Legends On Deck

2015-’16 Qualifying Offers: Who Should Get One

Zack-Greinke-

FoxSports.com

Qualifying offers have become a crucial part of the free agent market in recent years, as they certainly have an impact on the values of the players who hit the market after declining them. Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales could attest to this after they were forced to start their 2014 seasons late due to teams clearly not wanting to forfeit a first round pick (or a second rounder if the team’s first rounder is in the Top 10 slots) to sign them. This draft pick that a team must give up to sign a player who rejected a qualifying offer clearly lowers the player’s value, especially amongst the lower tier of free agents who receive one. This may cause some players to consider accepting the one year qualifying offer, which will be $15.8 million this offseason, the highest it’s ever been.

For teams who have free agents that are eligible for a qualifying offer (players must have been on the team for at least one full season to be eligible to receive a qualifying offer, therefore eliminating from consideration any upcoming free agents who were traded midseason), offering a player a qualifying offer could serve two very valuable functions if the player declines it and elects to hit free agency.

First off, the team would receive a compensation draft pick that falls at the end of the first round of the 2016 draft (before the second round starts), which is a valuable commodity, especially in an era where most successful teams are building homegrown cores. Secondly, if the team wants to possibly attempt to resign their free agent, attaching a qualifying offer to him should lower his value to other teams in the market, since they will not only have to pay for the contract they sign him to, but also forfeit their draft pick, which I’m sure their front office has already attached an estimated price value to. This could allow teams to resign their own free agents at a cheaper price if they attach a QO and the player declines.

So, a team thinking about offering a player a qualifying offer has to first consider if they think the player will accept it or not. If they are sure the player will decline it, then there is no reason not to offer the QO. However, if the team is unsure if the player will decline the offer, they must consider how much it would impact their 2016 roster and payroll situation to potentially have the player on a one year/$15.8 million deal. According to various studies, 1 win (above replacement) on the free agent market costs somewhere between seven and eight million dollars. Therefore, if a team expects the player to be worth roughly 2 WAR in 2016, the qualifying offer would essentially be a fair deal for them if the player does accept, based on the market value of a win. However, factors such as a team’s maximum payroll potential, market size, preexisting contractual obligations, whether or not there are possible replacements for that free agent on the roster, and general team strategy for contention in 2016 and beyond will all impact the team’s decision as well.

First, we will list players who will without a doubt, almost certainly receive a qualifying offer. There will not be much to say about these players, as they will almost definitely decline it and test the free agent market. Next, we’ll list the players whose case is more of a mystery, and determine whether or not, in my opinion, it is in the team’s best interest to extend them a qualifying offer or not.

Notes: All ages as of 11/6/15.
Avg3YRfWAR = the average fWAR of the player’s last three seasons (2013, 2014, 2015).
2016 Steamer fWAR: Steamer projection for fWAR in 2016

Sure Shots:

1) Zack Greinke
Team: Dodgers
Age: 32
2015 fWAR: 5.9
Avg3YRfWAR: 4.6
2016 Steamer fWAR: 4.0

2) Jason Heyward
Team: Cardinals
Age: 26
2015 fWAR: 6.0
Avg3YRfWAR: 4.9
2016 Steamer fWAR: 4.7

3) Jordan Zimmermann
Team: Nationals
Age: 29
2015 fWAR: 3.0
Avg3YRfWAR: 4.0
2016 Steamer fWAR: 2.8

4) Justin Upton
Team: Padres
Age: 28
2015 fWAR: 3.6
Avg3YRfWAR: 3.5
2016 Steamer fWAR: 3.0

5) Alex Gordon
Team: Royals
Age: 31
2015 fWAR: 2.8
Avg3YRfWAR: 4.4 fWAR
2016 Steamer fWAR: 3.5

6) Chris Davis
Team: Orioles
Age: 29
2015 fWAR: 5.6
Avg3YRfWAR: 4.5
2016 Steamer fWAR: 2.4

7) Howie Kendrick
Team: Dodgers
Age: 32
2015 fWAR: 2.1
Avg3YRfWAR: 3.1
2016 Steamer fWAR: 2.4

8) Hisashi Iwakuma
Team: Mariners
Age: 34
2015 fWAR: 1.8
Avg3YRfWAR: 2.9
2016 Steamer fWAR: 3.7

9) Jeff Samardzija
Team: White Sox
Age: 30
2015 fWAR: 2.7
Avg3YRfWAR: 3.2
2016 Steamer fWAR: 2.7

10) Matt Wieters
Team: Orioles
Age: 29
2015 fWAR: 1.0
Avg3YRfWAR: 1.5
2016 fWAR: 2.2

11) Wei-Yin Chen
Team: Orioles
Age: 30
2015 fWAR: 2.8
Avg3YRfWAR: 2.4
2016 Steamer fWAR: 2.6

Questionable Calls:

1) Dexter Fowler
Team: Cubs
Age: 29
2015 fWAR: 3.2
Avg3YRfWAR: 2.3
2016 Steamer fWAR: 1.7
Verdict: Yes. Even if he accepts it wouldn’t be a bad deal for the Cubs, and there’s a good chance he’ll decline to seek a long- term deal. His verteran presence was a big help to the young Cubs last year, and Fowler seems to be a solid, above average outfielder who can reasonably be expected to remain so for at least 2016.

2) John Lackey
Team: Cardinals
Age: 37
2015 fWAR: 3.6
Avg3YRfWAR: 2.8
2016 Steamer fWAR: 2.6
Verdict: Yes. Despite his advanced age, Lackey had a very good year in ’15 and it wouldn’t be a bad deal for the Cards if he does accept. The fact that they have, as always, a ton of young pitchers means that they don’t need to resign him and they may allow him to leave and take the draft pick if he declines. However, having him back in ’16 at $15.8 mil wouldn’t be the worst thing.

3) Ian Desmond
Team: Nationals
Age: 30
2015 fWAR: 1.7
Avg3YRfWAR: 3.5
2016 Steamer fWAR: 1.6
Verdict: Yes. This is a tricky one, since Desmond was a lock to receive a QO entering 2015, before he had a lacklsuter year. The Nats may be willing to let him sign elsewhere with top prospect Trea Turner waiting in the wings. However, he’s worth slapping a QO on, as if he accepts there’s a solid chance he rebounds, especially since he was better in the 2nd half and Turner may not be ready yet. I think it would be a solid gamble for the Nats to offer Desmond a QO.

4) Daniel Murphy
Team: Mets
Age: 30
2015 fWAR: 2.5
Avg3YRfWAR: 2.7
2016 Steamer fWAR: 2.1
Verdict: Yes. Despite having extreme highs and lows during the playoffs, Murphy has been a very consistent player throughout his career. The Mets should be able to afford the 1 year deal if he does accept, although they’re probably not looking to resign him if he declines, with youngsters like Dilson Herrera waiting in the wings. But it’s worth the risk in my opinion.

5) Yovani Gallardo
Team: Rangers
Age: 29
2015 fWAR: 2.5
Avg3YRfWAR: 2.2
2016 Steamer fWAR: 1.7
Verdict: Yes. Athough his strikeout rates clearly aren’t as high as they were earlier in his career, Gallardo has settled in as a solid, mid- rotation starter, who will probably be looking for a multi year deal. He should get a multi year deal even after declining, possibly with the Rangers.

6) Denard Span
Team: Nationals
Age: 31
2015 fWAR: 1.4
Avg3YRfWAR: 2.9
2016 Steamer fWAR: 2.2
Verdict: Yes. If Span didn’t get hurt in 2015, he would’ve been on the first list of Sure Shots. However, if healthy, he’s likely to rebound in 2016, and should command a multi year deal, as he’s not likely to accept the QO.

7) Ian Kennedy
Team: Padres
Age: 30
2015 fWAR: 0.8
Avg3YRfWAR: 1.6
2016 Steamer fWAR: 2.2
Verdict: No, I don’t think Kennedy is worth a QO, as he’s been wildly inconsistent, despite remaining relatively healthy. However, I think the Padres will probably offer him one, and if they do, he should accept, as I don’t think the market will be too kind to Kennedy coming off a down year with a QO attached to him. If he declines and the Padres don’t resign him, he may have to wait until after the June amateur draft to sign, as after that date teams do not need to give up a draft pick to sign a player who rejected his QO. Waiting two months to start the season obviously isn’t ideal, so we’ll see how this one plays out. If he declines, expect him to resign with the Padres at a bargain deal.

8) Brett Anderson
Team: Dodgers
Age: 27
2015 fWAR: 1.7
Avg3YRfWAR: 1.0
2016 Steamer fWAR: 2.0
Verdict: Yes, and he should accept it. Health has always been the major issue for Anderson, but in 2015, he pitched the most innings of his career in a solid season. I think the Dodgers will offer him the QO knowing that he might accept, since a 1 year/$15.8 mil deal wouldn’t be that much of a detriment to their large payroll, especially if he performs as he did last year.

9) Doug Fister
Team: Nationals
Age: 31
2015 fWAR: 0.2
Avg3YRfWAR: 1.9
2016 Steamer fWAR: 1.6
Verdict: No. Entering 2015, he was a near lock to get a QO this offseason. However, his value might’ve depreciated the most amongst all free agents this season, as he was eventually relegated to the bullpen. If offered a QO, Fister would almost certainly accept, and the Nationals can’t afford to spend close to $16 mil for a pitcher who may not even crack their starting rotation.

10) Colby Rasmus
Team: Astros
Age: 29
2015 fWAR: 2.8
Avg3YRfWAR: 2.9
2016 Steamer fWAR: 0.8
Verdict: Yes, although this one’s a tough call, mostly due to Rasmus’ general inconsistency. If he accepts, it’d be almost a crapshoot whether or not he’s worth the 15.8mil. However, when he’s good, he’s very good, and the former top prospect may want to test the free agent market for a multi year deal, especially since he’s coming off a strong year. However, if he declines and Houston doesn’t resign him, he may have trouble landing a deal with that QO attached.

11) Asdrubal Cabrera
Team: Rays
Age: 29
2015 fWAR: 2.2
Avg3YRfWAR: 1.4
2016 Steamer fWAR: 1.2
Verdict: No. I’m sure the Rays would like to get a draft pick in return for Cabrera. However, there’s no way he doesn’t accept the $15.8mil qualifying offer, which would be a wild overpay.

12) Marco Estrada
Team: Blue Jays
Age: 32
2015 fWAR: 1.8
Avg3YRfWAR: 1.2
2016 Steamer fWAR: 0.8
Verdict: No. Estrada had a solid year in 2015, but he would almost certainly accept the QO if he’s offered one, which would be a wild overpay for the Jays.

13) David Freese
Team: Angels
Age: 32
2015 fWAR: 2.2
Avg3YRfWAR: 1.3
2016 Steamer fWAR: 1.2
Verdict: No, I would not offer him one, although I feel as if the Angels’ front office might actually do it, as he’s coming off of two consecutive 2+ fWAR seasons with the club. If he gets offered one, he should definitely accept, as he would have a hard time signing with any other team before the June draft with the QO attached. However, he may decline it and proceed to sign with the Angels for a longer deal with a shorter AAV (average annual value).

14) Bartolo Colon
Team: Mets
Age: 42
2015 fWAR: 2.5
Avg3YRfWAR: 3.0
2016 Steamer fWAR: 2.1
Verdict: No. If Colon wasn’t 42, I would probably say that the Mets should offer him a QO, as his production the past few years has consistently warranted one. However, he would almost certainly accept given his advanced age, and I’m sure he can be had on a cheaper one year deal (possibly with an option for a second) if the Mets wish to resign him.

Steve Berlin

Steve Berlin

Steve is a diehard baseball fan (Lets Go Mets!) who lives in New Jersey. Originally from Brooklyn, hegraduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor's Degree in Economics. Steve loves to focus on the sabermetrics side of baseball, as he grew up in the so- called "Moneyball era".He is also an avid music listener, and is always willing to debate music or sports.
Steve Berlin