Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

MLB News

Assessing toughest qualifying offer decisions

Teams have until 5 p.m. ET on Monday to give $17.4 million offer
November 3, 2017

With the 2017 season complete, the next step in the wonderful year-round world of baseball is the qualifying offer, namely who will receive one and who will accept one. The qualifying offer is a one-year, $17.4 million contract that teams may offer to pending free agents, and if a player

With the 2017 season complete, the next step in the wonderful year-round world of baseball is the qualifying offer, namely who will receive one and who will accept one. The qualifying offer is a one-year, $17.4 million contract that teams may offer to pending free agents, and if a player declines and signs elsewhere, his original team receives compensation based on contract value and market size, though it should be less of a burden than in years past, since compensation no longer includes a team's highest pick. (A full explanation of the new rules can be found here.) 
Teams have until 5 p.m. ET on Monday to make the offer. Players then have 10 days, until 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, Nov. 16, to accept. So who should get one -- and who should say yes? Let's give you a preview of the market.
• Hot Stove Tracker
As in years past, players who were traded during the season cannot be given a qualifying offer, so a group including but not limited to Jay Bruce, Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Addison Reed and Todd Frazier has nothing to worry about. They'll be free and clear.

In a new wrinkle, teams can also no longer extend a qualifying offer to players who have already received one in the past. That insulates Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, Carlos Beltran, Ubaldo Jimenez, John Lackey and others, though most of them were unlikely to get an offer anyway.
In the five previous offseasons with a qualifying offer available, an offer has been extended 64 times, but only five players have actually accepted the deal. (Colby Rasmus , Brett Anderson and Matt Wieters did so in the offseason of 2015-16, and Jeremy Hellickson and Neil Walker did in '16-17). 
OF Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies; SS Alcides Escobar, Royals; C Welington Castillo, Orioles; OF Carlos Gomez, Rangers; 1B Mitch Moreland, Red Sox; RP Bryan Shaw, Indians; RP Jake McGee, Rockies; OF Jarrod Dyson, Mariners; OF Jonathan Jay, Cubs; OF Jayson Werth, Nationals; DH Matthew Holliday, Yankees; SP Tyler Chatwood, Rockies; SP Chris Tillman, Orioles; SP Jason Vargas, Royals; RP Brandon Morrow, Dodgers; RP Mike Minor, Royals
There's talent here -- in some cases a lot. You could start a pretty decent roster with just this group, so we'll take the time to at least note them here. But whether due to age, performance, injury history, position or some combination of all of it, there's not a player here who is likely to come close to earning $17.4 million on the market this offseason. If offered, every player here would probably accept it in a heartbeat, and so none will receive the offer.
SP Jacob Arrieta, Cubs
RP Wade Davis, Cubs
RP Greg Holland, Rockies
3B Mike Moustakas, Royals
1B Eric Hosmer, Royals
OF Lorenzo Cain, Royals

These six players -- five of whom were the heart of Kansas City's 2014-15 pennant winners -- represent a big part of the cream of the crop of this offseason's free-agent class, and they'll all be looking for large multiyear deals, in some cases likely to end up well over $100 million.
That being the case, all six will get the offer and will likely turn it down in search of a long-term deal. (Which could still be in the form of a new deal from their present team.)
SP Lance Lynn, Cardinals

After missing the 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery, Lynn's 2017 return was a largely successful one, as he put up 186 1/3 innings of 3.43 ERA ball. Looking at advanced Statcast™ quality of contact metrics, he was considered to be the 67th best of 187 starters who faced 200 batters. That puts Lynn basically at the back end of the top one-third of starters. That sounds ... exactly right, actually.
That said, there were some warning signs; Lynn's 19.7 percent strikeout rate was a career low, and his 10.1 percent walk rate was a career high. Plus, the Cardinals already have plenty of rotation options, including Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty, Luke Weaver and the returning Alex Reyes. Still, Lynn is a solid enough mid-rotation starter in a world where those kind of players routinely get valuable multiyear deals, so the Cards are best-served to extend the offer and watch him decline it to head elsewhere.
Prediction: Receives offer / declines offer
SS Zack Cozart, Reds

There may be no more difficult player to value this offseason than Cozart. From 2011-16, he was a slick-fielding, light-hitting shortstop, one who hit only .246/.289/.385 in over 2,500 plate appearances. Then in '17, Cozart broke out in a big way, hitting .297/.385/.548 with 24 homers, actually starting the All-Star Game over Corey Seager.
At 32 years old, it's difficult to know whether that's a great year or the new normal, though it's worth noting that there were only two hitters who Statcast™ saw as outperforming their actual skill level more than Cozart. Plus, there's the issue of which contenders would actually be in the market for a shortstop, given the glut of young talent at the position, which affected attempts to trade him in July. That being the case, the high-priced contract he'd seek may not be there, and the Reds likely wouldn't risk surrendering their entire offseason budget on one player.
Prediction: Does not receive offer
1B/DH Carlos Santana, Indians

Long one of Cleveland's most reliable hitters, Santana's 2017 (.259/.363/.455) looked a lot like his career totals (.249/.365/.445), and he'll be looking to cash in after signing a five-year extension worth just $21 million back in '12. The only hesitation here is that the Indians already gave Edwin Encarnacion$60 million over three years prior to '17, so they do have a 1B/DH option in-house. Still, an offer to Santana is win/win -- a single-year commitment to a talented player, or compensation if he declines.
Prediction: Receives offer / declines offer
SP Alex Cobb, Rays
1B/DH Logan Morrison, Rays

We'll lump these two Tampa Bay players together, because while they're each individually deserving of consideration, it's difficult to see the Rays risking the chance that both will accept and eat up around $35 million of 2018 payroll between the two of them. While Morrison had a breakout year, hitting 38 homers, it was also well out of character with his past, and $17.4 million is a huge raise from the $2.5 million he made this past season. Cobb's return from arm surgery was a successful one (179 1/3 innings of 3.66 ERA), and at 30, he'd be likely to decline any offer anyway in search of a longer deal elsewhere.
Prediction (Cobb): Receives offer / declines offer
Prediction (Morrison): Does not receive offer

SP Carsten Sabathia, Yankees

It's somewhat of a surprise that this is even a consideration, since Sabathia is 37 and looked like he was near the end of his career in 2014-15, putting up a 4.85 ERA in 213 1/3 innings. But he rebounded nicely in '16-17, giving New York 328 1/3 innings with a 3.81 ERA and becoming an important member of the playoff rotation. With Michael Pineda injured (and a free agent), the Yankees will need a starter, and they'll at least consider doing this. Ultimately, however, it won't be worth the risk, though a reunion could still happen.
Prediction: Does not receive offer
SP Andrew Cashner, Rangers

There's some buzz that the pitching-needy Rangers, who had a 4.66 rotation ERA and can only really count on Cole Hamels and Martin Perez headed into 2018, might take this opportunity to bring back Cashner, who had a 3.40 ERA in 166 2/3 innings. But if they do bring him back, it won't be like this; Cashner had the lowest strikeout percentage of any American League starter, and his Statcast™ quality of contact metrics put him in the range of Matt Garza and Ty Blach. That's not enough to earn him a raise from $10 million this year.
Prediction: Does not receive offer

Mike Petriello is an analyst for and the host of the Statcast podcast.