This will be the 4th off-season of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which includes the Qualified Offer system to compensate teams who offer their current players who are eligible to leave for Free Agency a ‘QO’. The player can either accept it or reject it and they have 1 week to decide, and if they take it, they would stay with their current team for 1 year at the QO amount or if they decline it and sign with a new team, their old team would get a compensation Draft pick if the player signs with a new team prior to the 2016 June draft. None of the 34 qualifying offers made to MLB players have been accepted in the first 3 years of the QO system. At $15.8 million this year, this could be the first time we see a player accept a QO from their current team.
Let’s look at four Nats players that are in the realm of reality to receive a QO and they are Denard Span, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann. Jon Heyman does not believe the Nats will offer Denard Span a QO, but many other analysts think they will. The Nats will offer Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond a QO and still to be determined if they will extend a QO to Doug Fister, but that is looking doubtful.
Here’s the QO schedule:
- November: (November 6, 2015 5:00 PM EST) 5 days after the World Series ends sets the deadline for teams to make their QO’s (Qualified Offer) to pending free agents and this is optional for teams to offer (see below)
- November: (November 13, 2015 5:00 PM EST) 12 days after World Series ends sets the deadline for Free Agents to accept/decline their QO’s (see below)
Let’s look at 2 of Scott Boras’ free agents from prior years in Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales. Neither signed by Opening Day in 2014 and held out for a great deal, and were willing to wait until the June draft to find a suitable contract, and if necessary, hold out until June’s draft where the QO compensation expired and the team that signed them would only have to pay for approximately 4 months of service and wouldn’t cost them a Draft pick. Drew was the starting shortstop on the Red Sox 2013 World Series championship team, and Kendrys Morales who hit 23 HRs with 80 RBIs for the Mariners rejected the 2014 QO amount of $14.1 million. Both were good Free Agents that appeared to be burdened by the QO draft compensation the new team would have to forfeit if they signed them prior to the June 2014 draft.
Boras in 2014 said this about Drew and Morales, “The system they’ve been dealt has basically prevented them from free agency. They want to make sure about their next step, whatever that will be. It means either signing a long-term contract now, and we’re still taking offers on those or a number of other prospects that could occur after the season starts or in June, after the draft happens. Like any players, they want to play baseball. But they’re also looking at the long-term aspect of their careers. This system has placed them not in free agency, but it’s placed them in a jail.”
Ervin Santana and Nelson Cruz both turned down their QO’s after the 2013 season and sought multi year deals and both settled for 1 year deals, and in Cruz’s case got $8 million from Baltimore costing him $6.1 million if he had accepted the QO when offered, and Santana took a 1 year deal for the $14.1 million with the Braves.
The current QO system will stay in effect until the end of baseball’s collective bargaining agreement in 2016, and then will most likely be changed as the player’s and their union (MLBPA) have not liked how it has worked out for their players.
Boras continued, “I started preparing these guys in November  for what I knew was going to happen. Everybody talks about these players turning down these [1 year] Qualifying Offers like they’re ‘village idiots’. The reason is, they don’t want to be in the same position again next year. If I’m a good player, I’m going to take the prospect of free agency. If I’m one of these players, I’m not on the train to Free Agency. I’m on the Ferris wheel of multiple qualifying offers. It’s circular, and there’s no escape hatch to the system. The integrity of the game is at hand here. Clubs are refusing to employ premium free agents for their true market value because of an artificial, collectively bargained process that does not help the game or the fans’ perception of the game. These players earned their free agency and played at very high levels to get it. The credo has to be, ‘We pay performance, and the best performance should be compensated appropriately.’ Under this system, we have a huge gap. We have players of lesser performance getting compensated dramatically more.”
As the story went, Kendrys Morales was none too pleased with the situation and with his agent and eventually dropped Boras as his agent and moved to the Wasserman Group. Stephen Drew has averaged below ‘Mendoza’ since the 2013 season and Boras is still registered as Drew’s agent. Drew will once again be a Free Agent this off-season, and no, the Yankees will not QO him.
The reasons to offer a QO to Span is that his agent is Scott Boras has always been opposed to them, but times change and you never know what Boras has up his sleeve. Boras is not a fan of the QO system as you can surmise from his quotes above, and while it’s a gamble, it could pay-off for the Nats even if Span accepts it.
Span on his MLB Network Radio interview before the World Series started had this to say, “[My recovery from hip surgery] is going good, going really good. Everything is on track. If anything, it’s probably ahead of schedule. The range of motion in my hip is getting there and just feeling good. Just ready to get going.”
If that quote from Span is accurate that he is “probably ahead of schedule”, he could be a needed piece, if healthy, for the 2016 season for the Nats or another team. Yes, $15.8 million could be an overpay for the Nats if Span accepted the QO, but it solves a big hole for the Nats which is the leadoff lefty hitter who could keep Trea Turner getting more reps in the Minors. The other possibility is that the Nats negotiate a multi-year deal to keep Span which seems unlikely, but we will see as we are getting very close to QO time. If the World Series ended on Saturday, QO’s would be offered mid next week!
Update 11/6/15 11:40AM: We have reposted this and will do updates to bring it current. Source tells us Fister will not be QO’d
Update 11/6/15 2:20PM: High drama as Rizzo wants no leaks as to the 1 player that NatsTown fans have debated the most on the QO. The Span decision on the QO at last check was looking like a Yes if new manager Dusty Baker wanted him which is essential as the Nats have the same concerns as every other team who offers a QO as to whether the team still has a need for that player if he accepts the QO, and the answer on Span was discussed with Dusty Baker so stay tuned. The salary hit is slightly over market on a 1 year deal for a player who was healthy and has Span’s stats if you look at projected WAR, and the team has to be confident in his medicals. What’s somewhat curious is Jon Heyman, who has always been rumored to have a close relationship with Boras, didn’t think he would be QO’d. Is that his opinion or something he’s been told? The opinion of our writers here is that Span will be QO’d although certainly wouldn’t be shocked if he was not. Mixed opinions leading to a 50/50 toss-up at the moment.