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Next year’s free agent market contains plenty of players who could receive qualifying offers — David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Heyward, and others. Here’s a look at potential qualifying offer recipients who have the best chance of being traded this season, thus preventing them from receiving that designation.
At issue, of course, is draft pick compensation and forfeiture. A team extending a qualifying offer to a player receives a draft pick in return if the player signs elsewhere. The signing team also gives up a draft pick. But a player who has been traded in the season before he becomes a free agent can’t be extended a qualifying offer and thus isn’t attached to draft picks. That can be an important consideration for teams shopping for free agents, as we’ve seen in recent years in the cases of Kyle Lohse, Nelson Cruz, Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales, whose markets have all shrunk in part because of the qualifying offer.
Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, Reds. The Reds are off to a 4-0 start but still aren’t that likely to contend, which means that Cueto and Leake could hit the free agent market this summer. Trading Cueto, in particular, would be a great way for the Reds to add to their collection of young talent. Leake might be somewhat trickier to trade, since the Reds’ return might not be worth that much more than the draft pick and negotiating leverage they would forgo by dealing him.
Ben Zobrist and Scott Kazmir, Athletics. Billy Beane’s trade for Zobrist this offseason was a somewhat surprising one to begin with. The Athletics could easily contend, but if they don’t, Beane seems unlikely to sit still, and finding a new home for Zobrist wouldn’t be difficult given his versatility. Kazmir is another possibility — if he performs at his 2014 levels, he could receive a qualifying offer if the A’s contend or be traded if they don’t.
Alex Gordon, Royals. The Royals haven’t discussed an extension with Gordon, who would undoubtedly be an attractive trade target if the Royals were to fall out of contention in the AL Central. They’re currently 4-0, however, and there’s still the matter of Gordon’s $12.5MM option. Exercising it would likely not be an optimal financial decision from Gordon’s perspective, but he’s expressed interest in doing so before. If he were to make clear to the Royals that he planned to do so, he almost certainly wouldn’t be a trade candidate.
Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy, Padres. San Diego gambled heavily this offseason on the Padres’ ability to win in 2015. If they don’t, A.J. Preller doesn’t seem like the sort of GM to hang onto two key players who are due to become free agents. One possibility if the Padres were to trade Kennedy or especially Upton would be to acquire big-league talent in return, much like the Red Sox did when they dealt Jon Lester last summer. That would enable the Padres to re-tool for 2016, when they’ll still control most of the players they acquired over the winter.
Yovani Gallardo, Rangers. The Brewers exercised what was effectively a $12.4MM 2015 option ($13MM minus a $600K buyout) before trading Gallardo to Texas. His market value likely is somewhere near the value of a qualifying offer, and extending him one wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Rangers if he performs well this season. They could easily trade him rather than doing that, although that might be somewhat difficult given all the higher-impact starters who might be available and the value that would disappear if the ability to extend Gallardo a qualifying offer were to vanish.
Jeff Samardzija, White Sox. The new-look White Sox are 0-4, and GM Rick Hahn has said he will be “nimble” in turning his attention to the future if the organization’s moves to contend this summer don’t work out. That might mean Samardzija could be traded for the third time in a year. He would likely command significant value on the trade market.
Chris Davis and Matt Wieters, Orioles. Davis and Wieters are worth watching, although it’s somewhat unlikely that they’re valuable enough to receive qualifying offers and that they become trade candidates. Davis had a down season in 2014, while Wieters continues to struggle with health problems (and there’s currently no timetable for his return from an elbow injury). If Davis and Wieters are productive and healthy, the Orioles could well contend, and thus it’s unlikely they’ll be traded. If they aren’t, they might not be qualifying offer candidates.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Alex Gordon | Baltimore Orioles | Ben Zobrist | Chicago White Sox | Chris Davis | Cincinnati Reds | Free Agent Market | Ian Kennedy | Jeff Samardzija | Johnny Cueto | Justin Upton | Kansas City Royals | Matt Wieters | Mike Leake | MLBTR Originals | Oakland Athletics | San Diego Padres | Texas Rangers | Yovani Gallardo
After covering five postseason games in St. Petersburg, Florida and two exhibition games at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com is convinced there is a greater passion for the game in Montreal than in Tampa Bay. The Rays aren’t heading north of the border anytime soon; but, in Morosi’s view, this weekend’s big turnout in the Expos’ former home showed that Montrealers feel a greater connection to the team they lost than Tampa Bay fans do for the team they still have.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- The Orioles are still trying to make a trade to give them some flexibility, writes Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com. Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette confirmed to reporters, including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko (via Twitter), submitting the Opening Day roster does not prevent him from making moves. “Once you submit your roster it’s like the regular season,” said Duquette. “You can make moves anytime after you get your roster submitted.” Baltimore will need to make a roster move after its first contest, as Chris Davis will have completed his 25-game suspension for Adderall use.
- The Red Sox didn’t trade Lars Anderson or Ryan Lavarnway at the peak of their value and they have rebuffed whatever advances the Phillies have made toward Blake Swihart in a Cole Hamels deal. Despite outside pressure from some fans, GM Ben Cherington has always erred on the side of patience, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. “The reason that you fight back against trading a young player you believe in,” Cherington said, “is that, when it does happen, when it works the way you hope it works and the way you think it might work at the major-league level, it’s really impactful. If we think a guy has a good shot to be successful in Boston, we are going to have a presumption to try to keep them.”
- The Rays appeared to be in learn-now, win-later mode early in the offseason, but they also made several present-day improvements to put themselves in position to win in 2014, opines Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays now believe they have put together a team that is deeper offensively, more athletic, and improved defensively. The pitching situation also appeared to be improved, though the Rays currently have three starters on the shelf.
- The New York Post’s Joel Sherman posits the Yankees coud miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season and finish with a losing record for the first time since 1992, but their long-term future looks more encouraging that it has in a decade.
Let’s take a look at the latest out of Baltimore:
- The Orioles are “keeping an eye” on Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. Baltimore is one of nine teams as to which Howard does not enjoy no-trade protection. The Orioles’ level of interest is far from clear, of course, especially since there is no indication that the team has seriously pursued Howard to this point.
- One player whose present and future would presumably weigh on the addition of someone with Howard’s profile is slugger Chris Davis, who is entering his final year of team control (along with ten other current Orioles). As Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun reports, Davis is keeping a close eye on how Baltimore proceeds in considering his future. You’ll want to give this piece a full read, as it has several interesting quotes from Davis, who expressed how much he likes playing for the O’s while also making clear that he thinks the team will need to make new investments to keep pace in the AL East.
- Baltimore has obviously achieved significant value from its lower-profile acquisitions in recent years, with Davis himself being perhaps the prime example. One player who has been a surprising contributor is backstop Caleb Joseph, as Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. Before breaking in at the big league level last year, the 28-year-old spent every offseason as a wage laborer. Joseph is not alone in that, of course, and Encina discusses the hard work put in by several other Orioles in an interesting look at that side of the game.
Everth Cabrera‘s one-year deal with the Orioles is now official, but manager Buck Showalter tells Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun that even though the former Padre signed a big league deal, he’ll have to earn a roster spot this spring. Cabrera has a minor league option remaining and could head to Triple-A Norfolk if he doesn’t perform well. Showalter acknowledges that there’s some risk in the signing, given Cabrera’s checkered past, but he’s been told good things from people in the NL West. “There’s some upside there for sure,” said Showalter. “…There’s some unknown for me about him. The one division that I’ve constantly got to lean on people that I really trust is the National League West. … There’s just a lot of unknown for East Coast teams.”
A few more Orioles notes…
- Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has been granted a therapeutic-use exemption for 2015 for Vyvanse, an ADHD medication that works differently than Adderall, which he was suspended for last season, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Vyvanse is an amphetamine like Adderall, but it lasts longer and is less likely to be abused for non-therapeutic reasons. The 28-year-old says he has responded well to it so far and even prefers it to Adderall.
- General manager and executive VP Dan Duquette spoke with Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com about using his farm system to acquire Major League talent — a tactic he’s employed multiple times since joining the Orioles. Among the higher profile examples are his acquisitions of Bud Norris, Francisco Rodriguez, Andrew Miller and now Travis Snider. Duquette says he feels fortunate to have enough depth that they can use their farm system to produce big league players like Manny Machado and Kevin Gausman but still trade players such as Eduardo Rodriguez for midseason upgrades. Regarding that trade specifically, Duquette admits that he did not want to part with Rodriguez to acquire Miller but realized it was a requirement on Boston’s end of the deal. “And Andrew Miller helped the Orioles get to the playoffs,” said Duquette. “I could argue he was the difference in the first playoff series with the Tigers. What if he was on the other side of the field in the Detroit dugout? What if we didn’t have him to get key outs in that series?” Melewski’s piece is full of quotes from Duquette on the O’s trading tactics and philosophies and is well worth a read in its entirety.
- Showalter chatted with Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com and discussed the team’s somewhat curious decision to give reliever Oliver Drake a Major League deal this offseason. The team wasn’t concerned about him signing elsewhere or being taken in the Rule 5 Draft. Rather, said Showalter, “We get to the point where you don’t care what everybody else might think. If you like him and you want to keep him and you think he can impact you, you put him on the roster… Our people in Double-A and everybody who had him said he’s back, physically good, and was as good a relief pitcher as there was in that league.”
The Orioles have avoided arbitration by agreeing on one year deals with three players, according to reports. Catcher Matt Wieters, corner infielder/outfielder Chris Davis, righty Chris Tillman, and lefty Brian Matusz all have reached terms for 2015.
After missing most of 2014, Wieters will earn $8.3MM in his final year of arbitration, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). That represents a $600K bump over his salary last year, a much lower figure than would have been expected coming into the season. The 28-year-old saw only 112 plate appearances, slashing an impressive .308/.339/.500 in that short sample, before succumbing to right elbow issues that ultimately required Tommy John surgery.
Davis also will receive a much lower raise than seemed likely before 2014, in his case due to performance issues and a late-season suspension. He will take home $12MM, up from $10.35MM last year, per Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz was right on the mark with a $11.8MM projection for the slugger. Davis can also earn bonuses of $150K upon his 500th and 575th trips to the plate and $50K each for an All-Star appearance, Gold Glove award, or Silver Slugger nod.
Tillman, meanwhile, has settled for $4.315MM, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. Connolly was first to report (on Twitter) that a deal had been reached. The 26-year-old becomes the second-highest-paid first-time arb-eligible starter in MLB history. As Swartz wrote recently, Tillman seemed likely to come in just under the record, and fall shy of the $5.4MM projection that Swartz’s model produced.
As for Matusz, he will play for $3.2MM next year, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. That constitutes a nice increase over Swartz’s projection of $3.2MM. Soon to turn 28, Matusz was again effective from the pen last year, tossing 51 2/3 frames of 3.48 ERA ball.
The Orioles are still hunting for outfield help, and Delmon Young is “absolutely” still in play, agent Joel Wolfe tells MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. Wolfe says that all discussions with the O’s have been “very positive,” though Kubatko writes that Young’s preference is a multiyear deal, whereas the Orioles are more comfortable signing Young to a one-year deal, perhaps with an option.
Here’s some more from Baltimore…
- The Orioles were also wary about committing multiple years to Michael Morse, Kubatko notes. The O’s had “strong interest” in Morse earlier in the offseason but the veteran found a multiyear deal elsewhere, signing a two-year/$16MM contract with the Marlins.
- In another Kubatko piece, he writes that the acquisition of left-hander Wesley Wright doesn’t necessarily mean the O’s will look to move Brian Matusz since Matusz is more of a lefty specialist. This said, Baltimore does seemingly have a surplus of bullpen arms that could be used as trade bait, and Kubatko speculates that the Padres (with their surplus of outfielders) could be a fit as a trade partner.
- The Orioles have given some consideration to signing Ichiro Suzuki, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes.
- Chris Davis has received permission from Major League Baseball to take Adderall next season, Buck Showalter told reporters (including Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun). Davis was issued a 25-game suspension last year for his unauthorized use of Adderall, and he still has one game remaining on his punishment.
- The Orioles will interview Scott Coolbaugh about their vacant hitting coach position, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. Coolbaugh was the Rangers’ hitting coach from 2011-12 and is currently their minor league hitting coordinator.
The Marlins are “determined to upgrade” their first base position and have started looking into the trade market as a means of doing so, according to a report from Barry Jackson and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. Miami is looking to replace or, presumably, platoon with incumbent Garrett Jones.
Among the players as to whom the Marlins have inquired are Evan Gattis of the Braves and Chris Davis of the Orioles, per the report. The pair of 28-year-olds are in quite different situations, needless to say, but obviously each hold their own appeal. Davis is a left-handed hitter who is coming off a down year and looking to bolster his 50-home run resume in his final season before reaching free agency. Gattis, a catcher who could presumably shift over to first, will not even be eligible for arbitration until next season. He hits from the right side and thus would pair nicely with the left-handed bat of Jones, who remains under contract for one more season.
Miami would be required to part with a valued young arm to land either player, the report suggests. One possibility would be a deal involving well-regarded lefty Andrew Heaney, though of course the Fish are generally well-stocked in rotation prospects.
Miami reportedly made an offer to Adam LaRoche — the market’s best pure first baseman — before he signed with the White Sox. Missing on LaRoche left the market without much in the way of established, recently productive first baseman. Michael Morse remains a candidate to play that position, but the Marlins’ interest is “lukewarm,” per the report.
In a text message to George A. King III of the New York Post, David Robertson says things are “quiet on the front” in terms of a multiyear contract with the Yankees or receiving a qualifying offer from the team. The Yankees are expected to extend the QO to Robertson and the closer is very likely to reject it given the interest in his services. At least six clubs are interested in Robertson this winter, a league source tells Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.
Here’s more from around the AL East…
- The Yankees have begun talks with Chase Headley, CBSSports.com’ Jon Heyman reports. New York has exclusive negotiating rights with Headley until 11pm CT tonight, though it would be quite surprising to see a deal reached before Headley has had a chance to test the thin free agent market.
- Blue Jays southpaw J.A. Happ is “generating lots of interest” in trades, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi reports. Happ enjoyed a solid 2014 season and had his $6.7MM option for 2015 exercised by the Jays on Friday. With the newly-acquired Marco Estrada now in the rotation mix, Happ could be expendable.
- Earlier today, Sportsnet.ca’s Jeff Blair reported that the Blue Jays have had internal discussions about Russell Martin. In that same item, Blair notes that Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos might look to act quickly this offseason rather than wait for deals to develop. The latter strategy left the Jays largely empty-handed last winter. Toronto has already dealt Adam Lind to Milwaukee, a trade that Blair feels doesn’t make much sense for the Jays unless a follow-up move is forthcoming.
- The Orioles don’t seem to have interest in trading or non-tendering Chris Davis, MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski reports, though the first baseman will have much to atone for in Baltimore following his disappointing 2014 season.
- Though the Orioles currently have six legitimate rotation candidates on the roster, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko expects the club to add pitching depth by signing at least one veteran to a minor league deal.
- Jay Alou, Yasmany Tomas‘ agent, tweeted that his client worked out at the Red Sox academy in the Dominican Republic over the weekend. While the Sox have had some interest in Tomas in the past, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford hears that the workout was arranged “partly out of convenience, with Tomas needing a place in the area to continue his preparation.” It would be a surprise to see Boston sign Tomas given that the Sox already have an outfield surplus.
- The Red Sox are in need of a top left-hander for the bullpen, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes. Bringing back Andrew Miller would be the best option, though he’ll be heavily courted by several teams and the Sox may not be able to win a bidding war.
- Silverman thinks the Red Sox and Burke Badenhop could quickly come to terms on a new contract. The righty reliever posted a 2.29 ERA in 70 2/3 IP with Boston in 2014.