Following a 2018-2019 offseason that saw the club focus primarily on pitching additions, offensive improvement is expected to be a chief initiative for the Reds this winter. With that goal in mind, the club will not rule out signing free agents attached to a qualifying offer this offseason, as team president of baseball operations Dick Williams indicated at this week’s GM Meetings (link via Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer).
Although signing a QO-laden free agent would require the Reds to forfeit their third-highest pick in the 2020 First-Year Player Draft, the club does not apparently view that cost as strictly prohibitive:
“We’re very aware of the guys who will have rejected qualifying offers and what that means for the economics of what we’re willing to pay,” Williams said. “I think that’s how the system is set up. That is something we’ll definitely factor in. It doesn’t prevent us from talking to any player. We don’t look at it that way.”
This public stance is especially pertinent considering today marks the deadline for qualifying offer recipients to accept or decline their QO. Four of the ten players who received offers are position players, including first baseman Jose Abreu, third baseman Josh Donaldson, outfielder Marcell Ozuna, and third baseman Anthony Rendon. Given that Cincinnatti’s needs at first and third are likely to be handled by Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto for the next several years, Ozuna may be left as the presumptive reference point to Williams’ comments.
The early market for Ozuna, in particular, has been said to potentially feature as many as a quarter of MLB teams, perhaps revealing that, like the Reds, clubs are feeling slightly less gunshy about this year’s crop of QO-attached free agents overall. Cincinnati has a wide array of potential avenues to explore in improving their cast of position players, with the outfield, catcher, and second base spots all likely to receive some level of attention this winter.