Not that this necessarily impacts the Jays directly– they don’t have any qualifying offers out to players, and they certainly haven’t been interested in signing guys who’d cost a compensatory draft pick in years past– but it’s worth noting that, as the 5 PM ET deadline for players to accept or reject qualifying offers that were made by their clubs last week looms, it looks like all of the players will decline and become free agents.
Yeah, there’s some money floating around the game, it turns out. Not that there was ever any doubt of that, but… look at a Nelson Cruz, for example, who this morning formally turned down the Rangers’ qualifying offer.
Cruz will turn 34 in the middle of next season, and while he’s certainly an impressive hitter, he hasn’t been the nearly 5-win guy that he was in 2010 for three seasons now– especially not defensively– and he’s got the PED issue hanging over his head as well. Last year Melky Cabrera, who hit free agency five years younger, came with a similar PED story, and while maybe not the same lengthy track record of success or power, he’d had two very comparable seasons at the plate (150 and 118 wRC+) to what Cruz has done recently (122, 106, 116 in his last three). Cabrera, of course, didn’t have a draft pick tied to him– the Giants didn’t make him a qualifying offer– and yet “only” ended up signing for two years and $16-million.
Maybe this is an indication of just how scary much money it’s believed will be out there this time around, but it could also be a misstep from Cruz and his people– and one that other free agents may also be making, which plays to the Jays’ advantage. In theory, at least.
It probably goes without saying that I’m not particularly interested in Nelson Cruz, specifically, but I sure as shit am all for some of the free agents in the upper-middle range of the market devaluing themselves and suppressing their own value by tying a draft pick around their necks. And that’s because it would seem to me the fact that the Jays have two protected first round draft picks gives them a significant opportunity to add exactly those kind of free agents that other teams, afraid of losing their lone first-rounder, would shy away from.
In fact, Alex Anthopoulos admitted as much in a piece late last week from Shi Davidi at Sportsnet.
The Blue Jays would surrender a second-round pick for signing such a player, which allows them to aim higher in the free agent market.
“That helps quite a bit,” says Anthopoulos. “When you have a chance to get multiple years of a free agent, and it’s a now big-league player. I think almost every team would do that. We’re not happy with the way the year went, but now in the off-season it’s to our advantage that we don’t have to surrender a first-round pick.”
Obviously when you’re talking about a guy like Robinson Cano, and the kind commitment a club would be making to sign him away from the Yankees, the draft pick becomes rather peripheral, but as Kyle Lohse found out last year, teams really, really covet their draft picks, and can be very reluctant to part with them except for the absolute best free agents out there. It’s a market inefficiency that is screaming for Anthopoulos to exploit it– especially because he has a pair of protected first-rounders, and a club actually looking to be competitive. The same can’t be said of many of the other teams with protected picks: Houston, Miami, both Chicago teams, Minnesota, Seattle, Philadelphia, Colorado and the Mets.
I’m not saying that those will be the Jays’ only competition for guys like Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, but they may be the clubs willing to go farthest to get the player, given that the draft pick loss they’re factoring in will be less significant than for others. If that’s the case, and if the Jays are willing to put getting a good player at as fair a price as the market will ever bear ahead of their third (and maybe, dare I say, fourth?) draft pick next June, they could certainly make some noise on the market this winter. And really, the timing is beyond perfect, isn’t it?
The thirteen players who received qualifying offers and will (reportedly) be turning them down before today’s 5 PM ET deadline are: Cruz, Jimenez, Santana, Carlos Beltran, Robinson Cano, Shin-Soo Choo, Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, Hiroki Kuroda, Brian McCann, Kendrys Morales, Mike Napoli.
Obviously the Jays shouldn’t be looking exclusively to this corner of the market– if they can get a player they want at a good price without giving up a draft pick, that’s all the better– it’s just, they need to find whatever advantages they can, and it would certainly appear as though they have one when it comes to these guys. And it certainly seems like there are some fits, too.
For example, I think I talked myself into Ubaldo last week in a Daily Duce last week:
I’ve sort of been cold to the idea of the Jays giving up a draft pick for Ubaldo Jimenez, given the appearance of “Bad Ubaldo” during the 2012 season and the first half of this one. But… I don’t know, actually. Yeah, at his worst it’s bad, but he’s only had that one year of less-than-3.2 fWAR over the last six seasons, and the last year in which he didn’t make thirty starts? That would be 2006, when he was playing on a shortened Triple-A schedule and made 26. The last season in which he made fewer than 25 starts? In 2002 an 18-year-old in the short-season Pioneer League. So, is… uh… is he a way less risky, far more durable Josh Johnson with the same five- or six-win probably-never-coming-back upside? Should the Jays be all over this? Did I hear someone say on the radio the other day that Anthopoulos was trying to get him when he was originally traded from Colorado to Cleveland in 2011? The answer to both those questions might actually be yes, right? At any rate, Grant Brisbee looks at his free agent case at Baseball Nation, and sees him returning to Cleveland by taking the qualifying offer. Alex can do him one better than that, eh? Protected pick and all. Do it!
He was indeedon the Jays’ radar back in 2011. And we know that Alex Anthopoulos has a long memory when it comes to players that he likes. So… yeah, I’m still on board here. Sign ‘em all! 2009 Yankees it!