It’s been a quiet day on the transactional front, so a poll seems in order. Looking ahead at free agency, one of the more interesting situations involves the Orioles’ crop of pending free agents. The club has several key pieces of the lineup set to reach the open market: Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz, and J.J. Hardy. But the question remains whether some or all will receive qualifying offers.
MLBTR’s Steve Adams took a look at Markakis as a possible free agent back in May, noting that the 30-year-old’s hot start could lead to a significant turnaround in value. While he has not maintained that pace, Markakis has put up a .278/.339/.387 slash that constitutes better-than league-average production. Defensive metrics are not in love with his glove, but credit him with improvements over recent seasons. Also aiding Markakis as he looks ahead to a new deal is the fact that the upcoming free agent market appears rather thin in the corner outfield, especially in younger options. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently suggested, the club could pay him a $2MM buyout on his $17.5MM mutual option but still make him the QO.
Cruz, meanwhile, has done nothing but rake since joining the O’s on a one-year, $8MM pact. That deal cost the club a compensation pick, but looks like a bargain in hindsight. Cruz leads the league with 39 long balls and has slashed a robust .262/.331/.532 triple-slash in 596 plate appearances. But looking forward, he is 34 years old and is a limited defensive player (though he has rated out as an approximately average corner outfielder in limited action this year). On the other hand, even if Baltimore would rather not pay Cruz $15MM next year, might the qualifying offer be worth it? Having missed his chance to cash in on a multi-year deal last year, Cruz could well be motivated to take another crack at a player’s market. And if he does take the offer, that seems an attractive-enough rate for a single season commitment.
Then there is Hardy, who is quite an interesting player in his own right. The shortstop continues to create immense value with the glove while delivering league-average offense. Though his power numbers have taken a big step back this year, Hardy has managed to compensate with a higher batting average and on-base percentage. (Though he has ridden a career-high .332 BABIP, Hardy has also raised his line-drive percentage this year.) All said, the 32-year-old is almost certainly the best shortstop on the upcoming market, if one views Hanley Ramirez as a third baseman at this point. Just look at these current season, three-year, and five-year comparisons to fellow soon-to-be free agents Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, and Stephen Drew. It still seems somewhat hard to imagine that Baltimore will let him reach the open market without restriction, especially given that the long-anticipated move of Manny Machado to shortstop could once again be delayed (and would, in any event, simply open a hole at the hot corner).
So, which players are likely to receive a qualifying offer from the O’s? (Select all that apply.)