It’s year three of MLB’s qualifying offer experiment, and we’ve got our list of players that were extended $15.3 million contracts by their clubs. These are they:

Melky Cabrera, Toronto Blue Jays
Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles
Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies
Francisco Liriano, Pittsburgh Pirates
Russell Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates
Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers
Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers
David Robertson, New York Yankees
Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants
Ervin Santana, Atlanta Braves
Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
James Shields, Kansas City Royals

During the last two offseasons, exactly zero of the 22 players that were extended qualifying offers accepted them. I think that changes this year, after we all saw what happened to Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales once they turned them down. Since the team that signs a player that received a qualifying offer has to give up either their first or second round draft pick, it really depresses the markets on these good, but not great players. Would you give up a first rounder to pay Michael Cuddyer to hit outside of Coors Field? Of course not. You’re a smart person who can properly value baseball assets.

There are your elite free agents that will obviously turn down their qualifying offers, some guys who should absolutely take the qualifying offer, and one who resides in contract purgatory, if your definition of purgatory is deciding whether or not you should make fifteen point three million dollars next year. Here’s how I’m breaking them down:

Won’t Accept
Russell Martin
Victor Martinez
Hanley Ramirez
Pablo Sandoval
Max Scherzer
James Shields

The bottom four guys are all going to get huge multi-year deals. Martin and Martinez are going to get large multi-year deals, but theirs won’t be as long as those other four. This is a simple decision for these rich men who will be much richer very soon.

Should Accept
Melky Cabrera
Michael Cuddyer
Nelson Cruz
Francisco Liriano
Ervin Santana

Melky has the PED stain on him and was awful in 2013. He was good in 2014 (2.6 fWAR), but I don’t see a team that would be willing to go long term for a player with his history and give up a pick for him. Without a QO attached he’d be in line for a three or four year deal, making nine to 12 million per. With it, he’s looking for a job in March. Take that guaranteed paper, Melky.

Cuddyer will be 36 next season. He was great last year, but that was because he killed the ball so hard in Colorado (1.255(!) OPS) that it didn’t matter what he did on the road (.734 OPS). He should stay in Colorado where he’s Paul Bunyan. With the qualifying offer wrapped around his neck, I don’t see him getting more than Cruz did from the Orioles last season, and I’d bet on him getting under that. Would a team even offer him $15.3 million over the next two years if it meant surrendering a pick? Doubtful, right? Cuddyer should take the deal, or he might end up going the Stephen Drew route and signing after the 2015 draft.

Cruz knows how this works, as the Rangers made him a qualifying offer last year, which led to him signing a one year, $8 million deal with Baltimore. He had a better year than anyone could’ve hoped for, as he hit 40 bombs and proved to be a steal for the O’s. But still, he’ll be 34 next year, and I can’t see a team that would be willing to go more than two years on him. If I’m Cruz, I tell the O’s I’d take two years at $25 million, or I’m accepting the qualifying offer. Cruz will probably be back in Charm City next year, it’s just a matter of sorting out how long he’ll be staying.

Liriano has been really good to great for Pittsburgh the past two years, but he was really bad the two years prior. Liriano is one of the younger players that received a qualifying offer, but that doesn’t mean he should tempt the free agency fates. Given his erratic history, I don’t believe many teams would go longer than three years on him if he didn’t have qualifying offer attached, and I think he’d be in the same situation that Ervin Santana was in last year. Liriano has made “only” $19 million and change in his career, so nearly doubling your total career earnings in one season seems like the right choice to me.

Santana did this last year, and got his one year deal from the Braves. He had a good enough season in Atlanta, but he’s another year older and was better in 2013 than he was in 2014. No one made him a long term offer last season, so there’s no reason for him to believe that will magically change now. I think he’ll either take qualifying offer, or sign a two to three year deal with Atlanta for about $12 million per season.

Choices, Choices
David Robertson

I think making a qualifying offer to a relief pitcher is bonkers. Relievers are super fungible, hard to predict, and get hurt all the time. There are maybe three or four relievers in the majors who are worth that kind of money, and I don’t think Robertson is one of them. The Yankees obviously would like to have him back and I they can probably hash out a three or four year deal, but the opportunity for Robertson to get a huge one year paycheck and hit free agency again next season must be tempting. I can see this one going either way, but, regardless of his choice, Robertson is most likely closing in the Bronx next season.

More from Prospect Insider

The following two tabs change content below.

Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at InsidethePark.com. He spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016. Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.

7 Comments

  1. I don’t think you should be that surprised. I for one though Cuddyer would take the QO, but he didn’t decline it until he had a two-year deal with the Mets complete. Talk was that he wanted out of COL.

    Robertson is an interesting one as well considered how the market for closers/high-end relievers has changed. I have no doubt he’ll get a multi-year though, probably with the Yankees.

  2. It’s bonkers to me that not one player accepted the QO.

    I guess Cuddyer saw a better fit with the Mets at 2-year, $21 million, but I’m almost certain he would have gotten more playing with the Rockies for another year and hitting FA again after the season.

    How does Robertson think he can get that much more as a reliever when Ervin Santana couldn’t do better on the open market as a quality starter last year?

  3. I think you’re going to be surprised by the contract Martin signs then. I agree that his profile doesn’t lend himself to a large contract, but he has hit well in the past and he handled the Pirates pitching staff fabulously. Pittsburgh won’t pony up the bucks, but a team like the Cubs certainly has the incentive.

  4. Seems like Russell Martin would be wise to accept. 32 year old catch with several mediocre years under his belt. Would another team offer him 3 years, $30 million and give up a draft pick? I wouldn’t.

  5. Jerry you are correct on Cruz. While it would be a big mistake (given his age and limitations as a player) some team will pay Cruz and give him 3 or 4 years. He most likely works something out long term with Baltimore after turning down the QO.

  6. No way Cruz accepts it. He’ll likely get offers of 3-4 years. His value will never be higher. Even if the AAV isn’t the same as the QO, this is likely his last chance at a multi-year deal.

    Cuddyer is the best bet.

    Liriano would be wise to accept it, too, although I wouldn’t be surprised if he re-upped with Pit on a 2 year deal.

  7. I think that for the first time ever, someone will actually accept the QO. Cuddyer and Cruz are the most obvious candidates, but players have egos, and agents don’t do them any favors. I agree with your list, but wonder how realistic some of these players and agents are…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.