Poll: Will A 2015 Free Agent Accept A Qualifying Offer?

The qualifying offer system turned Kyle Lohse's name into a verb following the 2012-13 offseason.  Lohse didn't sign a free agent contract until late March, a long wait that was attributed to Lohse turning down the Cardinals' one-year, $13.3MM qualifying offer the previous November, and thus attaching the price of a first-round draft pick to any team that wanted to sign him.

Lohse, at least, ended up with some solid long-term security in the form of his three-year contract from the Brewers.  This offseason's four free agents who "got Kyle Lohse'd" haven't been nearly so lucky in finding a multiyear commitment.  Ervin Santana, coming off a 3.0 fWAR/2.9 rWAR season in 2013, could only find a one-year, $14.1MM contract and had to wait until almost the middle of March to find it.  Nelson Cruz, who posted an .833 OPS with 27 homers in 2013, could only find a one-year deal worth $8MM from the Orioles.  As for Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew, it's almost mid-April and both players remain unsigned.

While such factors as defensive limitations, injury worries and (in Cruz's case) PED histories limited the quartet's market, the qualifying offer stands out as the biggest reason why Santana and Cruz were limited to one-year deals, and why Morales and Drew are still available.  Teams simply weren't willing to give up first- or second-round draft picks in order to make major commitments to these players, while other similar free agents (i.e. Jhonny Peralta or Matt Garza) who didn't require draft pick compensation were able to find four-year contracts.

No free agent has accepted a qualifying offer in the two years that the system has been in place, yet as ESPN's Jayson Stark noted today, "clubs are already getting the vibe from some agents that player/agent strategy is about to change — and players will be far more open to taking qualifying offers next winter."  Next year's qualifying offer will be in the range of $15MM for a one-year deal, so while players will be giving up long-term security, they'll still make significant money for accepting a contract.  A National League executive tells Stark that teams could employ a tactic of offering a multiyear deal to players who accept a qualifying offer in order to both spread the money out and to give the player more security.

As Lohse himself tells Stark, however, settling for a one-year qualifying offer may be profitable but it goes against the spirit of free agent.  "I know we're fortunate to be making the money we're making. But when you get that option where you only have a one-year deal, you don't have any security," Lohse said. "To penalize guys who, in my case last time, have put in 10 or 11 years, and to lock me into a situation where I only have the opportunity to get a one-year deal…it puts guys in a totally different situation that have worked so hard to get to where they want to be."  Another issue, as Lohse notes, is that a player who accepts a one-year qualifying offer deal could find himself stuck in the same position the next offseason. 

I'd argue that player/agent relations could be another factor in the decision about accepting a qualifying offer process.  If an agent advises his client that a one-year qualifying offer is the best option, a player who has waited years for free agency (as Lohse described) and is coming off a strong enough season to merit a qualifying offer in the first place might not accept this advice and seek out a new agent instead.  Granted, unrealistic contract expectations may have played a part in why Cruz (reportedly looking for a $75MM deal) and Santana (looking for a nine-figure contract) drew such limited interest on the open market, but agents pride themselves on finding the best possible deals for their clients and don't want to be seen as "settling" on a one-year deal for a client coming off a good season.

Being open to accepting a qualifying offer could, conversely, become a tactic unto itself for players, Stark notes.  If players are more open to accepting these offers, teams could be more wary of extending them in the first place to so-called "borderline" free agents.  The Red Sox might not have risked Drew accepting their offer, for instance, as the team seemed eager to give Xander Bogaerts an everyday role at shortstop.  (Boston did explore re-signing Drew for a one-year deal, but likely not at a $14.1MM price.)

There's still a ton of baseball to be played before we reach the 2014-15 offseason, of course, and still to early to speculate about which of the 2015 free agents stand out as possible candidates to be "Kyle Lohse'd" — or, maybe this term is now "Kendrys Morales'd" or "Stephen Drew'd."  Still, given how this most recent offseason has played out for Morales, Drew, Cruz and Santana, do you think we'll see at least one free agent bite the bullet and accept a qualifying offer in November?


38 Responses to Poll: Will A 2015 Free Agent Accept A Qualifying Offer? Leave a Reply

  1. 0vercast 1 year ago

    Woe is me! Next time someone offers a player $14-15MM to play baseball for 6 months, one would be wise to accept it.

    They want security? I’d say $15MM offers great security.

    • Mil8Ball 1 year ago

      Yah because money is the only form of security.

      How about knowing you won’t have to move in 6months.

      How about not having to move you kids to a new school every year.

      • discollama 1 year ago

        I’m pretty sure that $15m will set a guy for life and keep their kids living well long after the player has died. That’s a HUGE amount of security.

      • 0vercast 1 year ago

        The kids and family don’t have to move with the player. They could live in Connecticut at the family estate while the ballplayer does a few years as a pay-for-hire mercenary. Boom, $25MM later, DADDY’S HOME!! Set for life. Trust funds and all.

        It’s not like a MLB player spends that much time at home anyways. They’re on the road for half of the 6 month season.

        It’s worth mentioning that during the half-year offseason, the player could live with the family.

      • Steve Corbett 1 year ago

        $15,000,000 buys one fine tutor.

    • Jeff Scott 1 year ago

      That $15 million is enough money to live on is completely irrelevant to the dilemma here. The only way to analyze this is in terms of what are the relative impacts on a player’s market value caused by this system. I think the system should be revised in some way because the impact is disproportionately borne by a certain kind of player–the worst of the good. It will put about 10 players a year or so in a situation where they have to make an incredibly difficult, irrevocable decision only few other players in the league will ever have to make. That’s not fair, it puts a certain handful of guys on a playing field that simply isn’t level in free agency and contract negotiations. Since baseball is a business, it’s wrong to have a system that favors one kind of a player over others and vice versa.

      • 0vercast 1 year ago

        Good points, but you can’t please everybody. A handful of players are always going to get the short end of the stick, and over the last couple seasons, it’s literally only a handful.

        At least the QO offers small-to-mid-market teams an opportunity to receive some substantial compensation if/when the big spenders buy their FAs away from them.

        • Sky14 1 year ago

          In theory your last point makes sense but it hasn’t played out that way in the short period of the new system. The bigger market teams have received picks because they can afford the risk of the QO. While at the same time they can pursue players who have a draft pick attached because the pick/slot is not as valuable to them as it is to smaller markets.

          • discollama 1 year ago

            Small sample size alert! It’l get better when the smaller markets start losing quality guys to free agency. I have a feeling Headley might get one, Masterson surely will, and the Red Sox and Yankees hardly have anyone worthy of a QO coming off the books in the next couple of years. You cant judge a new system because of poor timing of the free agent sample.

          • Sky14 1 year ago

            I acknowledged that, but the little data we have is better than prognostication based off feelings. Thus far it hasn’t been as favourable to smaller market teams and has shrunk the market for certain players.

      • discollama 1 year ago

        You’re right when you say: “That $15 million is enough money to live on is completely irrelevant to the dilemma here. ”

        The dilemma instead is this: “But he got $X three years ago, and I think I’m just as good as him! I should get more!”

    • tenncub 1 year ago

      yeah, I’m not poor by any means, but would certainly be a good bit more secure with a year of that salary.

  2. johnsilver 1 year ago

    Chance we see some, like Lowrie and Sandoval take the QO this off season if they don’t come to terms during this season on an extension. Hardy is another, but think it hinders him less with no injury, or other negative issue past.

    • I think Sandoval could go either way though I’m leaning toward no as of now, but there’s almost no chance Lowrie gets offered a QO. He’ll accept a ten million dollar raise under almost any circumstance and I doubt Oakland wants to pay a slightly above average when healthy SS 15 million.

      • johnsilver 1 year ago

        I dunno. A healthy Lowrie is a better overall player (to me) than is JJ Hardy and can play more positions.

        Oakland this last season hasn’t shied away from spending either. Giving the league leader in blown saves 10m was a surprise to some, especially when fans from some teams had noticed he didn’t seem to be the same guy from say.. July-August on last year that he was previously.

        Think Oakland could do worse than offering Lowrie 15m. He would be insurance at 3b for Donaldson and not bad at 2b either. It’s that constant worry over him and the 3 month long DL stint that gives GM’s night mares.

        • discollama 1 year ago

          I actually just read an interesting article postulating that the A’s spent big on Johnson as a way to keep saves low for Cook and Doolittle as a way to keep their arbitration values lower. Since Johnson is a FA at the end of the year, $10m now can actually save them close to $8m in arbitration by denying those enough saves for them to matter.

        • I still think its a huge long shot that he’s offered it. He’ll accept the QO unless he places in MVP voting. It’s more up to whether or not Beane wants a 15 million injury prone SS.

          As you pointed out, there’s some precedence for that. I disliked both the Johnson and Kazmir signing this year and the Young signing last year, but it does go to show that Beane does take risks with eight figure salaries. You could be right.

  3. Mil8Ball 1 year ago

    How about providing me some possibilities. That’s a lot of writing, but lacks an important piece of info.

    Now you have 84% of people saying yes just because it didn’t work out for some guys this year. The players next year might not even be comparable.

    • Meh Sheep 1 year ago

      Candidates:

      JJ Hardy
      Victor Martinez
      Michael Cuddyer
      Nelson Cruz
      Russell Martin
      Ervin Santana
      Justin Masterson

      • discollama 1 year ago

        With the QO going up to around $15m Cuddyer, Martinez, Martin and probably Hardy would do well to take them given their ages and injury histories. If I’m the O’s, I don’t make a QO to Cruz though, that guy has to have learned his lesson from this past off season.

  4. discollama 1 year ago

    If marginal FA’s haven’t learned their lesson yet, there’s something incredibly wrong happening between the players and their agents.

    • johnsilver 1 year ago

      There is no such thing as a player being out of touch with their agent, haven’t you read?

      It is now known as collusion, collusion, collusion.. This is a recording.. Collusion, collusion.. I can hear Boras talking in the background at the podium….

      • discollama 1 year ago

        I know right?! It’s not like the MLBPA got the chance to approve or shoot down this part of the CBA. Oh, wait…

  5. Mike1L 1 year ago

    Realistically, the top tier free agents who got QO’s signed anyway, many of them for terrific deals. If the player is truly worth the price, in draft pick, and money, he will get a good multiyear contract. There’s a common thread amongst Santana, Cruz, Morales and Drew–none of them are top tier, and all four came with question marks. Players need to be more honest with themselves. And I hope a couple do take the QO, if for no other reason but to keep teams who make the QO merely to get a draft pick think twice.

  6. Orpoal 1 year ago

    Just watch Ervin decline another one

  7. Freddie Morales 1 year ago

    There’s not many guys that are even candidates to receive it next year. Lester, Scherzer, masterson, Hanley, hardy, lowrie are the only possibilities in my eyes for it. Only one in this group I could see accepting it is Lowrie but he’s also least likely to receive QO. Ervin Santana n Nelson Cruz are very slight possibilities but they would probably take it this time around.

    • Jeff 1 year ago

      I don’t think the Braves will dare to give Santana the QO out of fear he takes it. There goes any chance of extending J-Up or Heyward if he does.

  8. murphys_ghost 1 year ago

    I find it hard to bring up tears over the terrible plight of millionaires. Maybe it’s just me.

  9. orangeoctober 1 year ago

    Cruz, Santana, and maybe Lowrie are possibilities I guess. Russell Martin?

  10. Ben Zautner 1 year ago

    I’ve been a huge fan of this site for 4+ years but this story absolutely disgusts me.

  11. tenncub 1 year ago

    You can probably expect to see the players assn. claiming collusion on the part of the owners based on the failure of guys who were made qualifying offers not faring better in the FA market.

  12. Jeff Scott 1 year ago

    How about, “My numbers clearly indicate that my fair market value would be in the neighborhood of $X per year over X number of years, why should I have to choose between accepting nothing more than a one year deal and testing a market where I may run the risk of having to accept a long term contract at 60% of what I’m worth because I come with strings attached while no one else does?” And, perhaps even more unfairly, “Why must I be forced to make this decision at the very beginning of free agency before the market for my skills has been established/can be reasonably estimated?” Making an intelligent decision on whether to accept a QO under the current circumstances is almost impossible for many players.

    • discollama 1 year ago

      Or, Cruz, Morales, and Drew are only worth tops 10m AAV without significant years attached and Santana is only worth around 12. if you’re only worth ~2/24 or 3/36 then why would would you turn down ~39-50% of that value for only one year of work?! Why would a GM offer you more than that when you’re you have compensation attached to you?! I wouldn’t have given Cruz, Morales or Drew more than 2/20 without compensation. They all have serious flaws and concerns that you have to worry about, are on the wrong side of 30 with teams either not having much of a need or able to full those needs through other means. Their agents have no excuses for not seeing this coming, we saw it three times last year in Bourn, Swisher, and Lohse who had to wait and took less than they were looking for and these three are significantly worse than them.

      • Jeff Scott 1 year ago

        Your assessment of the two players is fair enough. Maybe you can blame their agents, but you have to keep in mind they only have the opportunity to make that decision ONCE, before the off-season market fully emerges and before they are allowed to test the free agent waters in any way. When you reject a qualifying offer, that decision is binding no matter what happens next. That short-circuits negotiation.

        • discollama 1 year ago

          Ok, but Cruz was wanting a mega-deal, which was a vast over assessment of his worth. Same with Santana. I’m not exactly sure what Drew and Morales were looking for, but for it to have been reasonable, their initial asking price couldn’t have been more than 4/50, which again is a huge overvaluation. But, like I said above, who in their right mind would be happy spending that kind of money for those players? The blame almost has to lie solely on the shoulders of the agents and players for thinking that past market values would continue to drive the current market values now that teams are wiser to sabermetrics and aging curves after the steroid era. Now, you offer them about half of what they should be worth up front on a one year deal and its asinine to reject the offer when you know that doing so will severely hamper your market. The writing was on the wall for these player’s overall worth and for what would happen to them if they rejected the offer, but they were blinded by greed.

  13. discollama 1 year ago

    It’s not a feeling All you have to so is look up players slated to be free agents at the end of 2014 and 2015 to see that there are going to be more players worthy of qualifying offers coming from smaller market teams than larger ones. The only way that it might fail is if players continue to reject these offers and reward teams for making risky decisions

    • Ken Chia-Hung Wu 1 year ago

      I’ve been a baseball fan for about 15 years or so and went through the whole type A and type B FAs and this new system and I never understood the concept…why the hell should ANY team be COMPENSATED for losing a FA in the first place??? Neither of the other 3 major sports do it, especially in basketball where ONE player can make a HELL of a difference vs. the MLB where one player can make a big impact, but would not be the be all end all reason for a team’s success or failure. And before anyone says anything about small to big market teams, I would love to point out that the NBA is just as bad if NOT WORSE than MLB in terms of the whole big/small market situation. Yes, there is a CAP in the NBA, but both sports have lux or overspending tax.

      • discollama 1 year ago

        Because the other major sports in this country all have salary caps, the MLBPA nearly destroyed MLB in order to prevent them. This is the solution. You add compensation to players as a means of keeping salaries lower in exchange for no salary caps. But, then again, no one would be crying over FA’s having their salaries artificially deflated by means of teams needing to stay under a cap, instead we have people whining that a handful of millionaires aren’t getting even more millions heaped upon them because they rejected a pretty fair offer for one year of their services. So, when you ask why again next time, just remember that the MLBPA likes this more than teams only being able to spend $100 million to field a team every season.

Leave a Reply