The North Remembers and Extends Qualifying Offers
Qualifying offers are both dumb and kinda great. How so, you ask? A Qualifying Offer is a one year deal offered by a team to a player who’s contract is about to run out. The one year salary is determined by averaging the top 125 contracts that have the highest average salary per year. If the player says “Hey, Thanks, but no thanks” and signs with another team, their old team will then get the new team’s highest unprotected draft pick (or the best pick outside of the Top 10 draft spots). I know, so boring.
Or, let’s look at Qualifying offers this way. Your Grandma has gotten you a sweater for the past billion Christmases. This year you’re like, I just don’t want another sweater, I could really use a leather jacket. So you’re droppings hints all Fall, and finally the 25th rolls around and your Grandma hands you a box. “I talked to all of the kids in my neighborhood and they told me you would really like this. I even looked it up on a couple of fancy websites.” You open the box and it’s a REALLY, REALLY NICE… Hoodie. You’re all, thanks Grandma, I love it… but your mom whispers that she has the receipt and you can return it and get something else, maybe a leather jacket! The Hoodie is the qualifying offer, The Leather Jacket is Free Agency, You are Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Buatista and your sweet grandma is the Toronto Blue Jays Organization.
It’s come out recently that Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista both received qualifying offers from Toronto. This was met with some looks of disgust, some of surprise and some looks of… what… why? We already looked at the outfield free agent pool for 2018, so this would be the year for Bautista to capitalize on getting a big deal. After an alarmingly good 2015, this year was somewhat of a bust for Bautista. He spent time on the DL and never seemed to find his stride. Bautista also bounced around the lineup and even batted leadoff on multiple occasions. Bautista has to walk. Jose is gonna be 35 at the start of the 2017 season, which means he doesn’t have many big money making years left, so this one has to count. I’m looking for him to walk and see what Free Agency has in store.
Encarnacion on the other hand, $16.77 million is not crazy. Edwin will be 33 at the start of the season and if he has another big year, he could hit pay dirt. However, Edwin could look at this as his last big contract, sign a huge 7 year deal and walk away from Toronto. He’s a DH, all he has to do is hit. Big Papi’s career lasted so long because that’s all he did. DOUBLES AND DINGERS ALL DAY. Much like Cespedes this comes down to money or championships. If you want money, walk. If you want a ring, staying with a team that’s gone to the ALCS two years in a row? Not too bad either.
So where do we find ourselves now that the offseason has started and the clock is ticking on these Qualifying Offers. The news has also come out that Encarnacion is looking for a 5 year deal, around $125-$150 million dollars. Which to be perfectly honest, is about what he's worth. That's elite, top tier money and that's what Edwin has proved he is. in 2016 Edwin bashed 42 round trippers, and drove in 126 RBIs. That's worth the price he's asking. He also began playing a lot more first base which opens his options up to both leagues. A five year deal would also come to an end when he's 38, after that point you could offer an extension if you so choose. Edwin had the best season possible going into Free Agency. He's going to have his choice of team. Edwin's gonna get paid.
Joey Bats is gonna face a little more opposition. His production was down, and he came into the year saying he wouldn't give Toronto a hometown discount, and that he wanted a contract worthy of his skills. Bautista is going to be 36, and a lot of people are going to point to his age and his injury issues this year as a way to get him for cheap. He's not going to get a long term deal, maybe 3 years tops, and for about the same amount of money he's been getting int Toronto. Probably less than the $14 million dollars a year he's been getting. Anything else is fiscally irresponsible. Jose is in a bit of a pickle. He wants a big contract, one that may be his last contract, but finding a team who'll give that to him is going to be very difficult. So far the only team to reach out to Bautista, besides the Blue Jays, is the Mets. That's how bleak Bautista's options look.
So for both of these guys, you have to make a choice, stay and win in Toronto or leave and cash in somewhere else. The rude thing about Qualifiying Offers is that it forces the player to make the choice. Before if you weren’t signing a guy, you just didn’t. His contract would run out and that’s it. Now you are forcing a player to make the decision, one that has historically been selfish. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will have to chose between leaving the Blue Jays and giving the Blue Jays draft picks or staying and denying them the chance to grow. It’s the oddest of double edged swords, but it’s the world we live in.