Archer.
Players already free agents include catcher JT Realmuto, infielder DJ LeMahieu, pitchers Marcus Stroman and Masahiro Tanaka, and outfielders George Springer and Marcell Ozuna; shortstop Didi Gregorius; and designated hitter Nelson Cruz.
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