As you know from boning up on the offseason road map of dates and deadlines, and from catching up on activity this weekend, today features a couple of important deadlines, ones that really kick off the meaty part of the offseason. It comes quickly when the team you follow has a season that extends all the way to Game Seven of the World Series.
First, today is the day by which players and teams must make their decisions on options for 2017. Historically, it’s a day for intriguing action, not only in the decisions themselves, but also in the trade activity it sometimes spurs, as teams that hold options try to capture in trade some surplus value. This year, it might be a little muted, as many of the option decisions have already been made, and one notable trade – Cameron Maybin had his option picked up by the Tigers and then was traded to the Angels – already occurred.
For the Cubs, all is already resolved on the option front: Dexter Fowler declining his mutual option and the Cubs declining their option on Jason Hammel. On Hammel, the Cubs could have been one of those teams exercising the option in advance of trying to shop him on a weak market, but they decided it was more valuable to do right by Hammel and allow him to choose his next destination in free agency. (It is important to note that the decision could be driven both by a desire to do a good thing for a good guy, and also a desire to do a good thing for the organization: sending the message that this organization values its players as human beings could be worth more than whatever trade return the Cubs may have received for Hammel on a one-year, $12 million deal.)
Today’s other deadline is the qualifying offer deadline. You can expect that the Cubs will extend a $17.2 million qualifying offer to Dexter Fowler, but no other players. Fowler will have one week to decide whether to accept or reject the offer, and, if he does reject it, he will once again be tied to draft pick compensation. The Cubs will pick up a compensatory draft pick if he signs elsewhere, and the team that signs him will lose a draft pick. Although $17.2 million is not a bad rate, it is expected that Fowler will be able to do much better on the open market this year, considering his excellent year (including improved defense) and the weak free agent class.
Around baseball, other qualifying offers will be made today before the 4pm CT deadline. Stay tuned. We’ll round things up when the offers are all in.