There have already been plenty of stories of teams declining options on given players and, while there are situations where the team will try to re-sign the player at a lower salary, it usually ends with said player becoming a free agent and at least testing the waters.
When the Baltimore Orioles declined a 2013 option on corner infielder Mark Reynolds, they did so without losing his rights. Reynolds, who receives a $500k buyout instead of an $11 million salary for next season, still has a year of team control remaining and will now be subject to his third year of arbitration eligibility. If the two sides make it to a hearing, MLBTR projects Reynolds’ arbitration figure to be $8.9 million for 2013, so the Orioles are taking a calculated gamble and could easily wind up saving close to $2 million overall by declining the option.
Now, it’s also possible that if the Orioles weren’t willing to pay Reynolds $11 million, they may not be willing to pay him $9 million, either. The arbitration process can be messy and unless the two sides have had some fairly in-depth discussions on a new deal, it’s not a given that Orioles GM Dan Duquette would want to engage Reynolds in this way.
Reynolds just turned 29 and has immense power. He had a pretty rotten season in 2012, at least until a late-season run that saw him put his power on display against the Yankees. Reynolds wound up with a respectable 23 home runs, but that total was easily the lowest of his career. Reynolds did manage to cut down on his strikeouts last year and showed himself to be fairly adept with the glove, particularly at first base. My guess here is that the Orioles will try to sew up a multi-year deal with Reynolds before this ever gets to a hearing.
On the off chance that it goes the other way, the Orioles could simply turn Reynolds loose on the market by not tendering him an offer for next season. Should that happen, The Houston Astros could be a great fit for the right handed slugger. Houston is in the market for a designated hitter who can also play on the corner infield. The Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park would see an awful lot of activity with Reynolds at the plate.