We’ve looked back at three of the four players that have options on their contracts for the 2022 season already. With the World Series now complete, teams and players have five days to make it known what they plan to do with those options. And that means we need to discuss the final player with an option – Justin Wilson.

At the trade deadline the Reds finally made some moves. One of those moves brought in left-handed reliever Justin Wilson from the New York Yankees. At the time, Wilson had been struggling with the Yankees and arrived in Cincinnati with a 7.50 ERA. But after joining the Reds he posted a 2.81 ERA thanks to almost eliminating home runs from his game. He had allowed five with the Yankees in 18.0 innings, but gave up just one with the Reds in 16.0 innings.

At the time of the acquisition it seemed that there was no possible way that Justin Wilson would decline his player option. But after a stronger second half where he improved his ground ball rate, home run rate, and walk rate, perhaps he thinks that could help him out in free agency.

The decision for Wilson is to either pick up his option, remain with Cincinnati, and make $2,300,000 in 2022 or to decline it and head to free agency. But it’s not quite that simple, either. Picking up that option also triggers a 2023 club option where Wilson will get the league minimum (not yet determined) plus $500,000. For Wilson that would give him roughly a 2-year deal worth $3,400,000 if we assume a small raise to league minimum in the new collective bargaining agreement.

Would Wilson be able to best a 2-year deal worth $3,400,000? That might be a tough sell. Teams don’t seem to want to pay for any kind of reliever who isn’t a closer or elite set-up man anymore. Baseball teams aren’t paying for pitchers who don’t miss bats. While Wilson has done that in the past, in 2021 he simply didn’t. He was injured at times in 2021, and did pitch better once he was healthy – but even when healthy he still wasn’t missing bats. The overall results, however, were better thanks to the above-mentioned improvements in his walk rate, ground ball rate, and his home run rate.

For Wilson it would seem to be a bit of a gamble to walk away from $3,400,000 guaranteed given how the market has been treating middle relievers the last few seasons and how his 2021 campaign played out. Toss in the uncertainty of what the collective bargaining agreement holds and you’ve probably got some more risk on the side of Wilson to walk away from that kind of guarantee. Still, there could be reasons for him to test free agency. Perhaps he would like to play somewhere else (for any number of reasons). Maybe he has faith that he can get a bigger guarantee based on what he had done prior to 2021 with the Yankees.

The decision seems to be an easy one on the surface. Sometimes, though, that isn’t the case.

19 Responses

  1. Alan Horn

    Looks to me like the decision is out of the Reds hands, unless they sign him to a FA contract if he turns us down. The Braves have 3 really good LH relievers which were instrumental in them winning the World Series. I am not sure Wilson is of their caliber but is still worth signing if a reasonable deal can be worked out. The Reds need to go out and sign or trade for at least a couple of decent LH relievers for next season. I for one am watching to see what transpires.

  2. AllTheHype

    It’s not $3.4M over 2 years that he would be walking away from……..It is a net $2.25M, which is $3.4M minus the buyout of $1.15M that he would pocket if he declines his 22 player option.

    Walking away from $2.25M over 2 years “should” be an easy decision for Wilson. Don’t expect him back, unless some other contract can be worked out.

    • Doug Gray

      Are you sure? The link from MLBTR seems to explain it differently.

      It’s confusing on paper, so I went looking for a better explanation. That was the one I found.

      “He’ll be paid $2.85MM in 2021 with a $2.3MM player option for the 2022 season. If Wilson declines that option, the Yankees have a $7.15MM club option or $1.15MM buyout on him. The lone difference is that if Wilson exercises his player option for the 2022 season, the Yankees will pick up a 2023 club option worth the league minimum plus $500K. “

      • Jim Walker

        So per MLBTR, regardless of what Wilson does with his player option, the team owes him the $1.14m buyout unless the team agrees to pay him the $7+m?

        Once upon a time, I was considered a wizard at constructing IF/then/Else and Case options in several programming dialects and I am still totally confused by this situation 😉

      • AllTheHype

        The contract notes at Spotrac say it a little more clearer in the notes

        “If 2022 player option is declined, it converts to a $7.15M club option ($1.15M buyout)”

    • Stock

      All the hype has it right.

      It is a given the Reds will not pay him $7 million.

      Therefore he either accepts the 3.4 million or the Reds pay him 1.15 million if he declines the option.

      As All the Hype pointed out it means Wilson needs to sign a 2 year $2.25 million contract to break even. It is not a given that he will win if he walks away. But I think he does walk.

  3. CFD3000

    I’m hoping he stays. The Reds have several other lefties in or available for the bullpen – Garrett, Perez, Sanmartin – but none clearly better than Wilson. And the price for shut down lefty relievers will be as high this offseason as it has ever been. Unfortunately that same scenario makes it tempting for Wilson to opt out. I suspect he declines the option and takes his chances. The Reds already need to be working hard to upgrade the 2022 bullpen. Wilson is probably about to make that job a little harder.

    • CFD3000

      I didn’t mean to imply that Wilson was “shut down” good, just that he’ll be attractive to teams who can’t compete for the top tier shut down lefties.

    • donny

      I am not so sure Garret will be with the reds next year .

  4. Jackson

    Justin Wilson is a great veteran presence the reds should keep also with Cessa yes Wilson had a not great year this season but we’ve seen many relievers have a comeback year with the Reds for example Jared Hughes which I believe was 2018 where he had a 1 ERA and the most consistent reliever out of the Reds bullpen. Guys like him can share their knowledge to younger guys like Moreta or Sanmartin to mentor them to become better pitchers.

  5. LDS

    Ready for the off season action. How the FO handles the various opportunities will tell us a lot about what 2022 will look like. Who stays, who goes. Lots of non-tender candidates. Part of me hates to give up on AA especially if Castellanos bails but he, AG, and others just didn’t deliver adequately. Though I still think AA is a better price value than Suarez, i.e., on a comparable number of PAs, AA probably hits more HRs. But a move away HR/SO strategies would benefit all of baseball. I also saw that today is the 30+ anniversary of signing Lou Pinella. Those were the days.

  6. Doc

    Braves had 88 wins and are WS champions with a pitching staff that included a guy who made his first ever start in the playoffs, a guy who last pitched in a defunct independent league, and a pitcher who was loading boxes when the season began.

    The Reds were closer than many think. Had their pitching decisions gone the other way, the way Atlanta’s did, they could have gotten it done. No one will convince me that the Braves were so brilliant in their evaluations that they smoked the league. Everything went their way; little went the Reds way with the pitching staff.

    And for those who think the Reds can’t win without Castellanos, two words: Ronald Acuña. No one gave the Braves a chance when he went down for the season.

    • Bill J

      Let’s see how the FO handles off season, we saw what the Braves did around the trade deadline, now what will the Reds do.

    • TR

      Managers don’t win ballgames usually but they do have some influence. I’m impressed by the Braves manager, Brian Snitker. He seems like a rather quiet ‘old school’ type guy that the Braves team responds to.

      • Krozley

        Quintana has been terrible in the minors thus far, but was a 2nd rounder picked 2 spots before Rece Hinds. Hopefully a change of scenery candidate. At least they get something and don’t have to pay the buy-out, although I personally would have liked to see Tucker back, if at maybe a lesser amount than what the club option would have been.

  7. burtgummer01

    The salary purge resumes
    Gray Miley and more coming

  8. Marissa Morast

    Personally, I beileve Wilson would help the Reds. yes, his ERA was high, but we cant rely on Amir Garrett, our only lefty. Justin strikes out batters well, Amir Garrett? he does. But look up his ERA. We need some more reliable lefty pitchers in our bullpen. Agreed?