By 5 p.m. ET this afternoon, we’ll know the fate of 20 potential free agents. That is to say, the 20 which were extended qualifying offers last week. As is typically the case, they have two options:
- Take it, and make $15.8 million in 2016.
- Don’t take it, become a free agent, and eventually cost their new team a draft pick.
Option number two runs the risk of a couple things: there are a few folks on this list that won’t make $15.8 million during the 2016 season. That’s just common sense. Also, there are several teams that are unwilling to part with a high draft pick to sign a free agent.
This year, though, a third of baseball (10 teams) have protected first-round picks. Therefore, there are several who would be more inclined to take this chance, only sacrificing their second-highest draft choice in the process.
An interesting note: since the qualifying offer came into existence in 2012, none of the 34 offers had been accepted. Adding 20 this time around created the potential of an 0-for-54 start on said deals, until Colby Rasmus.
It was reported Friday evening that the Astros outfielder, 29, would become the first player to accept the QO. His salary will make him the highest-paid Astros player in 2016 by a margin of $6.8 milliona��ahead of trade deadline acquisition and fellow outfielder, Carlos Gomez.
If you’re Houston, are you okay with that? Most likely. They don’t have any atrocious contracts to worry about, it’s only a one-year commitment, and it’s hard to find the kind of power Rasmus provides on the open market. His numbers in 2015 didn’t set the world ablaze: .238/.314/.475, but his 25 home runs (a career high) will partly make up for the steep pay rise.
What about the others?
Of the remaining 19 players, there are at least 10 I can comfortably remove from the conversation. Some have already done that themselves:
Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
Yovani Gallardo, Texas Rangers
Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jason Heyward, St. Louis Cardinals
Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners
Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Dodgers
Justin Upton, San Diego Padres
Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles
Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals
Before moving on, let’s go through a handful of these names and explain why they wouldn’t take this offer.
In 2013, Davis finished third in the AL MVP voting after a season in which he slashed .286/.370/.634 with a league-leading 53 home runs. That fell to .196/.300/.404 in 2014 and he hit just 26 home runs, not to mention served a suspension. He rebounded tremendously, boasting a line of .262/.361/.562 with 47 home runs. Only 29 years old, the power-hitting first baseman is due for a big payday over multiple years.
Consistent, in his early 30s (31), and a career slash line of .269/.348/.435. Despite the fact there are several potential free agent outfielders ready to hit the market, most teams would be ecstatic to have a player with the talent Gordon possesses. He’ll land somewhere, undoubtedly for several years.
No-brainer. Following a historic season, the 32-year-old starter opted out of the remainder of his contract with the Dodgers. He may still end up there, but there will be several big-money clubs pursuing the ace in the coming months, draft pick be damned.
He’s 26 years old, a three-time gold glove winner, he proved he could stay healthy these past two seasons (149 and 154 games played, respectively), and his bat has come around again. He holds a career line of .268/.353/.431 and is coming off a year in which he hit .293/.359/.439 with 33 doubles and 13 home runs. He won’t hit it out of the park oftena��2012 saw a spike with 27 long ballsa��but he offers plenty across the board. Again: his age weighs heavily in his favor.
Useless trivia: Heyward and I share an actual birthday: 8/9/89. I’m sure he’d be delighted to know.
The 29-year-old slugging catcher is a Scott Boras client. Boras hates qualifying offers, and he’ll ride it out even if that means his tactic backfiring. See: Drew, Stephen and Morales, Kendrys… who didn’t get signed until months into the regular season, and at one-year deals with a significantly lesser price tag.
So, will Boras break from tradition? Unlikely, even though Wieters hasn’t been healthy recently. He played in just 26 games in 2014, followed by 75 this season.
Editor’s note: Matt Wieters has ACCEPTEDA�the qualifying offer worth $15.8 million.
Don’t Expect a Change in Trend
Let’s look at the nine names I left off the a�?obviously not going to take ita�? list:
Brett Anderson, Los Angeles Dodgers
Wei-Yin Chen, Baltimore Orioles
Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals
Marco Estrada, Toronto Blue Jays
Dexter Fowler, Chicago Cubs
Ian Kennedy, San Diego Padres
John Lackey, St. Louis Cardinals
Daniel Murphy, New York Mets
Jeff Samardzija, Chicago White Sox
Based on a few factors (lack of production, career earnings to date, lengthy injury history), you could make a case for a handful of these remaining names that taking the one-year deal would be wise.
Yet when it comes right down to it, the majority of athletes really seek the security of a multi-year deal. Even if they’re not making just about $16 million per year.
But from that list, I am going to pick two names who should at least consider accepting.
Desmond is a 30-year-old shortstop who made $11 million in 2015. He definitely won’t make more than that going forward, as he just put up the worst numbers of his career in: .233/.290/.384. I know free agency brings out the crazy, but ain’t nobody going to overpay for that, especially when his career line is .264/.312/.424. He does hit for a little power, though that’s about it.
I’d wager the Nationals wouldn’t be too thrilled with him accepting the offer. We shall see.
I’m going to say it right now: if Estrada doesn’t take the $15.8 million, whomever represents him should probably be relieved of their duties. Estrada’s never made more in a season than last year ($3.9 million), he’s 32, and he’s coming off the best season of his career… but it was extremely lucky.
Estrada, who first appeared in 2008 but began consistently playing in 2011, posted a career best ERA of 3.13 over 28 starts (and 34 total games) in 2015. His FIP came in at 4.40a��almost a full run and a half higher. He still was susceptible to the long ball, giving up 24 (29 in 2014), and posted a career low strikeout rate (6.5 per nine).
Last note: league average BABIP is generally around the .300 mark; Estrada’s was .216. Next year could get really ugly for the right-hander, and he should genuinely consider taking the money.
Late last night, reports surfaced that Toronto and Estrada were working on a two-year deal worth anywhere between $24-$29 million. If it goes through, I’d say that’s a win-win for the starter: he takes a deal comparable in annual salary, and even gets a second year of it.
We’ll Know When Everyone Else Does
With everything that’s been established, again: don’t be surprised if only Rasmus is accepting. One out of 54 ain’t bad… or something like that, right?
Of those who haven’t declined already, do you think we’ll have more takers by 5 p.m. ET this afternoon?
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs