This year’s qualifying offer will be set at $15.8MM for one year, which is a hefty sum even considering the old adage that “there’s no such thing as a bad one-year deal.” As we’ve seen in the past three seasons since the QO was instituted, however, no player has actually accepted such an offer, instead preferring to seek out a multi-year free agent deal. This has led to issues for some free agents, as having draft pick compensation attached to their services has greatly diminished their markets and delayed their signings, in some cases (as with Kendrys Morales or Stephen Drew) into the actual next season itself.
With this all in mind, the qualifying offer is still an interesting wrinkle for mid-tier free agents like Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy. He’ll hit the open market on the heels of a .281/.322/.449 line and 14 homers over 538 plate appearances, and the 2.5 fWAR generated gives him 12.2 fWAR since the start of the 2011 season. That’s a pretty nice total for a middle infielder, especially given the lack of depth in the second and third base free agent market.
So in theory, Murphy should be set up for a nice payday this offseason. After speaking to various executives and agents, Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears that Murphy could be in line for a three-year deal in the $30-$40MM range, though an AL team may be his best fit so his shaky defense could be offset by some DH at-bats. Murphy will turn 31 in April so it’s pretty unlikely that he would pass up what could be his only chance at a major multi-year contract by accepting one-year QO to return to New York.
Sherman outlines why the Mets should make Murphy a qualifying offer, as while he isn’t an elite player, he’s not a bad player to get back in the fold should he accept the $15.8MM. Letting him hit free agency without the QO attached would not just cost the Mets a draft pick, but it would be yet another problem caused by the team’s limited budget. Passing up a first-rounder just based on a slight chance Murphy could accept the QO seems like an unnecessarily cautious move.
This all being said, if payroll is still an issue for the Mets, then they have better ways of spending $15.8MM, especially when Dilson Herrera may be waiting in the wings to take over second base. If Herrera isn’t ready for an everyday role yet, a platoon of Herrera and a lower-cost veteran could replace Murphy’s 2.5 fWAR (perhaps based on defense rather than hitting) at a fraction of the price. The Mets have a number of free agents so quite a bit of money will be coming off the books, yet keeping in mind their budget, every dollar may count if the club plans to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes or make a play for a similarly top-tier free agent.
I’d like to add another possible scenario for the Mets. If Murphy did happen to accept the qualifying offer, they could trade him. New York might not want Murphy on a one-year, $15.8MM deal but I suspect several other teams would.
How do you think the Mets should handle Murphy this offseason? (MLBTR app users can weigh in here)