As offseason begins, clubs facing difficult choices with longtime franchise cornerstones

The Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman held a World Series trophy one day and became a free agent the next. The Nationals declined his $18 million option and gave him a $2 million buyout.

The 35-year-old first baseman, who has been with the team since their first season in D.C. in 2005, wants to finish his career with the Nationals. He doesn’t want to move to a new team and uproot his family. At least with 81 home games, he gets more family time.

Chances are good that the Nationals ownership will make that happen and keep the face of the franchise in Washington.

Here’s a look at other franchise players that are free agents this offseason:

Alex Gordon: The Royals’ 35-year-old left-fielder is a free agent after the team declined his $23 million option for next season. He’s trying to decide if - and where - he wants to play next season. He’s played most of his career for Ned Yost, who retired as manager. Gordon, who was on the Royals’ 2015 World Series title team, could return to the Royals because he would like to play for their new manager, Mike Matheny. He’s similar to Zimmerman in that he has undergone a position switch, moving from third base to left field. Gordon made the switch in 2010 and while he was an average third baseman at best, he’s transformed into one of the best left fielders in the American League. Gordon, a 2005 first-round draft pick, won Gold Gloves for his outfield defense in seven of his 13 seasons in Kansas City.

José Abreu: The White Sox extended Abreu a qualifying offer, so he’s checking out to see what the market would bring for a 33-year-old first baseman. In the past couple of years, the market has been soft for middle-of-the-order power hitters. Abreu was the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year for the White Sox and in his six years with the team, he averaged 150 games with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs He’s been a three-time All-Star. His leadership is valuable to the White Sox, who are rebuilding with an impressive group of young players that includes Tim Anderson Lucas Giolito, Yolmer Sánchez and Eloy Jiménez. It’s possible a contract extension is the works for Abreu, who led the 72-win team with 123 RBI, accounting for 18 percent of their runs scored.

Adam Wainwright: At 38, Wainwright bounced back in 2019 from a miserable 2018 season. Now he’s trying to decide if he should come back for one more season with the Cardinals. Wainwright battled injuries in 2018, but made 31 starts in 2019 and earned $8 million in incentives. He finished with a 4.19 ERA and had two strong starts in the postseason, one against the Nationals. His Cardinals catcher, Yadier Molina, 37, said that he’s coming back for one more season in 2020, and how much will that sway Wainwright? The two have made 278 starts together. “I hope he does come back,” Molina says. “I would like one more year with him.’’ Wainwright and Molina played their first full season for the Cardinals in 2006.

Félix Hernández: “King Félix” is 33 and while he’s finished with the Mariners, the only team that he’s ever played for, he says he wants to pitch in 2020. He’s coming off four tough seasons for the Mariners, including a 6.40 ERA in 15 starts in 2019. He was also sidelined for 87 games because of a strained lat. Hernández never got to play in the postseason for the Mariners. When he was at his best, the team wasn’t good. When the team got better, Hernandez was on his way downhill. He’s led the AL in ERA twice and won an AL Cy Young. Speculation is that he won’t get a big league contract, that he will sign a minor league contract and have to prove himself with a new team next spring.

Madison Bumgarner: Bumgarner could have been pitching for a postseason team in October, but the Giants were flirting with wild card contention before the July 31 deadline, and that made it impossible for the team to trade him. The Giants have made him a qualifying offer, so he could stay in San Francisco and play for the rebuilding Giants. But plenty of teams need pitching. Bumgarner is only 30. He was slowed by injuries in 2017 and 2018, but pitched 207 2/3 innings with a 3.90 ERA. He helped the Giants win three World Series and has a 2.11 ERA in 102 1/3 postseason innings, including 0.25 in the World Series.