Max Scherzer Rumors

Quick Hits: Twins, Albers, Bavasi, Scherzer

The Twins will hire Neil Allen as their pitching coach, write LaVelle E. Neal III and Phil Miller of the Star Tribune. However, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (via Twitter) that Allen has been told “absolutely nothing.” Allen has coached in the Rays organization since 2007, including the last four years as the Triple-A pitching coach. He has no major league experience. The other finalist, former Indians and Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis, was informed on Friday that he had not been selected, per Berardino (tweet).

  • Former Twins starter Andrew Albers would consider a return to Minnesota if he doesn’t remain in the Korea Baseball Organization, writes Berardino. Albers spent 2014 with the Hanwha Eagles. He pitched to a 5.89 ERA in 151 and one-third innings. While the ERA was unsightly, the KBO is an offensively oriented league. Per KBO rules, Albers is not yet eligible to speak with major league clubs.
  • Former GM Bill Bavasi has been named the head of the Major League Scouting Bureau, tweets John Manuel of Baseball America. Bavasi, who comes from a storied baseball family, was the GM for the Angels and Mariners for a combined 11 years. His father Buzzie and brother Peter each also served as GM for two franchises (Buzzie oversaw the Dodgers move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles).
  • The Nationals could emerge as a destination for Max Scherzer, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. With Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister just one year away from free agency, the Nationals are considering their options moving forward. That includes a trade involving either pitcher. If an in-house candidate is dealt, Scherzer could be looked at as an alternative and long term solution. However, Wagner notes that the rotation is deep. GM Mike Rizzo adds that it’s “not on the top of our wish list.”

Free Agent Notes: Robertson, Lester, Hunter, Scherzer

While Andrew Miller is said to have multiple three-year offers in hand already, the other top reliever on this year’s market, David Robertson, just may end up finding someone to meet his reported asking price of “Jonathan Papelbon money.” Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com spoke with four executives, each of whom believed that Robertson would receive his desired four years and at least come close to Papelbon’s average annual salary. An NL exec said he thought Robertson would meet his goal, while an AL exec said that though his first instinct was “no,” after seeing how the market has played out early on, he’s changed his thinking. A second NL exec and an AL scout said they could see at least four years and $40MM, with the scout saying it could go higher, because it only takes one team to push up that value.

Here’s more on some of the top free agents of the offseason…

  • Jon Lester will meet with at least two more teams next week, a source tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Lester met with the Red Sox, Cubs and Braves this week. The Sox reportedly made a six-year offer in the $110-120MM range and are willing to negotiate further. The Braves reportedly have yet to extend a formal offer.
  • The Twins have a “real shot” to sign Torii Hunter, tweets La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN hears the same (Twitter link), adding that the pitch to Hunter from manager Paul Molitor is that Hunter can come back to Minnesota and provide the same type of mentoring to their young players that Molitor and the late Kirby Puckett provided Hunter when he was a minor leaguer. Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets that Hunter would be taking a significant paycut to return to Minnesota, however.
  • Elsewhere in the Hunter market, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Orioles and Giants are keeping Hunter as a back-burner option in case their initial free agent pursuits don’t play out as they hope (Twitter links). In addition to those two teams, the Twins and the Royals, Crasnick hears that the Mariners have kicked the tires on Hunter.
  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski appeared on MLB Network Radio with Jim Bowden today and said that while he couldn’t rule out the return of ace Max Scherzer, he feels the chances were better last spring (Twitter link). The Tigers, of course, made Scherzer a six-year, $144MM extension offer, which he rejected.

Free Agent Profile: Max Scherzer

2013 Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer is the prize of the free agent market after another superb season.  He’s a strikeout machine with a strong record of durability, and agent Scott Boras will be seeking a precedent-setting contract.

Strengths/Pros

Scherzer, 30, posted a 3.02 ERA over 434 2/3 regular season innings from 2013-14.  In 2013, he went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts for the Tigers and won the AL Cy Young award easily.  He made the All-Star team in both years.

MLB: ALDS-Detroit Tigers at Baltimore OriolesScherzer has been one of the game’s most dominant starting pitchers since 2012.  He has a 10.5 K/9 over that period, second among qualified starters in all of baseball.  His ranking is the same in K%; he’s whiffed 28.6% of batters faced during that time.  He’s tallied 231 or more strikeouts in each of the past three seasons and leads all of baseball with 723 punchouts over that time.  Scherzer also has good control, with a 2.5 BB/9 over the past two seasons.  He uses a four-seam fastball and a change-up, also employing a slider against righties and a curveball against lefties.

Batters made contact on only 74.5% of Scherzer’s pitches from 2012-14, third best in baseball among qualified starters.  Batters swung and missed on 11.9% of Scherzer’s pitches, which ranked fourth.

Skill-Interactive ERA (SIERA) is the latest ERA estimator, from Matt Swartz.  Scherzer’s 2.94 SIERA ranks eighth among qualified starters over the last two seasons.  His actual ERA of 3.02 is in line with that, and ranks 11th.

How about durability?  Scherzer hasn’t been on the disabled list since a short stint in 2009.  Even that year he made 30 starts, a number he exceeded in every subsequent season.  His 434 2/3 innings from 2013-14 ranks sixth in baseball, and he tossed another 29 2/3 frames in the postseason.  Still, Boras has pointed out that Scherzer has less wear and tear on his arm than Jon Lester and James Shields.  This is mainly because Lester and Shields signed early-career extensions giving up free agent years, and Scherzer did not.

Put it all together, and Scherzer is an ace, one of the best pitchers in the game.  He’s tallied 12.0 wins above replacement over the last two seasons, tied with Felix Hernandez for second in MLB.  Clayton Kershaw is the best, but Scherzer is in the conversation for second-best.

Weaknesses/Cons

Scherzer is decidedly a flyball pitcher.  This hasn’t hurt him over the last two seasons, as he’s allowed 0.75 home runs per nine innings.  From 2011-12, however, he allowed 1.22 HR/9.  The difference seems like nothing more than the vagaries of his home run per flyball rate, which has hovered around 7.5% over the past two seasons.  Across MLB this year, 9.5% of flyballs left the yard.  Applying that rate, Scherzer would have allowed 4.7 additional home runs this year and posted a 0.93 HR/9.  Simply put: it would not be surprising if Scherzer is slightly below average at preventing home runs during his next contract.

Pitch efficiency is not a strong suit for Scherzer.  He averaged 16.51 pitches per inning in 2014, 70th among 88 qualified starters.  The average qualified starter was at 15.77 pitches per inning.  Scherzer threw 3,638 pitches in 2014, third-most in baseball.

As a player who received and will turn down a qualifying offer, signing Scherzer will require forfeiture of a draft pick.  Jon Lester, who is Scherzer’s biggest competition on the market, is not eligible for a qualifying offer.

Personal

Scherzer was born in St. Louis, Missouri.  He attended high school in Chesterfield, MO, rooting for the Cardinals as a child.  His dad even brought him to Game 4 of the 1985 World Series when he was 15 months old, according to this article from Jeff Passan.  Scherzer was drafted by the Cardinals in the 43rd round in ’03.  He chose not to sign and attended University of Missouri Columbia, getting drafted 11th overall by the Diamondbacks in ’06.  Scherzer majored in business at Mizzou.

Scherzer currently resides in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife.  His charitable efforts are extensive, with his Scherzer’s Superstars program and other efforts.

Scherzer draws attention for having been born with one blue eye and one brown one, which is called heterochromia.  Max is also well-known for embracing advanced baseball statistics, using them to help understand the game.  When he was traded in 2009, Scherzer became an MLBTR reader.  He told Bob Nightengale of USA Today, “Once that happened, I started becoming a pretty fanatical fan and read it just about every day.”

Market

C.C. Sabathia‘s seven-year, $161MM contract from six years ago remarkably still stands as the largest given to a starting pitcher on the open market (though the Yankees’ total outlay for Masahiro Tanaka last winter was $175MM, including a $20MM fee paid to his former team in Japan).  In 2008, the average American League starting pitcher had a 4.48 ERA.  Sabathia was on an island in the 2008-09 offseason, coming off a 2.70 ERA.

Scherzer is not on an island.  In 2014, the average AL starter had a 3.92 ERA.  As ESPN’s Buster Olney explained, “Major League Baseball’s market has never seen so much attractive pitching available all at once, although executives throughout the sport are aware this shift is something of an optical illusion, created by the historic drop in run production in recent seasons.”  Scherzer’s 3.15 ERA this year ranked 26th among qualified starters.  That would have ranked 12th in 2008.  In ’08, 23 starters were under 3.50.  In 2014, 39 starters were under 3.50, including free agents Jason Hammel, Francisco Liriano, James Shields, Edinson Volquez, and Jon Lester.

Maybe Boras can make a strong case that Scherzer is the second-best starting pitcher in baseball, but the scarcity isn’t there in baseball or in free agency.  Free agency is rife with solid mid-rotation options this year, and teams ready to spend big on pitching might prefer Lester because he might not require a seventh year.  Or maybe teams would rather take on Brandon McCarthy‘s injury risk at half of Scherzer’s average annual value and potentially as few as three years.

I expect Boras to seek more than $175MM for Scherzer.  That kind of commitment limits a player’s suitors.  As Heyman put it, “It almost seems like Scherzer is too good for the market at times.”  In batting around potential fits with MLBTR’s writing team and others around the game, teams like the Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Astros, Giants, Rangers, Blue Jays, Mariners, White Sox, Orioles, Nationals, and Diamondbacks came up.  Some of those clubs don’t seem to have the payroll space, others don’t seem to be prioritizing starting pitching, and others have suggested they won’t play at the top end of the market.  Scherzer’s old team, the Tigers, can’t be ruled out yet.

Keep in mind that “this is an owner’s decision,” as Boras put it, as it will happen above the GM level.

Expected Contract

The Tigers made the unorthodox move of releasing a statement in March after Scherzer rejected a six-year, $144MM offer.  The statement mostly made the pitcher sound greedy, and was met in kind by a statement from Boras.  The Tigers’ offer was the Cole Hamels deal, which was nearly two years old at that point.  Boras viewed that as an old market price, with Tanaka and Kershaw having signed more recently for $175MM and $215MM, respectively.  Boras told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in November, “It’s rare that someone shows the character and confidence to trust his ability to turn down $144 million.  That’s never been done in professional sports. And that says a lot about Max Scherzer.”

It stands to reason that Boras will want the seven year term achieved by Tanaka and Sabathia.  Tanaka’s deal began with his age 25 season, Sabathia’s with his age 28 campaign.  Scherzer’s deal will begin with his age 30 campaign, so he’s got a tougher case, one he’ll make with the “less wear-and-tear” argument.  And don’t be surprised if we hear about Boras asking for eight years, as a way of arriving at seven in the end.

For average annual value, the $30.7MM figure obtained by Kershaw is likely out of reach, though Boras may make the argument that Kershaw’s six free agent seasons cost more like $32MM per year.  Greinke was at $24.5MM, Tanaka at $25MM.  Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander were at $27-28MM per year, but those extensions were not signed on the open market and only added five additional years.

Ten MLB contracts have included opt-out clauses, and Boras did four of them.  The three most recent starting pitcher deals with opt-out clauses were done by Casey Close of Excel Sports Management (Tanaka, Kershaw, and Zack Greinke).  Greinke and Sabathia obtained the ability to opt out after three years.  Boras figures to seek the same for Scherzer, who could then hit the market again ahead of his age 33 season.  The opt-out clause is not a guarantee; Boras didn’t get one for Prince Fielder in the 2011-12 offseason.  But it is possible that some teams won’t view an opt-out as a big negative despite the downside risk, as explained in my article on the topic from February.  The clause could allow a team to sign Scherzer and duck his decline phase, as the Yankees could have done with Sabathia had they let him go after his third year with them.

Getting past Tanaka’s $175MM outlay would be a symbolic win for Boras.  I’m predicting a seven-year, $185MM deal for Scherzer.



AL East Notes: Jays, Sox, Sandoval, Lester, Yankees, Scherzer

The Blue Jays were the only team that put a fifth year on the table for Russell Martin, tweets Jim Bowden of of ESPN.com, and that was the key to landing the backstop. With Toronto having fired the first major offseason salvo in the AL East, let’s see where things stand elsewhere in the division …

  • Martin’s signing does not mark an early conclusion to the Blue Jays‘ offseason, but rather opens up new possibilities for GM Alex Anthopoulos, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. The move also highlights Anthopoulos’s desire to “rearrang[e] the clubhouse dynamics,” says Davidi.
  • Pablo Sandoval met with the Red Sox today, and the club will also sit down with Jon Lester before the lefty flies off for meetings with other suitors tomorrow, reports WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Boston never made an effort to acquire Jason Heyward before he was sent to St. Louis, reports Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.
  • The Yankees are largely waiting and watching at the moment, according to George A. King III of the New York Post. It is possible that the Rangers would be willing to part with shortstop Elvis Andrus, but it remains unknown whether New York would take on enough cash or part with sufficient prospects to make a deal attractive to Texas. And the team’s own free agents still seem to be feeling out the market at present.
  • King notes that an arm like Max Scherzer could become increasingly appealing to the Yankees as the offseason progresses, and indeed Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that there has been at least “brief contact” between the team and Scott Boras (Scherzer’s agent) since the GM Meetings. New York “may revisit their initial instinct to largely sit this winter out,” per Heyman, who explains that the silence around Scherzer’s market is rather unusual.

AL Notes: Lester, Scherzer, Red Sox, Avila

Which of this offseason’s free agents are most likely to justify their contracts? It’s hard to say, given that we most big-name free agents haven’t even agreed to terms yet, but Doug Miller polled MLB.com’s writers to compile a list of top free agents, and they think Jon Lester‘s next contract is most likely to turn out to be a good one. Miller notes that contracts for pitchers often go south, but points out that Lester is healthy, left-handed and relatively young, and has been a consistently strong performer. Perhaps the most outside-the-box choice is Andrew Miller at No. 3, the idea being that Miller’s lack of closer status will limit him on the market, perhaps to three years and under $30MM. Here are the latest notes from the American League:

  • Scott Boras told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio he has not heard anything from the Tigers indicating they are not interested in re-signing Max Scherzer. MLB.com’s Jason Beck has a partial transcript of the interview, including Boras saying he is not worried about the lack of teams linked to Scherzer while implying clubs may sign his client and then open a spot in their rotation by trading another of their starters calling this “a two-step process.”
  • Speaking of Scherzer (the top ranked free agent on MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agents list), the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman believes the Red Sox should kick those tires because their rotation is in shambles. Lester is the preferred option, according to Silverman, but a trade for Cole Hamels may wind up being the surest route for the Red Sox to get the caliber of starter they need.
  • The Tigers have until Thursday to exercise Alex Avila‘s 2015 option, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. If the Tigers opt for the $200K buyout rather than the $5.4MM option, Morosi notes Avila will remain on their roster because he is still arbitration eligible.

Free Agent Notes: Scherzer, Lester, Miller, Rios

Talk about the market’s top free agent, Max Scherzer, has been scarce to this point, but agent Scott Boras tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that he’s not worried about the quiet air surrounding his client. “Premium free agents are rarely talked about at the GM meetings,” Boras said. “This is an owners’ decision. Every GM wants him. There’s always a place for him on every team. The issue is not whether the player is wanted. The issue is whether the owner will make the commitment to try to win the World Series.” Heyman’s piece contains many examples of the litany of stats Boras will use when pitching Scherzer to owners around the league. The Tigers are said to love Scherzer, but indications at this time are that they’re out on Scherzer. That, of course, could change as the offseason progresses, though one Tigers source told Heyman that Boras’ counteroffer to the team’s six-year, $144MM extension offer was “way, way” north of that sizable $144MM sum.

A few more notes on some free agents…

  • While many top free agents take their time to see how the market plays out, a source tells MassLive.com’s Jason Mastrodonato that Jon Lester is willing to sign as soon as the right offer presents itself, “whether it is tomorrow or April 1.” While the Red Sox are known to have a preference to shy away from commitments of four-plus years to pitchers in their 30s (following their five-year deal for John Lackey), GM Ben Cherington implied that the team might be willing to make an exception for Lester, noting that it’s never been a hard policy.
  • Andrew Miller‘s agent, Mark Rodgers, tells ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that he plans to be “methodical” in discussions with teams and doesn’t envision signing a contract in the near future. Miller is open to pitching in a setup capacity for a contending team with an entrenched closer, but he’s also generating interest from teams in need of a closer.
  • The Twins prefer to add a right-handed bat to their outfield this offseason, and while Torii Hunter has been listed in connection to Minnesota, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that Alex Rios is another name to watch.

Central Notes: White Sox, Royals, V-Mart

Rebuilding is no longer a word the White Sox want to be associated with, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports. “We sit here on the one hand realizing that we have the prime of Chris Sale‘s career ahead of us, the prime of Jose Abreu‘s career ahead of us and wanting to make sure we’re in a position to capitalize and win within that window,” Hahn said. “We want to win, we want to win again quickly and we want to win again repeatedly in the coming years. … We still have work to do to continue that process.” At the same time, Hahn emphasized today that the team has to avoid the “dangerous allure to wanting to make a splash,” as Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports in the course of an interesting look at the team’s options.

Here’s the latest from the AL Central after a busy news day:

  • The White Sox are currently focused on acquiring a right-handed starter, bullpen additions, and a left-handed hitter, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. While the club has in the past looked into dealing for backstops such as Jason Castro of the Astros and Yasmani Grandal of the Padres, that does not appear to be the priority at present, per Rosenthal. Nevertheless, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com indicates on Twitter that the team does have present interest in Castro.
  • Hahn said today that Chicago is interested in multiple relief acquisitions, as MLB.com’s Phil Rogers reports“We don’t feel the need to go out and get a so-called proven closer,” said Hahn. “We certainly want to have multiple upgrades, and if some of those upgrades give us viable back-end options, that’s great.”
  • Word is that the Royals will meet with the representatives of lefty Brett Anderson this week, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter. GM Dayton Moore declined to confirm or deny that or any other meetings. I picked Anderson to go to Kansas City in the MLBTR free agent prediction contest, and think he makes sense for a club that has some added cash to spend on an upside play.
  • The Royals have told Raul Ibanez that they would be interested in employing him in a non-playing capacity, tweets McCullough. Ibanez, of course, is in the hunt for the Rays’ open managerial position, and perhaps it is still to early to rule out a return to an active roster as well.
  • Victor Martinez is at the top of the Tigers‘ list of priorities, writes Paul Hagen of MLB.com, as GM Dave Dombrowski made clear that the team will make every effort to re-sign the DH. The team is still interested in outgoing free agents Max Scherzer and Joba Chamberlain, per Dombrowski, but he said the club is sitting back while both assess their markets.

 


Free Agent Notes: Bargains, Hot Commodities, Minors

One of the questions facing all teams in free agency is whether to pay for top talent or delve into the second tier for a bargain.  Ben Lindbergh of Grantland lists five instances where the generic option could provide more financial value than the name brand asset. In the case of players like Pablo Sandoval, James Shields, and David Robertson, cheaper options probably won’t outperform them, but they could come close at less than half the guaranteed cost. Here’s more from the realm of free agency.

  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post picked destinations for 10 “hot MLB free agents.” Sherman thinks the Mets could be the surprise winners of the Yasmany Tomas sweepstakes, since the move would energize a depressed fan base. In my opinion, his oddest pick is Max Scherzer to the Brewers. Sherman reasons that Milwaukee has been aggressive under owner Mark Attanasio, but I’m not sure they can support a massive investment in a starting pitcher. Meanwhile, the Tigers could grab two trendy free agents with Sandoval to man third base and Andrew Miller to play the role of relief ace.
  • For those who aren’t satisfied with MLBTR’s list of MLB free agents, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy has all the minor league free agents for your perusal. As we learned earlier this week via FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, MiLB free agents represent a potentially under-exploited opportunity to buy value. To a stats analyst, not many names jump of the page. One I’ll be tracking, if only because he’s an interesting story, is Jason Lane.

 


Yankees Unlikely To Pursue Top Starters, Sandoval

While many have been quick to connect the Yankees to the top names on the market, as is the case in most offseasons, Mark Feinsand and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News hear that the team has no intention to pursue any of the “Big Three” starting pitchers — Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields — or top third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

Instead, the Daily News duo continues, the Yankees are more focused on bringing back a pair of their own free agents: Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy. The team loves Headley’s glove at third base and views the returning Alex Rodriguez as more of a DH candidate at his age, per Feinsand and Madden. The team could act quickly and aggressively to retain the two. (MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes pegged Headley for a four-year, $48MM contract while I predicted a three-year, $36MM deal for McCarthy.) The Yankees, per the report, don’t want to add any more $100MM+ contracts to their books, although the name of Hanley Ramirez, who figures to top the century mark, is curiously absent from the list of players they won’t be pursuing.

Also of note for Yankees fans is the update within this piece on David Robertson, whom Feinsand and Madden hear is already receiving interest from at least six clubs. Robertson is expected to turn down the Yankees’ qualifying offer and could land a three- or four-year deal on the open market.

Of course, it’s worth looking back to last season when multiple reports indicated that the Yankees would spend judiciously in an attempt to eventually get the team’s payroll below the $189MM luxury tax threshold. That clearly didn’t happen, as the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran to huge multi-year deals while also adding veterans Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Brendan Ryan on smaller deals. All told, they spent roughly half a billion dollars last winter.

None of that is meant to discredit the information provided by Feinsand and Madden, but rather to serve as a reminder that priorities can change. Still, for the time being, the Yankees’ early modus operandi appears to be pursuing mid-level free agents in an attempt to return the team to the playoffs after a two-year absence while also maintaining some long-term flexibility.


Twelve Free Agents Receive Qualifying Offers

Today marked the deadline for players to receive one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers, and after nine players receiving a QO in 2012 and 13 players receiving the offer last offseason, 12 players have been extended a qualifying offer by their teams in 2014. They are:

Should these players reject the offer and sign with a new team, their former team will stand to receive a “sandwich” round draft pick as compensation. Those new teams, in turn, will have to forfeit their top unprotected draft pick. If a player rejects a QO but ultimately re-signs with the same team, no draft pick shuffling occurs.

There will be 11 protected picks in this year’s draft, as the picks of the teams with the 10 worst records are protected under the CBA, and Houston’s comp pick for failure to sign Brady Aiken is protected as well. The D’Backs, Astros, Rockies, Rangers, Twins, Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs, Phillies and Reds will all have their first-round selections protected. Those clubs will instead forfeit a second-round pick to sign a free agent with draft pick compensation attached. Teams can sign more than one free agent that has rejected a QO, as the Orioles did last winter in signing both Ubaldo Jimenez and Cruz. In that instance, Jimenez cost the team its first-round pick, while Cruz cost the club its second-round selection.

The players listed above will now have one week to decide whether or not to accept the QO and play on a one-year deal worth $15.3MM, or instead to or reject the offer in search of a larger guarantee on the open market.

The word “guarantee” is the key to that sentiment: while many will focus on whether or not the players can top that average annual value on the free agent market, more often than not, a player is concerned primarily with maximizing the amount of money he can earn over his prime seasons. Few players are ever sold on the idea of playing on a one-year deal when a multi-year guarantee can be had. Single-year contracts, on the free agent market, are often reserved for older players who don’t know how long they wish to continue playing (e.g. Hiroki Kuroda last winter), players coming off massive injuries (e.g. Corey Hart last winter) or players who have significantly underperformed in a contract year (e.g. Chris Young last offseason).

While upon first glance it might make sense to suggest a player with a spotty track record, such as Liriano, should accept the offer, there’s more downside for him in accepting than in rejecting. Even if Liriano is faced with a cold market, he’d likely be able to find a one-year contract at an AAV north of $10MM, if not a one-year offer commensurate with the total sum of the qualifying offer, as Santana did last offseason when signing a one-year, $14.1MM contract with the Braves. Whereas the downside in accepting is “settling” for a one-year deal a few ticks below the QO level, the upside in rejecting is finding perhaps a three-year deal that could more than double the guarantee he’d otherwise receive. This risk/benefit calculus generally points toward testing the market.

The one case for accepting in this year’s class, that I see, would be that of Cuddyer. Though a solid veteran bat coming off a strong pair of seasons in terms of his rate stats, Cuddyer has defensive limitations and injury questions that will also drag his stock down. He played in just 49 games in 2014 and will play next season at age 36. MLBTR’s Zach Links only pegged his free agent stock at $22MM over two years in his recent Free Agent Profile for Cuddyer. It does seem there’s a real chance that Cuddyer could come in significantly lower than $15.3MM on a one-year deal if he rejects, and the upside may not be much greater for him as a two-year deal may have been the realistic ceiling anyhow.

Reports on whether or not any player will accept the offer should be filtering in over the next week, but those looking for a quick resource to check the status of each can use MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker (the provided link is already filtered to show only free agents that have received the QO, and their status will change from “Received” to “Rejected” or “Accepted” upon a decision being reached).