NOVEMBER 7: The Brewers won’t issue a qualifying offer to Garcia or any of their free agents, MLB.com’s Tim McCalvy reports (via Twitter).
NOVEMBER 5: Avisail Garcia declined his end of a $12MM mutual option with the Brewers yesterday, opting for a $2MM buyout and a return trip to the free agent market. Before he formally hits free agency on Sunday at 5pm ET, however, the Brewers will have the opportunity to issue him a one-year, $18.4MM qualifying offer. No decision on that front has been made just yet, but the Brewers are indeed considering that course of action, writes Will Sammon of The Athletic.
If Milwaukee does issue a qualifying offer Sunday, Garcia would have ten days to determine whether to accept or reject. Garcia and agent Gene Mato would be able to negotiate with other teams during that ten-day window in order to get an early sense of the market. If Garcia were to accept that $18.4MM offer, he’d be signed for the 2022 season and effectively ineligible to be traded prior to next June 15, as is the case with all free agents who sign Major League contracts.
Were Garcia to reject the offer, he’d be subject to draft pick compensation; any team that signed Garcia would do so at the cost of forfeitures in next year’s draft. The exact compensation varies from team to team. Teams that paid the luxury tax in 2021 (i.e. Dodgers, Padres) would forfeit their second- and fifth-highest picks in the draft, in addition to $1MM of next year’s league-allotted international bonus pool. Teams that received revenue-sharing would forfeit their third-highest pick in the draft. Any of the 15 other teams would forfeit its second-highest pick and see a $500K reduction in its international bonus pool. (The team-by-team breakdown of those categories can be seen in this previous piece from MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes.)
The Brewers, meanwhile, would receive a compensatory pick after the first round of the 2022 draft if Garcia signs a contract worth $50MM or more in guaranteed money. Should Garcia sign for less, Milwaukee would receive a compensatory pick after next year’s Competitive Balance Round B — typically in the No. 75 to 80 range.
On the one hand, making an offer is a risk for the Brewers. There’s at least a chance that Garcia would accept the offer in hopes of producing another strong season and returning to the open market next year, without the burden of draft compensation. Garcia accepting a qualifying offer would push Milwaukee’s projected payroll up into the $140MM range for next season — well north of the team’s current Opening Day record of about $122.5MM (from 2019).
On the other hand, Garcia’s 2021 season — .262/.330/.490, 29 home runs, 18 doubles, eight stolen bases, strong right field defense — was certainly worth that $18.4MM. Were he to accept and repeat that production, it’d hardly be an egregious overpay. And, that strong showing both at the plate and in the field has made Garcia a clear candidate for a multi-year deal in free agency. He’s not likely to secure that same $18.4MM value on an annual basis, but he could earn a much larger guarantee over a longer term. Players reject the qualifying offer more often than they accept, as most generally prefer the stability and security of a long-term deal. Longer-term pacts protect them against any injury or regression that might occur in the event of accepting the QO, and it’s eminently understandable that players with families prefer the continuity of a multi-year pact rather than moving those families around the continent on a year-to-year basis.
Market context matters, too. There’s a fair number of corner outfield options on the market this winter, with Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, Starling Marte (who can also play center), Mark Canha, Michael Conforto, Jorge Soler and Eddie Rosario among the available options. Garcia falls into the middle of that group, but his stock could be strengthened by the fact that not every team will be able to afford the very top-of-the-market options. Garcia could well be viewed as one of the more palatable options in that next tier, offering a promising blend of power, athleticism and defense.