Several 2015 free agents will need to play well enough this year to counteract the poison pill of a qualifying offer, writes Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider link). Shin-Soo Choo managed the feat last year, putting up a big enough season that the sacrifice of a draft pick did not substantially limit his market. Barring a big setback, Max Scherzer has probably already done the same, according to Olney. Others, however, still have work to do to avoid a potentially heavily constrained market. Among them, in Olney's estimation, are Justin Masterson, Chase Headley, David Ortiz, Asdrubal Cabrera, James Shields, Jed Lowrie, Hanley Ramirez, and Brett Gardner.
Here are some notes from baseball's eastern divisions:
- The Blue Jays are not just the most active buyer on the free agent starting pitching market, but actually hold a "commanding position" in the same, Olney asserts in the same piece. Toronto's beneficial draft-pick situation and cash position have left it in the driver's seat, able to name a price and wait for one of the top remaining starters to accept that it's the best they can do.
- Jays president Paul Beeston discussed his baseball and business philosophies in a wide-ranging interview with Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. Saying that "economics will follow the winning," Beeston said that, though the team is "not in the business to lose money, ... we're not in the business to make money either. We make the money we'll plough it right back in ... ." He also complimented club ownership, saying they greenlighted payroll additions in cases like Aroldis Chapman (as an international free agent) and last year's major trades with the Marlins and Blue Jays. As for GM Alex Anthopoulos, Beeston credited the 36-year-old with pulling off deals last year that everyone in the front office supported and said the experience had been a learning experience for all involved.
- The Nationals could still follow suit on the last two off-seasons and make an unexpected, late free agent splash, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, who looks at the team's current commitments for 2014 and 2015. Washington was willing to pay $12MM over two years to reliever Grant Balfour, and cleared additional cash by backloading the two-year deals of Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond. Though the club could stand to add another catcher, no attractive free agent splashes remain. Kilgore wonders, however, whether a run at A.J. Burnett would make sense, especially given his preference to play near his Maryland home.
- Unless the Phillies elect to utilize Marlon Byrd as the backup center fielder, Darin Ruf does not appear to have a clear shot at a roster spot, writes Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Ruf could still be optioned down to start the year, but he is 27 years old and is not in need of seasoning. Though limited defensively, Ruf carries a .838 career OPS through 330 MLB plate appearances.