After examining which position players may or may not be in line to receive a one-year, $18.9MM qualifying offer this winter, let’s look at the pitching side of the free agent market. For a refresher on how the qualifying offer system operates, MLBTR’s Anthony Franco recently published the key details, including draft pick compensation and how the QO cannot be applied to a player more than once.
The Easy Call: Trevor Bauer (Reds)
Bauer is the one slam-dunk candidate of the field, as the Reds will surely issue him a QO and Bauer will just as surely reject it as he looks for a richer contract. Cincinnati would stand to recoup a compensatory draft pick if Bauer signed elsewhere, though the somewhat unique nature of Bauer’s free agent plans could impact that pick. As a revenue-sharing team, the Reds’ compensatory pick would fall after the first round of the draft, but only if Bauer signs for more than $50MM. If Bauer were to stick to his one-time plan of accepting a one-year contract with a very high average annual value, it’s possible such a deal might not crack the $50MM threshold — say, if Bauer took a one-year, $45MM pact. In this scenario, the Reds’ pick would fall between Competitive Balance Round B and the third round, or roughly 35-40 picks under their placement if Bauer signed for more than $50MM.
Borderline Cases: Kevin Gausman (Giants), Masahiro Tanaka (Yankees), Marcus Stroman (Mets), Liam Hendriks (Athletics)
After a shaky 2019 season, Gausman was non-tendered by the Reds and ended up signing a one-year, $9MM with San Francisco. The “pillow contract” strategy ended up working, as Gausman posted a strong year and is now positioned for a larger free agent payday. On paper, it seems like Gausman a logical candidate to be issued a qualifying offer, though the situation may not quite be so clear cut — MLB.com’s Maria Guardado considers it “unlikely” that Gausman will get a QO.
Why would the Giants hesitate? While the team would like to re-sign Gausman for 2021, the Giants may simply not value him at an $18.9MM price point, and could be concerned that Gausman would accept the qualifying offer. There are some similarities between Gausman’s situation and the decision Jake Odorizzi faced last fall, as Odorizzi had also rebounded from an off-year in 2018 but chose to accept the Twins’ qualifying offer rather than test what he felt could be an unfriendly free agent market. Given how the pandemic has lowered revenues all over baseball this year, it is quite possible Gausman has concerns about his own trip to free agency and might prefer to lock in $18.9MM right away.
To provide some sort of an idea about how much uncertainty surrounds the offseason player market, consider the range of contract predictions George A. King III of the New York Post collected from evaluators about what Tanaka could land this winter. Tanaka has been solid-to-excellent over his seven years in the Bronx, is still relatively young (he turns 32 in November) and the Yankees certainly need pitching, so his QO case is another that would seem pretty straight-forward in a normal winter.
As much as the Yankees value Tanaka, if they think there’s a chance he could accept a qualifying offer, they could opt to not issue one if they feel they can re-sign him for less than an $18.9MM average annual value. Every dollar may count for the Yankees, as there has been speculation that the Yankees could look to reset their luxury tax penalties by getting payroll under the $210MM tax threshold.
Stroman presents one of the strangest cases of any qualifying offer candidate ever, since he didn’t throw a pitch in 2020. He began the season on the injured list due to a calf muscle tear, and then chose to opt out of playing altogether (after he had amassed enough service time to qualify for free agency). Stroman has been vocal in the past about his desire for a long-term contract, but given the circumstances, such a deal could be hard to come by.
If Stroman is still adamant about landing a multi-year deal, it’s possible the Mets could issue a QO if they are pretty certain he’ll reject it. If Stroman is now open to accepting a one-year deal to rebuild his value, the Mets probably won’t issue a qualifying offer…or would they? In theory, Steve Cohen’s impending purchase of the franchise means more money could be available on payroll, so the Mets could be more open than most teams to an $18.9MM expenditure on a pitcher they were counting on as a staple of their rotation. Further complicating the matter, however, is the fact that teams only have until five days after the World Series to issue qualifying offers, and Cohen might not be officially approved as the Mets’ new owner by that time. That could leave current GM Brodie Van Wagenen in something of a holding pattern about big-picture decisions, particularly since Sandy Alderson has been tabbed to take over as the Mets’ chief decision-maker on baseball operations, and Van Wagenen could soon be out of a job.
As noted in our position player QO forecast, the Athletics also face a tough qualifying offer decision on shortstop Marcus Semien. It isn’t likely that the A’s would be willing to pay any player $18.9MM per season, and if they did, they would surely be more comfortable giving that money to an everyday player like Semien rather than a reliever, even an ace reliever like Hendriks.
Hendriks posted good results from 2015-18 and has been flat-out dominant over the last two seasons. Hendriks might be apt to reject a QO to see if he can translate his track record into a nice multi-year contract, but as a relief pitcher entering his age-32 season, Hendriks might be another player wary of what the market will bear. Baseball Reference lists Hendriks’ career earnings as just under $12.5MM, so accepting the qualifying offer would itself count as a massive payday.
Probably Not: Alex Colome (White Sox)
The White Sox don’t have the same payroll limitations as Oakland, though they are also unlikely to risk paying a closer $18.9MM. Colome has been tremendous over his two seasons in Chicago, even if advanced metrics aren’t quite as pleased with his grounder-heavy arsenal and relative lack of strikeouts (though Colome induces a lot of soft contact). Colome is also turning 32 this winter and the White Sox have several potential closers in waiting, so they could prefer to spend their available payroll space on more pressing needs like starting pitching or another outfield bat.
So Paxton is a definite no
Losing Liam Hendriks is going to hurt the A’s a lot. Everyone knows he will be one of the top 5 free agents this season and with so many teams needing a closer he will get a multi year deal.
You listening, Rick?
I can’t see any of them getting one except for Bauer. Hendriks probably deserves one but I don’t see a team like the A’s giving one considering they’re usually cash strapped in a normal year.
The Giants will be in on Hendriks and on Trevor May.
Don’t the giants need to rebuild a little longer?
Sure, but since it’s unlikely that they’ll land much in the way of starting pitching (which they desperately need), they’ll start building a reliable bullpen around the few young relievers they have—by adding a couple of reliable veterans. Hendriks and May fit that profile.
Yeah Goat. Any of them get offered 1 and should jump at the chance to take it. a good reliever, starters with no track record of being consistent and none ever #1-2’s when they had good years. Tanaka is old in wear and tear time, I’d give 1 to Paxton over this lot and he’s always hurt, but everyone knows is capable of being top of the rotation “when” healthy, none of these starters are.
Wow….Tanaka is “old in wear and tear”….spoken like a true Red Sox homer. Not even 32, has only pitched as much as 199 innings since he came over….but you decree him old and washed up….I say again….Red Sox Homer.! He may not be the power pitcher the Yankees envisioned with that splitter, but certainly capable of presenting you with a big game in big spots.
As far as Paxton, he teases every year with his potential and always finds a way to crash and burn with some injury….if you don’t believe the Yankees, then just ask the Mariners!
The Mets have no other players to offer a QA too so I would offer one to stroman too. 18.9 for one year won’t kill a organization. And last year we needed SP.
I want to see when a top tier free agent or just player gets a contract/extension that is super team friendly. Like a 30 mil guy going for 15 mil just because he wants to see the team build around him, and he’ll sacrifice some of his own pay for that to happen. That’d be scary to the other teams in the division for sure.
A 50% discount? Yeah I don’t see that happening. I can see a top player taking a discount of a couple mil per year but that’s about it. Didn’t Weaver take a bit of a discount so his wife could be close to her family, or was that somebody else? Anyway, I don’t see more than a 10% discount happening, and that’s exceedingly rare. Generally they follow top dollar.
I believe you are correct with Weaver. He definitely negotiated a team friendly deal that wasn’t received well by some of his colleagues for its possible effect on other deals. He enjoyed playing for the Angels and staying in the region he grew up in.
My point is that if a player didn’t care about the almighty dollar, and still considered 15 million a lot of money annually (which it is), he could help a team a lot more by not only giving them a superstar, but also giving them more financial flexibility to spend on better surrounding pieces. I don’t mean a team just trying to rip off a player financially, but the player doing it on his own will to help the team.
Yeah and I guess my point is that that will never happen.
With the current arbitration system, teams pay players (especially stars) a fraction of what they’re worth until they hit free agency. No player is ever going to take a sizable pay cut on the largest contract of their career for the team’s best interest, not should they. They have to look out for their own best interests, not continue to line the pockets of the rich owners by taking less than they’re worth.
That should only happen after a team decides to pay a stud player in his second or third year (Acuna, Soto, Bieber, etc.) $20M instead of $1M for no reason other than the player is worth it.
Oh what’s that? Teams should care more about the almighty dollar than compensating for the past contributions of grossly underpaid performers? OK then, hometown discount my ass.
Like Acuna and Albies did?
Agents refuse to allow their clients (players) to take such contracts. Benchmarking is a hallmark of sports negotiation and anytime either side gives in to whims there are league wide reverberations…
Would love to see WSox bring back Colome on 1yr/12mil deal and risk not giving QO since other clubs may not offer him a multi-year. Just because Bummer/Heuer are good set-up guys, closing is different challenge.Crochet reason not to bank on health either when entering first full season.
I think a ton of clubs will offer him two years. He’s a durable back-end reliever who can be effective without striking out batters. He may not close everywhere, but he certainly has value to just about every team.
They will have to do better than one year to keep him.
Especially as a reliever. They are so volatile that they have to take as many years as they can get
I could imagine you would love to sign Colome to a 1 year deal. The White Sox and just about EVERY contending team. The White Sox won’t be the only team in on Colome. Maximum is right. The Sox will have to do better than that.
Therein lies a strong counterargument for WSox attaching QO despite high price tag. None of the contending teams at 2019 trade deadline wanted to part with a legit enough prospect when he was a very good/same get them out with craft n guile closer with 1.5 seasons of control. That includes the Phillies who knew they had a hot mess bullpen even back then. Colome is an interesting case. Would someone guarantee him 2/25 or 3/35 to max out guaranteed $ at his age and when clubs may be more careful with their money? Would Colome turn down QO betting he’d get fair bit more guaranteed now than a fantastic 18.9 for 1yr?
In a typical offseason with financial norms intact, I’d say the yanks would be hard after Liam Hendricks to shore up a bullpen that has quickly eroded from a major strength to a glaring liability. As things stand, however, that looks extremely unlikely. I’d still think it’s more likely than any attempt to sign Bauer, despite what all of our colorful yanks commenters like to whistle around these parts.
Tanaka, Gausman and Stroman will receive QO’s; if the A’s had more money they’d issue one too.
This worry that teams won’t have money next year is short-sighted. I think fans will be allowed back to games next year but in a limited capacity, just like we’re seeing in the playoffs right now. That capacity will increase as Covid goes away. Don’t forget, owners like to cry poor but they all have money to spend. Some will and some won’t but they’re not poor.
Phillies should peruse Tanaka and Colome
The Philadelphia Yankees are pushing the cause lol.
Would any team offer any player a 1 year, $45m deal? Like, even if it was the Yankees for prime Mike Trout? That huge a contract on such a short term would shock me, honestly.
I personally want to see a contract structured to where the first year is like 40-45 million, and then it drops to 20 mil for the next 5-6 years of the deal maybe for financial flexibility for the team. That’s 24 AAV for 6 years, and 23.5 AAV for 7.
Mike trout for 1yr, 45m is an absolute slam dunk for most teams I think.
If the rumors were true, the Dodgers offered Bryce Harper a 3 or 4 year deal for 45 million AAV per year.
It seems to me that the Giants strategy should be to offer Gausman a 2 or 3 year deal at $12M/yr rather than offer the QO. He is NOT a $19M pitcher and may in fact turn back into a $4M pitcher. The multi-year deal would give Gausman security, in home park that’s still beneficial to pitchers. If SF can’t get him to sign before FA, let him walk.
>home park that’s still beneficial to pitchers
Oracle Park Factor, 2020 (ESPN)
PF > 1 – ‘batter friendly’
PF < 1 – 'pitcher friendly'
Baseball Reference has Oracle at 98 for 2020 and 95 for 2018-20. That’s a pitcher’s park.
100 is neutral, so yes, so far it’s a pitcher’s park, but not by much, And since the configuration was changed this past offseason, 30 games is a really tiny sample when it takes multiple full seasons for a truly accurate picture.
It might remain a pitcher’s park, who knows, but it’s premature to declare it one at this point.
I don’t think ANY of the borderline cases are worth the QO. The ONLY way you could justify it, for, say, Tanaka (maybe Stroman) is if you
1) look at the FA field and see little or nothing better
2) conclude that you MUST get a 2 or 3 pitcher
3) see that there will be fierce competition for the available 2’s and 3’s
4) decide that you will be forced to pay $19MM for a Tanaka-quality pitcher anyway, even if he is not worth it.
I put Tanaka slightly over Stroman because prior to this year he was very reliable and reasonably effective for years. Stroman less so.
The first 3 apply for the Mets lol. So yeah the Mets should offer a QA to him. You have to pay 5 more mil than he would get and it’s only 1 year no risk!?? That’s a no brainer.
I think if the Yankees strike a deal with Tanaka it won’t be for the $18.9M QO. I don’t see them giving Tanaka that high of an annual salary. I can see them MAYBE making him a 2 yr/$30M deal.but that’s about it.
Yankees need to let Tanaka walk. His elbow is a ticking bomb waiting to off. Let Paxton, Happ and Paxton walk. Sign Stroman
Ok so Stroman replaces Tanaka (very hypothetically, since Stroman does not pitch in the NYY mold), who replaces Happ and Paxton? Garcia and Schmidt? That’s a lot of risk, especially with Montgomery… Frankly, things are not looking good for the NYY rotation 2021. Doesn’t look like “win now” to me, and the Yanks have already gone 11 years without a ring.
Make it a 11 more years please. Have the baseball gods give us this request!
Stroman is definitely not a QO type of pitcher. Tanaka with a cranky elbow = no QO. Gausman… which pitcher will show up and he is a 2 pitch pitcher = no QO. Bauer- yes, easily.
Stroman will receive a QO. Mets either get a solid if overpaid 1-year rotation piece (who they can move at the deadline) or a draft pick when he declines offer. Both results beat letting him walk for nothing.
BPrice's 77 F-Bombs
The Reds need Marcus Semien. Make note now.
I think It’s more realistic to not ask whether someone like Gausman,or Stroman is worth the value of a QO, but instead, ask if either is worth the difference between what they could get on the FA market and the QO.
And it’s not what anyone thinks they’re worth, it’s what any team is willing to pay to sign one of them. So what can either get on the open market? $12M per? $15M per? I think $15M per is more likely given the lack of decent SPs on the market, and the number of teams desperate for one.
So if it’s $12M per, the question is, is either one worth the difference of $6.9M? Probably not. But if it’s $15M per, the question is, is either one worth the difference of $3.9M? That’s a tougher question.
Bauer will accept the qualifying offer because 2020.
The A’s will sign Hendriks for 3 years $45 Million and regret it in Hendriks 6th appearance of 2021.
I think we will see the lowest total QO given this offseason since it’s been part of the cba. 18+mil seems like a lot for a ton of guys. There are still a handful of no brainers but some teams have offered it in hopes it’s declined but there may be more of a scare that one accepts