Cincinnati Reds: Alex Wood could be a candidate for a qualifying offer

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - AUGUST 02: Alex Wood #40 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on August 02, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - AUGUST 02: Alex Wood #40 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on August 02, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Though it’s only been two starts, Alex Wood has performed well for the Cincinnati Reds. Wood would be an excellent candidate for a qualifying offer if he continues to perform well.

Alex Wood had a fantastic performance in his second trip to the mound for the Cincinnati Reds. The left-hander went 6.2 innings against the Atlanta Braves last night, struck out five and allowed just two runs. Though it’s a bit premature to talk about the offseason, Wood may be a prime candidate for a qualifying offer when the season comes to a close.

What’s a qualifying offer? Essentially it’s a competitive balance measure put into place by Major League Baseball. Think of it kind of like a “franchise tag” in the NFL, except it doesn’t restrict a player from entering free agency. The qualifying offer allows a team to receive a compensatory draft pick in the event that player signs elsewhere in the offseason.

If offered, the free agent to-be will have 10 days to sign the qualifying offer. If signed, the player will receive the mean salary of the leagues 125 highest-paid players. That number is likely to hover somewhere between $17M-$18M next offseason. If the player rejects the offer and chooses to enter free agency, the team that signs said player must forfeit a draft pick.

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So, what makes Alex Wood a good candidate for a qualifying offer? Well, first of all, it doesn’t lock the Reds into a multi-year contract. Cincinnati has their ace, Luis Castillo, under team control for the next four years and Sonny Gray just signed a multi-year extension after last offseason’s trade from the New York Yankees.

Trevor Bauer, the Reds newest acquisition, who’s a possible candidate for a qualifying offer next season, is entering his final year of arbitration. While Bauer has yet to throw a single pitch for Cincinnati this season, it would stand to reason that the Reds would love to come to a long-term agreement with the right-hander considering how much they gave up to get him.

However, Bauer has stated in the past that signing a long-term deal is not appealing to him. He believes that the best way for a player to maximize their value is to sign one-year deals. While Bauer acknowledges the risk, he believes that it’s mutually beneficial to both the player and the organization. Check out Bauer’s comments via USA Today:

“How much would Bryce Harper be worth on a one-year deal? Or Dallas Keuchel. How much would Max Scherzer be worth last year to the Brewers who were one game away from the World Series and needed an ace. If players are willing to take more risk and shorter term, they can really drive the value up. I can’t imagine a team wouldn’t pay $40 million for a year for Harper, Machado or Scherzer.”

While Bauer’s comments may seem outrageous to some, there is some merit to what he’s saying. The league is more about what are you going to do rather than what have you done. While some players and fans may disagree, a similar strategy with Alex Wood could really pay off for the Reds.

Wood’s injured back kept him out of the rotation for the first half of the season. While it’s premature to think that Wood is back to the All-Star level he enjoyed in 2017, we’ve seen nothing during his first two starts that would give fans cause to pause. Having a quality left-handed starter in the rotation would be a huge benefit to the Cincinnati Reds.

While Wood may also be a candidate for a contract extension this offseason, do the Reds want to put a four or five-year contract on the table for a player who may only make 10 starts this season? If I were Dick Williams or Nick Krall, I’d be very hesitant to shell out big money Wood just yet. That’s where the qualifying offer comes in.

Essentially a one-year/$18M contract offer would be perfect for all parties. Wood would be handsomely compensated for his services with an opportunity to showcase that he’s healthy and the Reds would secure a southpaw starter for a 2020 season in which they’re going all in without sacrificing for the future.

Now, if Wood receives a qualifying offer and rejects it, he’d enter free agency and the Reds would acquire another team’s draft pick. However, given the current landscape of the free agent market, I’d find it hard to believe that Wood would reject a qualifying offer having come off an injury-plagued season.

It took Dallas Keuchel, widely regarded as the best pitcher in last year’s free agent class, until early June to sign a contract. Even then, the 31-year-old left-hander only signed a one-year/$13M contract. Had Keuchel followed the path of Dodgers’ ace Hyun-Jin Ryu, he’d be sitting on a one-year/$17.9M contract while pitching for the Houston Astros.

Ryu smartly chose to sign his qualifying offer last season, and he’ll likely be handsomely rewarded when he becomes a free agent following the 2019 season. Ryu will be a free agent after the season ends and will likely be the most sought after pitcher on the market after Gerrit Cole.

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The Cincinnati Reds will have a lot of options and a lot of money to spend this offseason. If Alex Wood continues to pitch like he has over the first two games, extending a qualifying offer to the lefty should be a top priority for the front office this offseason. A starting staff of Wood, Castillo, Bauer, and Gray would be an imposing rotation for sure.