NEW YORK (AP) — Baseball’s business season began Thursday when 121 players become free agents, a group that includes Pablo Sandoval, Michael Morse, Jake Peavy, Sergio Romo and Ryan Vogelsong of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
James Shields, Nori Aoki and Jason Frasor of the AL champion Kansas City Royals also were among the players who became free.
Up to 30 more players can become eligible, depending on contract options.
Top free agent pitchers also include Max Scherzer and Jon Lester. Among the top hitters are shortstop Hanley Ramirez, outfielder Nelson Cruz and designated hitter Victor Martinez.
The first big deadline is Monday, when teams must decide whether to make $15.3 million qualifying offers to their eligible players who became free agents. An offer can only be made to a free agent who was with the team for the entire season, and players have until Nov. 10 to accept.
If a player rejects a qualifying offer and signs a major league contract with another club before the June amateur draft, his former team would receive a draft pick as compensation at the end of the first round.
The club signing that player loses its first-round pick in the following amateur draft, unless that pick is among the top 10, in which case the club signing that player loses its next-highest pick.
None of the 22 qualifying offers made after the past two seasons was accepted.
Free agents can start discussing money with all teams starting Tuesday.
Rather than test the market, reliever Koji Uehara agreed to a $18 million, two-year contract to stay with the Boston Red Sox.
Cincinnati exercised pitcher Johnny Cueto’s $10 million option and declined a $9 million option on outfielder Ryan Ludwick and a $4 million option on infielder Jack Hannahan. Ludwick gets a $4.5 million buyout and Hannahan $2 million.
St. Louis exercised an option on pitcher John Lackey for the major league minimum, which next year will be $500,000 plus a cost-of-living adjustment to be determined Nov. 20 — likely to be $9,000 to $10,000.
The right-hander agreed to an $82.5 million, five-year contract with Boston in December 2009 that contained a provision for a conditional team option at the minimum if he missed a season due to specified injury. Lackey did not pitch in 2012 after reconstructive elbow surgery.
Lackey, who turned 36 on Oct. 23, was 14-10 with a 3.83 ERA last year with the Red Sox and Cardinals and was 1-0 in two postseason starts for the NL Central champions.
Lackey was acquired at the trade deadline in July in a deal that sent outfielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly to Boston. Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said the contract option was a key to the deal.
The Los Angeles Angels exercised a $7 million option on reliever Huston Street and declined a $4.5 million option on left-hander Sean Burnett, who gets a $500,000 buyout.
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Dan Haren exercised his $10 million player option rather than become a free agent, and Philadelphia declined a $6 million option on pitcher Mike Adams.
Oakland turned down a $5.5 million option for shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima and instead owe him a $500,000 buyout. Nakajima, 32, never played a major league game after receiving a $6.5 million, two-year contract in December 2012.