Today was the deadline for teams to extend qualifying offers to their outgoing free agents. The qualifying offer is a one-year, $15.3 million deal if accepted. The players receiving an offer have 7 days to decide whether to accept or reject the offer. If he rejects it, the player is subject to draft pick compensation – that is to say, the team that loses him gets a draft pick at the end of the first round in 2015, and the team that signs him loses a draft pick in 2015. The teams with the bottom ten records in 2014 – including the Cubs – have their first round pick protected in this process. That means they lose their next highest pick in the draft if they sign a qualified free agent. Other teams would lose their first eligible pick, which, for most teams, would be their first rounder.
Players who were not with their present team for the whole 2014 season are not eligible to receive a qualifying offer (i.e., guys who were traded midseason like Jon Lester or Jason Hammel).
The following players received qualifying offers today, with some comments on each:
Max Scherzer – Totally expected, will obviously reject. Could he wind up a Cubs target? Sources are split, though Scherzer did come up as recently as today.
Victor Martinez – Totally expected, will obviously reject, and is a DH candidate for various AL teams.
Nelson Cruz – Pretty much the same line there as Martinez.
Melky Cabrera – Totally expected, will obviously reject. I doubt the Cubs pursue Cabrera as an outfield target, given the expected price. I think the Cubs do look to add in the outfield, but a long-term deal for
right-handed switch-hitting* corner bat isn’t where I’d expect them to go. [*Edit – my bad. Typed/thought too quickly. Point mostly still stands, though.]
James Shields – Totally expected, will obviously reject, and is a possible Cubs target.
Russell Martin – Totally expected, will obviously reject, and is a possible Cubs target.
Francisco Liriano – Well, well. This is interesting. Folks were on the fence projecting whether Liriano would receive the offer, and whether he would accept it if he did. Given his up and down time in Pittsburgh, and the damaging effect draft pick compensation can have on the market for second tier guys like Liriano, I could see this going either way. My guess is he rejects, and then has a drawn out free agency. Being that the Cubs have a protected first round pick, and might sign multiple qualified free agents, they might have a very interesting opportunity here to have a relative advantage over other suitors (i.e., the pick they might stand to lose by the time they’re considering Liriano could be a third or fourth rounder – worth a tiny fraction of a first rounder).
Hanley Ramirez – Totally expected, will obviously reject. It’ll be fun to follow his free agency, but there’s no direct Cubs impact.
Ervin Santana – Mostly expected, will probably reject. Sometimes you see Santana listed as a possible Cubs target, but he projects to be pricier than many other arms in the second tier that, to me, look just as attractive.
Pablo Sandoval – Totally expected, will obviously reject. It’s very unlikely he comes on the Cubs’ radar.
Michael Cuddyer – The most surprising of the qualifying offers. Cuddyer, who will play next season at age 36, was huge with the bat this year (.332/.376/.579), but played in only 49 games while dealing with shoulder and hamstring issues. He’s also very poor defensively in the outfield. There’s a real chance that Cuddyer could accept the offer – if he doesn’t, he really might have a hard time topping it – leaving the Rockies will a surplus of outfield/first-base types. Maybe this is the offseason they finally trade Carlos Gonzalez? But with his contract and long, tortured injury history, how much would they get?
David Robertson – Mostly expected, will probably mull it over. Yes, Robertson will probably get more than $15.3 million in free agency, but how much more (once he’s attached to draft pick compensation, no less)? I expect he’ll reject, and we may hear periodic, head-scratching rumors connecting the Cubs to Robertson like we did earlier today.