Nick Nelson

Offseason Lowdown

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Lowdown: Free Agency Fires Up

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


On Monday, MLB free agency officially opened for business. Unsurprisingly, no major dominoes have fallen within the first few days, but there are some early developments worth discussing.


Most of the moves we've seen this week have been procedural in nature (qualifying offers, contract options, etc.). Let's go over some of those decisions and how they affect the developing offseason landscape.


Qualifying Offers on the Table


Each year around this time, clubs have the option to extend qualifying offers to their impending free agents. By accepting, the player stays on board with a one-year deal worth around $17.5 million. By declining, he hits the open market, and his former team receives draft pick compensation should he sign elsewhere.

 

Oftentimes, these are easy calls for both sides. Of course top starting pitchers like Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn were going to receive a QO, and of course each is going to reject it; they figure to land nine-figure deals as free agents.


In other cases, the outlook is less clear. For example, it was a bit surprising to see Alex Cobb get a QO from the Rays. He's coming off a solid, albeit unspectacular season (12-10, 3.66 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) and hasn't quite shown the same swing-and-miss stuff since returning from Tommy John surgery.


There's almost no chance Cobb would earn $17 million annually in a free agent contract, but as a relatively young and talented starter he'd be looking at a sizable total over four/five years. Will he opt for long-term security or take the hefty 2018 salary and look to improve his standing for next winter? He has about a week to decide.


Other players who received qualifying offers: Carlos Santana, Wade Davis, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland. Of that group, Holland looks like the only one who might accept.


No QO for Cozart


It can also be interesting to look at which players did NOT receive a qualifying offer from their clubs. The name that stands out most is Zack Cozart, who presents a bit of a free agency conundrum coming off an out-of-nowhere 5-WAR campaign with the Reds.


If he continues to hit anywhere close to the way he did in 2017 (.933 OPS with 24 homers in 122 games) then he can offer massive value as a quality defensive shortstop. However, that offensive production was completely unprecedented for Cozart, who turns 33 next season. The Reds, evidently, were unwilling to gamble on the legitimacy of his breakout. We'll see how the rest of the league views him soon enough.


Cozart's strong glove means he can still be a nice addition even if his bat levels off, but he is destined to be overvalued in fantasy drafts next spring.


Quick Hits: Two-way Japanese star Shohei Otani has signed on with the agency CAA Baseball, further signaling his intent to sign with an MLB team this offseason ... Trevor Rosenthal was released by the Cardinals, and will spend the 2018 season rehabbing from August Tommy John surgery ... As expected, the Rangers declined their $11 million 2018 option for Mike Napoli, who batted just .193 with a .285 OBP but did mash 24 homers ... 44-year-old Bartolo Colon is reportedly hoping to continue his career in 2018 (on a minor-league deal, no doubt) ... The Orioles are said to have interest in free agent starters Andrew Cashner and Jason Vargas.




Nick Nelson is a frequent contributor to Rotoworld's baseball coverage and regularly blogs about the Minnesota Twins at Twins Daily. Follow him on Twitter @NickNelsonMN.
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