The Last Remaining Top Starting Pitcher

Ubaldo Jimenez: Check.

Suk-min Yoon: Check.

A.J. Burnett: Check.

Ervin Santana: Nope.

The first three names have all signed contracts within a week and a half, the last one has not. Ervin Santana, a top 50 free agent according to many, is still unsigned and, according to MLB Trade Rumors top 50 free agents list, the only starting pitcher unsigned. So what does that mean for Santana? Well, it means that he may garner a large contract with a large sum of money from a desperate team, or he’ll be robbed of what he’s actually worth. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors predicted that Santana would receive a 75 million dollar contract over five years. Pretty good by any standards, but most likely not what he will get. Jimenez received 50 million while Matt Garza received 50 million as well only weeks ago, while Ricky Nolasco early on in the winter received a 49 million dollar contract. Of course, the annual average salary varies for each player, the highest guarantee salary is 25 million less than that predicted for Santana. So although he may still receive his projected 75 million, the likelihood of that happening looks slim. At this point in the stage, a four year deal seems logical, but I think with an annual salary of ~12 million, perhaps less. Although his career numbers and career in general don’t garner a salary like this, teams will match this price, or exceed it, in order to fill a hole.

The fact that Santana, and many other free agents, took so long to sign does not bode well with the player’s association and reflects negatively on the qualifying offer. The fact that a team is passing over a player with ties to a draft pick means A) that teams value their picks more so than ever and B) that the ability to win now is not as important as the future. Let me explain.

Option A makes sense. Many teams have depleted farm systems a la the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels, so restocking their farm system and building towards the future (whether that be future trades, future post season aspirations, etc) is a viable, and necessary, option for all teams whereas option B is only for a few teams. Not every team is in a position to win now, so signing a player tied to their draft picks would be a lose-lose, but then you have the other teams who can win, and can win now. The Yankees clearly have attested to this. They have signed players tied to draft picks and thus lost those picks, but they are in an excellent position to win now, and for the future. You see, since a team loses a draft pick, they are obligated, but not obliged, to sign players to long term deals in order to make the signing worth wile. The Seattle Mariners believe this as do the aforementioned Yankees.

Thus the qualifying offer, although in place to help players which it does, can hurt teams and players alike. Teams can’t make respectable offers to players without losing their draft picks, and if they do, they tend to offer the player more money than he is worth. While the players, on the other hand, receive large paydays and security for their families, they do have to wait for a team to take a chance on him, if they even want to and lose their draft pick. And Santana perfectly reflects this. The notion that a team in need of a player (the Toronto Blue Jays for example) is not willing to offer a worthwhile deal to a player because they need the picks, while the player has to hope that what he receives is a viable, and legitimate, contract.

In conclusion: I do not like the qualifying offer. It ruins a team’s ability to sign a free agent while at the same time makes a player less valuable since his is tied to a draft pick.

Print This Post

My first introduction to baseball was Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Need I say more?

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
2 years 7 months ago

What you describe is a feature, not a bug. The purpose of the QO is to limit free agent costs and it’s doing a bang up job.

2 years 7 months ago

“Thus the qualifying offer, although in place to help players which it does,”

I think you fundamentally misunderstand the purpose of the QO.

Further, I had to re-read your article to figure out your convoluted logic in how you believe it helps the player.

“You see, since a team loses a draft pick, they are obligated, but not obliged, to sign players to long term deals in order to make the signing worth wile.”[sic]

So you believe a GM says to himself, “I’d like to sign this free agent to a one year deal, but I’d be willing to give him multiple years if I also have to give up a draft pick.”