Last Friday, teams made their decision on making qualifying offers to their outgoing free agents, and a record 20 such offers were made, including the Cubs and Dexter Fowler. The players then had one week – until 4pm CT today – to decide on whether to accept the $15.8 million contract for the 2016 season, or decline and seek riches elsewhere (now being attached to draft pick compensation).
With such a huge, talented free agent class, and with teams pushing the envelope on the kinds of players on whom they were willing to risk giving an offer, most expected that, finally, this would be the first time a qualifying offer was ever accepted, and …
Yup, at least one is going to be accepted. Ken Rosenthal reports that outfielder Colby Rasmus will today accept the Astros’ qualifying offer, setting him up to double in 2016 the salary he made on a one-year deal in 2015. That contract, signed late in the offseason, was one Rasmus presumably hoped would set him up for a bigger, multi-year splash in 2016. Although that didn’t happen, he did play well enough (.238/.314/.475, 115 wRC+, 2.8 WAR) to earn the huge pay raise via the qualifying offer. To be honest, I’m a little surprised he’s going to accept it, but it’s possible that, given the fact he’s still just 29, he wants to try and break out one more time before getting a bigger score next offseason.
As for the Astros, though they publicly indicated they “hoped” Rasmus would accept the offer, I can’t help but wonder if now devoting such a large chunk (relatively speaking) of their payroll to Rasmus will impact the rest of their offseason moves. They figured to be a healthy spender (again, relatively speaking) otherwise, especially in the pitching market.
The other 19 free agents will make their decisions throughout the day, and the vast majority will decline the qualifying offer. Marco Estrada and Ian Kennedy remain possibilities to accept (though the former is reportedly working on a multi-year deal with the Blue Jays). Matt Wieters and Brett Anderson also come up as possibilities, but I see them as less likely. I don’t actually think Kennedy is all that likely, either, but we’ll see.
Once the decisions are all in, the free agent field will be set, and teams will start weighing the costs, risks, benefits, and all that jazz.