2015 MLB Free Agents Rumors

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?



Analyzing The 2014-15 MLB Free Agent Class

We're always looking ahead here at MLBTR, sometimes way ahead, hence our recent publication of the 2014-15 free agent class.  These players project for free agency after the 2014 season, two seasons from now.  We know plenty of them will sign extensions between now and then, but it's still fun to discuss.

Joining This Group Later

After the 2013 season, several players have club options that seem likely to be exercised, such as James Shields and Jon Lester.  That means they'll play out the 2014 season and then become free agents.

The Under-30 Group

Clayton Kershaw, Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, Colby Rasmus, Homer Bailey, and Chris Perez are among those who will play the 2015 season at an age below 30.  Kershaw and Andrus, in particular, are primed for monster contracts barring major hiccups in the next two seasons.  Kershaw will turn 27 in March of 2015, and the Dodgers' ace seems the best candidate to soar past the $200MM mark whether through an extension or free agency.  Andrus, meanwhile, will enter the 2015 season as a 26-year-old.  It takes a special kind of player to put in six years of Major League service time by that age. 

Position Players

The 2014-15 free agent class is deep at shortstop at the moment, with Andrus, Cabrera, J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, and perhaps Hanley Ramirez.  Sandoval, Chase Headley, and Nick Markakis are potential middle-of-the-order bats in a market that appears light on them.  Perhaps someone like Melky Cabrera can post a couple of strong seasons to solidify his status.  Otherwise you're looking at a 39-year-old David Ortiz or 35/36/37-year-olds Josh Willingham, Adam LaRoche, Victor Martinez, Aramis Ramirez, and Michael Cuddyer.

Starting Pitchers

Kershaw and Justin Verlander represent a pair of true aces who will seek record-setting contracts, should they reach free agency.  Verlander will turn 32 prior to the 2015 season.  I realize he's not like most pitchers, but the list of seven-year megacontracts given to 32-year-olds is a short one for good reason.  At any rate, it'll be fun times at MLBTR if both pitchers reach free agency, but there's a pretty good chance the Dodgers lock up Kershaw.  Beyond those two, Max Scherzer, Shields, and Lester comprise a strong second tier.  Homer Bailey, Justin Masterson, and Brandon McCarthy can join them with a pair of strong seasons.  And who knows what the mid-30s will bring for Josh Beckett and Jake Peavy.

How accurate can we be, analyzing a free agent class two years early?  Aside from all the guys who will be plucked off the market early due to extensions, some players will just see their stock plummet.  For every Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton, there's a Stephen Drew, a guy who I considered a $100MM contract candidate two years ago.


2015 MLB Free Agents

MLBTR’s up-to-date list of 2015 MLB free agents is below. These are players who project to be eligible for free agency after the 2014 season.  Players on the 2014 free agent list are not on this one, so when 2014 club options are exercised, this list will grow.

If you have any corrections or omissions, please contact us. To see who represents these players, check out our agency database.

Updated 8-12-14

Catchers

John Buck (34)
Ryan Doumit (34)
Nick Hundley (31) – $5MM club option
Gerald Laird (35)
Russell Martin (32)
Jeff Mathis (32) – $1.5MM club option
Wil Nieves (36)
Miguel Olivo (36)
A.J. Pierzynski (38)
David Ross (38)
Geovany Soto (32)

First Basemen

Yuniesky Betancourt (33)
Billy Butler (29) – $12.5MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Michael Cuddyer (36)
Jozzen Cuesta (25)
Corey Hart (33)
Adam LaRoche (35) – $15MM mutual option with a $2MM buyout
Adam Lind (31) – $7.5MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Mike Morse (33)
Carlos Pena (37)
Kevin Youkilis (36)

Second Basemen

Emilio Bonifacio (30)
Mark Ellis (38)
Rafael Furcal (37)
Tyler Greene (31)
Kelly Johnson (33)
Nick Punto (37) - $2.75MM club/vesting option with a $250k buyout
Brian Roberts (37)
Ramon Santiago (35)
Rickie Weeks (32) – $11.5MM vesting option
Ben Zobrist (34) – $7.5MM club option with a $500k buyout

Shortstops

Mike Aviles (34) – $3.5MM club option with a $250k buyout
Clint Barmes (36)
Asdrubal Cabrera (29)
Stephen Drew (32)
Rafael Furcal (37)
Tyler Greene (31)
J.J. Hardy (32)
Jed Lowrie (31)
John McDonald (40)
Hiroyuki Nakajima (32) – $5.5MM club option with a $500K buyout
Nick Punto (37) – $2.75MM club/vesting option with a $250K buyout
Hanley Ramirez (31)

Third Basemen

Alberto Callaspo (32)
Jack Hannahan (35) – $4MM club option with a $2MM buyout
Chase Headley (31)
Donnie Murphy (32)
Nick Punto (37) – $2.75MM club/vesting option with a $250k buyout
Aramis Ramirez (37) – $14MM mutual option with a $4MM buyout
Hanley Ramirez (31)
Pablo Sandoval (28)
Ty Wigginton (37)
Kevin Youkilis (36)

Left Fielders

Melky Cabrera (30)
Chris Denorfia (34)
Jonny Gomes (34)
Tony Gwynn Jr. (32)
Scott Hairston (35)
Reed Johnson (38)
Ryan Ludwick (36) – $9MM mutual option with a $4.5MM buyout
Mike Morse (33)
Alfonso Soriano (39)
Josh Willingham (36)
Delmon Young (29)

Center Fielders

Emilio Bonifacio (30)
Franklin Gutierrez (32)
Colby Rasmus (28)
Grady Sizemore (32)
Denard Span (31) – $9MM club option with a $500K buyout
Chris Young (31)

Right Fielders

Norichika Aoki (33)
Tyler Colvin (29)
Nelson Cruz (34)
Michael Cuddyer (36)
Chris Denorfia (34)
Jeff Francoeur (31)
Scott Hairston (35)
Torii Hunter (39)
Nick Markakis (31) – $17.5MM mutual option with a $2MM buyout
Alex Rios (34) – $13.5MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Nate Schierholtz (31)
Ichiro Suzuki (41)

Designated Hitters

Billy Butler (29) – $12.5MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Ryan Doumit (34)
Adam Dunn (35)
Jonny Gomes (34)
Raul Ibanez (42)
Adam Lind (31) – $7.5MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Victor Martinez (35)
Kendrys Morales (31)
Delmon Young (29)

Starting Pitchers

Brett Anderson (27) – $12MM club option with a $1.5MM buyout
Josh Beckett (35)
Chad Billingsley (30) – $14MM club option with a $3MM buyout
Joe Blanton (34)
A.J. Burnett (38) – mutual option
Chris Capuano (36)
Bruce Chen (38) – $5.5MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout
Wei-Yin Chen (29) – $4.75MM club option with a $372K buyout
Kevin Correia (34)
Johnny Cueto (29) – $10MM club option with an $800K buyout
Jorge De La Rosa (34)
Ryan Dempster (38)
Gavin Floyd (32)
Yovani Gallardo (29) – $13MM club option with a $600K buyout
Jason Hammel (32)
J.A. Happ (32) – $6.7MM club option
Aaron Harang (37)
Dan Haren (34) – $10MM player option if 180 innings reached in 2014
Roberto Hernandez (34)
Hisashi Iwakuma (34) – $7MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Josh Johnson (31) – $4MM club option
Kyle Kendrick (30)
Hiroki Kuroda (40)
Jon Lester (31)
Colby Lewis (35)
Francisco Liriano (31)
Paul Maholm (33)
Justin Masterson (30)
Brandon McCarthy (31)
Brandon Morrow (30) – $10MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Felipe Paulino (31) – $4MM club option with a $250K buyout
Jake Peavy (34)
Wandy Rodriguez (36)
Ervin Santana (32)
Joe Saunders (34)
Max Scherzer (30)
James Shields (33)
Misael Siverio (24)
Carlos Villanueva (31)
Ryan Vogelsong (37)
Edinson Volquez (30)
Jerome Williams (33)

Closers

Jason Grilli (38)
LaTroy Hawkins (42) – $2.25MM club option with a $250K buyout
Casey Janssen (33)
David Robertson (30)
Fransicso Rodriguez (33)
Sergio Romo (32)
Rafael Soriano (35) – $14MM vesting/club option
Huston Street (31) – $7MM club option
Koji Uehara (40)

Right-Handed Relievers

David Aardsma (33)
Mike Adams (36) – $6MM club option
Matt Albers (32) – $3MM club option with $200K buyout
Burke Badenhop (32)
Andrew Bailey (31)
Ronald Belisario (32)
Matt Belisle (34)
Heath Bell (37)
Jared Burton (34) – $3.6MM club option with a $200K buyout
Joba Chamberlain (29)
Manny Corpas (32)
Jesse Crain (34)
Kyle Farnsworth (39)
Jason Frasor (38)
Kyuji Fujikawa (34) – $5.5MM club/vesting option with a $500K buyout
Luke Gregerson (31)
Luke Hochevar (31)
Jim Johnson (32)
Matt Lindstrom (35)
Brandon Lyon (35)
Carlos Marmol (32)
Dustin McGowan (32) – $4MM club option with a $500K buyout
Jason Motte (33)
Peter Moylan (36)
Pat Neshek (34)
Darren O’Day (32) – $4.25MM club option with a $400K buyout
Juan Carlos Oviedo (33)
Joel Peralta (39) – $2.5MM club option
Chris Perez (29)
J.J. Putz (38)
Sergio Santos (31) – $6MM club option with a $750K buyout
Joakim Soria (30) – $7MM club option with a $500K buyout
Jose Veras (34)
Brian Wilson (33) – $9MM player option
Jamey Wright (40)

Left-Handed Relievers

Craig Breslow (34) – $4MM club option with a $100K buyout
Sean Burnett (32) – $4.5MM club/vesting option with a $500K buyout
Phil Coke (32)
Scott Downs (39)
Tom Gorzelanny (32)
Jose Mijares (29)
Andrew Miller (30)
Franklin Morales (29)
Joe Thatcher (33)

Cot’s Baseball Contracts was used in the creation of this list.