Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

denard span nationalsI’d been tracking the qualifying offer decisions today, and it seems the only surprise today that went against making the qualifying offer was the Nationals’ decision not to give one to Denard Span. Michael recently discussed that decision, and indeed, both of us were thinking that this might happen, because Span – coming off hip surgery – might be looking for a one-year prove-it deal anyway. At $15.8 million, and with no risk that his market would collapse, that kind of one-year deal could have looked mighty attractive to Span, and I suspect that’s precisely why the Nats didn’t offer it.

Now, depending on what happens with Dexter Fowler (who received a qualifying offer from the Cubs, but will decline and explore free agency – if he signs elsewhere, the Cubs get a draft pick after the first round) or elsewhere on the trade or free agent market, I could see the Cubs feeling Span out. Your dream scenario is that he’s projected to be healthy for Spring, and is looking for a one-year, $12 to $15 million deal before hitting free agency again next offseason.

Outside of Span – and conceivably his teammate Doug Fister, who didn’t receive an offer after a disastrous walk year – every other qualifying offer decision broke in favor of the team making an offer. There were 20 in all, which is a huge increase over the 12 that were given out last year, and a new record (13).

Here’s the full list of players receiving the $15.8 million, one-year offer today – and if they decline and sign with a new team, they’ll cost that team a draft pick:

  • Brett Anderson, LHP (Dodgers)
  • Wei-Yin Chen, RHP (Orioles)
  • Chris Davis, 1B (Orioles)
  • Ian Desmond, SS (Nationals)
  • Marco Estrada, RHP (Blue Jays)
  • Dexter Fowler, OF (Cubs)
  • Yovani Gallardo, RHP (Rangers)
  • Alex Gordon, OF (Royals)
  • Zack Greinke, RHP (Dodgers)
  • Jason Heyward, OF (Cardinals)
  • Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP (Mariners)
  • Howie Kendrick, 2B (Dodgers)
  • Ian Kennedy, RHP (Padres)
  • John Lackey, RHP (Cardinals)
  • Daniel Murphy, UTL (Mets)
  • Colby Rasmus, OF (Astros)
  • Jeff Samardzija, RHP (White Sox)
  • Justin Upton, OF (Padres)
  • Matt Wieters, C (Orioles)
  • Jordan Zimmermann, RHP (Nationals)

Among the borderline cases, you could see draft pick compensation impacting the markets for Anderson, Estrada, Gallardo, Iwakuma, Kennedy, Lacky, Murphy, Rasmus, Samardzija, and Wieters. Furthermore, with such a robust free agent market, the fear of having your value tank if you’re not signed by late December is very real. That might suggest a patient approach by teams – I do find it interesting, however, that, in recent years, virtually all of the qualified free agents who waited, saw their markets fall, and then had to sign very late were all fairly disappointing in the year in which they signed (James Shields, Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales), with Nelson Cruz being the one exception that sticks out in my mind. In other words, teams seem to be pretty good, in the collective, at identifying the best bets out there.

As far as potential Cubs targets go, you could still see them having interest in Fowler, Gordon, Greinke, Heyward, Kendrick and Zimmermann without regard for the draft pick (meaning, the draft pick compensation wouldn’t factor too strongly in the decision of whether or not to pursue those guys (I am not saying the Cubs will pursue all or any of those players)). As for arms like Kennedy or Lackey or Samardzija, there’s definitely an impact here (to say nothing of guys like Gallardo and Estrada, whom I’m not sure I see the Cubs seriously considering anyway).

That said, keep in mind: if the Cubs get a pick for losing Fowler, they’d still have a pick near the back-end of the first round even if they sign a qualified free agent.

So, now we see if any of these guys accepts the offer. Given the fringy-ness of some of the players as free agents, and the robust market, I feel pretty confident we’ll see some acceptances for the first time in the history of the qualifying offer. As for the free agents who could not be given a qualifying offer because they were traded mid-season, they must be loving the huge list above. It can only help them out, which underscores one of the fundamental problems with this system. But that’s for another day.

Decisions on these offers are due one week from today. Dun-dun-dunnnnnn ….

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