There are 12 baseball players who turned down $15.3 million Monday afternoon. They were all free agents who received qualifying offers of that amount to stay with their current clubs. By declining the one-year offer each received, they all become free agents and are eligible to sign with any ball club. One of those players, Michael Cuddyer, already left the Colorado Rockies to sign with the New York Mets.
A qualifying offer is the average of the top 125 Major League Baseball contracts and is a one-year deal. It allows the player to remain on his current team and receive fair compensation, depending on whom you are asking. The fans don’t think it is fair; the old debate of athletes being overpaid will always be discussed as long as being a pro athlete is one of the best paying professions around.
Over the last three seasons, 34 players in total have been given qualifying offers. Every one of them has turned it down. The players obviously don’t think that amount is fair compensation. Or maybe it is their agents telling them that. Maybe it is the “executives and personnel” that give their thoughts on possible landing spots and salary expectations. Either way, players want more money and more years. That is the way it has been since free agency started and the way it will probably always be.
Let’s look at the list of players who turned down the lucrative offer:
Melky Cabrera – Blue Jays
Nelson Cruz – Orioles
Michael Cuddyer – Rockies
Francisco Liriano – Pirates
Russell Martin – Pirates
Victor Martinez – Tigers
Hanley Ramirez – Dodgers
David Robertson – Yankees
Pablo Sandoval – Giants
Ervin Santana – Braves
Max Scherzer – Tigers
James Shields – Royals
Many of these players stand out. Some do not. Some players have one good year and then look to cash in on it over the long haul. Others have proven themselves over the first part of their careers and want to be paid for the performance that they given and that for which they can still provide. Still other players are average to above average talent wise and look to cash in with increasing salaries and demands from players across the board.
Baseball free agency already starting
It may not be a question of who wants more money for every player. Cuddyer left Colorado to sign with the Mets and will be making $21 million over two years. Some players may want to play for a team with a better chance of winning. That doesn’t seem to fit Cuddyer’s case in signing with the Mets. The closest could be Robertson, as the Yankees missed the playoffs and are not getting any younger with their aging veterans.
The only players I would truly have liked to have signed the offers are Robertson and Sandoval. Both have spent their entire careers with one team. Let the fans cheer for the their guys. It is rare to be able to see the same names on rosters year after year, and see All-Star potential players stay with one team over the course of a career with the free agent market today. The rest of the free agents who turned down qualifying offers have played for multiple teams and do not have a particular loyalty.
Scherzer has spent more time with the Tigers than the other players have with their teams, but he turned down a contract offer last offseason, so this move comes as no surprise. He wants a big payday from the highest bidder, and I have a feeling he also does not want to share the ace spotlight with Justin Verlander or David Price.
I think it would be crazy for a team to give away a draft pick and bonus money as compensation unless it felt the player they were signing had a great fit with the team in which they are signing with on top of their talent level. Just because a player has been great before does not mean he will be great with a new team. There are plenty of examples to look at, none more so than the Yankees, who have had many big free-agent flops over the years. It was a relief to see Carlos Beltran succeed in pinstripes this season and not be one of those players.
The move to not accept the qualifying offer could backfire. Last season, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales both turned down qualifying offers and were not signed until after the regular season had already started.
Whether it is greed, long-term stability, a needed change of scenery, or whatever, obviously $15.3 million isn’t a big enough one-year deal to keep players where they are. Agents tell their clients to hold out for more, and GM’s and owners are willing to give them more. As much fun as it is to speculate about a big free-agent signing, if great players always hold out for more money and the highest bidder, you won’t be seeing any farewell tours like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, or Chipper Jones had the past few seasons. We will see who the winners and losers are in the free agent deals that will be struck during the off-season.