The Pittsburgh Pirates exercised their $14.75 million option on outfielder Andrew McCutchen on Friday. Pittsburgh could have paid a $1 million buyout but opted to retain the five-time All-Star, who has been the subject of trade rumors. The 31-year-old McCutchen batted .279 with 28 homers and 88 RBIs last season. It marked the seventh straight season that he topped 20 homers. However, McCutchen’s batting average was below .300 for the third consecutive year. The 2013 National League MVP batted .314 better in three straight seasons (2012-14) before the decline. The Pirates also declined options on catcher Chris Stewart ($1.5 million) and left-hander Wade LeBlanc ($1.25 million). Stewart received a $250,000 buyout and became a free agent while LeBlanc got $50,000 and was outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis.
The World Series champion Houston Astros picked up the contract option of leading American League MVP candidate Jose Altuve on Friday, the team announced. Houston also picked up the option of outfielder/infielder Marwin Gonzalez. Altuve will make $6 million next season as part of an extension he signed in 2013. He won his third batting title in four years this season when he hit .346 with 24 homers and 81 RBIs. Houston also holds a club option for 2019 on Altuve at $6.5 million. Gonzalez will make $5.125 million next season. He batted .303 with 23 homers and 90 RBIs in 2017. Also, Houston is in the process of hiring Joe Espada away from the New York Yankees to be the team’s new bench coach. Espada was the Yankees’ third-base coach. Astros bench coach Alex Cora was hired as manager of the Boston Red Sox.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka is staying with the New York Yankees. Tanaka released a statement through the Yankees Friday that he will remain with the team for the remaining three years of his original contract. “I have decided to stay with the Yankees for the next three seasons,” Tanaka said in the statement. “It was a simple decision for me as I have truly enjoyed the past four years playing for this organization and for the wonderful fans of New York. “I’m excited to continue to be a part of this team, and I’m committed to our goal of bringing a World Series Championship back to the Steinbrenner family, the Yankees organization, and the great fans of New York.” Tanaka had until 11:59 p.m. Saturday to opt-out of the seven-year, $155 million contract that he signed with the Yankees in Jan. 2017. He will be paid $67 million over the next three seasons. Tanaka was granted the opt-out provision after seeking it in the original contract negotiations, and it was possible he might use it after finishing his fourth season with a flourish. The 29-year-old Tanaka experienced an inconsistent season by going 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA in 30 starts. He gave up a career-high 35 homers, tied for third in the AL, but also ranked in the top 10 in strikeout per nine innings (9.79), strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.73) and walks per nine innings (2.07). Tanaka concluded the regular-season with a 15-strikeout display Sept. 29 against the Toronto Blue Jays and went 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA in three postseason games. He held opponents to a .145 average in those starts. Since joining the Yankees following a dominant career with Japan’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, he is 52-38 with a 3.56 ERA. He sustained a partial tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament in July 2014 but opted against surgery.
The Miami Marlins declined the 2018 option on outfielder Ichiro Suzuki on Friday, the team announced. Suzuki, 44, is now a free agent after receiving a $500,000 buyout. The Marlins passed on the $2 million club option. Suzuki has 3,080 major league hits but started only 22 games last season. He batted .255 with three homers and 20 RBIs. The Marlins issued a tweet to Suzuki: “It’s been an honor watching you play. Thanks, #Ichiro!” Suzuki previously expressed a desire to play until age 50 but it remains to be seen whether another team will offer a contract to the 10-time All-Star. The Marlins are now run by a group that has Derek Jeter making decisions, and the former shortstop was a teammate with Suzuki with the New York Yankees for 2 1/2 seasons. Suzuki, who owns a .312 career average, enjoyed his best seasons with the Seattle Mariners. He batted over .300 10 times in 11-plus seasons in Seattle and set the major league record with 262 hits in 2004. The Marlins also claimed catcher Chad Wallach off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds. He is the son of Miami bench coach Tim Wallach.
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