Reds and the Potential to Land ‘Qualifying Offer’ Free Agents


This past Friday, certain potential free agents were extended “qualifying offers” from their teams. This is a new concept to baseball. Think of it a little like the franchise tag in the NFL. A team can make a qualifying offer to a potential free agent provided that player was a member of that team for the entire season. The offer is for one year and the amount of the offer is determined on the average salary of the league’s top 125 players. That amount for this go around is $13.3MM for that single season.

There’s a little more to this. If a player declines the QO, he will become an unrestricted free agent. If that player signs with another team, his previous team will receive a selection in the following draft during the supplemental round held immediately after the first round. The team that signs that player will forfeit its first round pick.

One last thing, the players receiving a QO have until November 9th to make a decision on whether to accept or decline the QO.

Well, there were a total of nine players that were extended a QO by their teams. One, David Ortiz, has since agreed to a two-year, $26MM deal with the Boston Red Sox. Of the other eight, let’s see the chances the Reds would likely be interested in obtaining their services provided they decline the QO. I have them listed in reverse order from 8 to 1.

8. Hiroki Kuroda – Yankees

The only reason why I have Kuroda as the least likely as I suspect he will accept the QO from the Yankees. I also think the Yankees will be okay with that decision. There may be a team or two that could offer Kuroda more than a one year deal (most likely two years, tops), but Kuroda had a solid season in the Bronx. I think a return there is in his cards.

Chances: Zilch. Will accept QO.

7. Kyle Lohse – Cardinals

He’s been in Cincinnati before, and I would imagine he would not want to return. I would also imagine that the Reds aren’t particularly looking to bring Lohse back either. His ground ball rate has steadily declined since his arrival in St. Louis. That doesn’t usually bode well at GABP either.

Chances: Seriously? If the Reds make a change within the rotation, it will come in-house.

6. Adam LaRoche – Nationals

Two words: Joey Votto.

Chances: Next!

(Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE)

5. Josh Hamilton – Rangers

Oh boy. I know a faction of Reds fans would love to see a Hamilton return, but there is a big issue here. Hamilton wants paid. Rumors of a deal for seven years, $175MM have surfaced. Um, that won’t happen on Walt’s watch.

Another issue: his past as a Red. While Hamilton may have matured since those days, he does still seem to be a bit of a recluse. That rarely, if ever, works out for the clubhouse atmosphere.

Another: injuries. Another reason the Reds dealt Hamilton was an ongoing concern over his health. He did play in only 90 games for the Reds in 2007. Unlike when the Reds extended Votto where Votto had no injury history, such is attached to Hamilton. He has missed an average of 32 games a year since going to Texas despite playing in 148 games this past season. Even in his MVP year of 2010, he missed 29 games.

Hamilton has overcome some demons in his personal life and he still has his everyday battles, those will be considered by any team wanting to sign him to a deal, especially if it’s a long-term deal. While some may deem that as unfortunate, it’s a necessary evil of the game.

Chances: Less than 1%…and that might be too high. He wants his money and I don’t see the Reds doling it out to Hamilton.

4. Michael Bourn – Braves

Bourn would surely look nice slotted atop the Reds lineup. The fixation some have in linking the Reds to Borun seems, to me, ignoring one Billy Hamilton and his migration to becoming a ML center fielder. Reports of Bourn wanting a deal in the neighborhood of five years and $100MM has given pause for even the Phillies to bring Bourn back to their fold. Can’t see that many zeroes, but the Nationals seem the most likely landing spot as we know Mike Rizzo will overspend to land the right guy.

The main reason Bourn is fourth is because he would be more desirable than all the others previously listed as he does address the lead-off spot, if for only one season. No other reason.

Let’s say you do snag Bourn (and I cannot see that happening). Begs to question what do you do once Hamilton is ready? Why have Hamilton make the move to outfield, center in particular, if you’re going even consider adding Bourn?

It honestly doesn’t make sense.

Chances: Highly doubtful (5% max) as the Nationals will give Bourn close to what the wants. Walt won’t…and shouldn’t.

3. Nick Swisher – Yankees

With Ludwick declining his part of the mutual option, the Reds seem destined to find a left fielder. Are we honestly mentioning that again? Possibly, and there’s no question you could plug Swisher in between Votto and Jay Bruce just as you would with Ludwick even though Swisher is a switch-hitter. The issue, as we are now all too familiar in saying, would be number of years and dollars involved. Swisher is wanting multiple years and he did make $10.25MM last year. Swisher is a little younger than Ludwick as he’ll be 32 later this month.

What makes Swisher a little more appealing is that he can play both outfield corner positions and first base. That way, Todd Frazier can settle into one defensive position.

Swisher will undoubtedly decline the QO from the Yankees, but he likely falls out of the Reds range as far as finances go.

Chances: A little greater than Bourn’s only due to length of a potential deal and defensive flexibility, but still less than 10%.

(Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE)

2. B.J. Upton – Rays

I could see signing Upton and putting him in left field or keeping him in center should some other factors not pan out the way the front office hopes they will.

There is a warning label attached to Upton. He has been pulled from games and benched for lack of effort on more than one occasion. And while Reds fans have grown weary of the Drew Stubbs strikeout numbers, well, Upton isn’t that much better in that area. He’s also coming off his worst offensive season of his career as far as batting average and on-base percentage (.246/.298). He did up his power (28 HR), but his whiff rate has been north of 25% each of the last three seasons. Yes, that rate is still better than Stubbs, but it is also worse than Jay Bruce.

No doubt Upton would benefit from GABP from a power perspective. And consider the possibility of the Reds not re-signing Ryan Ludwick here. (Yes, again with that.) Still, it’s a reach. Upton will most assuredly want more years and money per year than Ludwick as Upton is only 28. Upton pocketed $7MM last year. That might be the top end of what the Reds could offer Ludwick or any other free agent to walk though the door.

Chances: Not that much higher than Swisher’s.

1. Rafael Soriano – Yankees

Why is Soriano here? Don’t the Reds already have a closer?

They do, but the plan all along has been to have Aroldis Chapman as a member of the starting rotation. What could prove to be a huge roadblock would be (here it comes) the money. Soriano wants to be a closer and he wants “closer money”. Might be a steep price once you consider other closers available on the market.

He could certainly command a deal around what the Reds gave Francisco Cordero (four years, $46MM) or even as high as what the Phillies gave Johnathan Papelbon (four years, $50MM with a vesting option for a fifth year). If that’s the case, a pass on Soriano’s services would be highly likely.

Chances: 12-15% may be overstating the chances as there are cheaper options available. And there’s this guy, J.J. Hoover, might be the closer-in-waiting anyway.

While the any of top three would certainly be a beneficial addition to the Reds roster (Swisher would be best for the clubhouse, hands down), adding any of those would require some additional funds and the loss of a first round selection. That loss of a pick must be considered in the thought process. With the three most recent “big” trades the Reds have made (Mat Latos, Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton), they sent seven prospects to other teams in making those deals. Most of those were highly valued prospects.

I know, some will say that’s the reason they are called prospects and that’s why you have them. Look at the current makeup of the Reds 40-man roster. You have 22 players that are “homegrown” talent. The Red farm system, despite those deals, still holds some value.

I think it’s more likely Walt uses that value rather than forfeiture of any picks. He could dabble in the free agent market, but if he chooses to do so, I would think it would not be any of these eight. The average 2012 salary for these eight: about $9.8MM. Bourn ($6.85MM), Upton ($7MM) and LaRoche ($8MM) made less than that average.

That should tell you even more about any chances the Reds have at signing one of these players should they decline their QO.

(UPDATE: All these players declined their qualifying offers. Their former team has the opportunity to pick up a draft pick should any sign elsewhere.)