Jacoby Ellsbury (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
Thirteen players received qualifying offers this offseason. If players accept said offer ($14.1 million for one year) they are under contract for 2014. The deadline for players to make their decision is 5 pm on Monday.
If a player declines the offer, which most likely will, they are then free to sign with any team. However, signing one of these free agents will come at the cost of a draft pick. For teams, like the Astros, that have a top 10 pick next year, they will lose a second round selection. All other teams must give up a first round pick as compensation. Of course this is unless the free agent re-signs with their original team.
The problem, is that perhaps the biggest and best free agents of 2013 fall into this category. Let’s take a look at who they are:
- Jacoby Ellsbury, OF
- Mike Napoli, 1B
- Stephen Drew, SS
- Robinson Cano, 2B
- Curtis Granderson, OF
- Hiroki Kuroda, SP
- Carlos Beltran, OF
- Shin-Soo Choo, OF
- Nelson Cruz, OF
- Ubaldo Jimenez, SP
- Brian McCann, C
- Kendrys Morales, 1B
- Ervin Santana, SP
At some level, all of these players would look good in Astros’ uniforms in 2014. But then when you factor in the cost of a draft pick and actual need to the Astros, I would probably eliminate the majority of the list. Then you have the financial issue as well.
Signing one of these players would represent a significant portion of Jeff Luhnow’s budget and would likely hamstring the Astros in other areas both for 2014 and the future. Also, keep in mind that the priority here is still to develop young talent.
Ellsbury, Granderson, Napoli, and Choo are the only players that I think would make sense for Houston to sign. Now that does not mean they will actually acquire one of these players, as I’m not sure it will be the most prudent decision for the Astros.
But for me, it has nothing to do with losing the draft choice. Sure it will certainly hurt, but it is time to start thinking about the big league team here. Of course you never can have enough minor league talent, but the Astros are stocked.
In my opinion, the bigger issue here is the terms of the contract. If the years and dollars make sense, then I don’t think the threat of losing a draft choice should matter. Personally, I don’t think Luhnow, for one reason or another, will add any of these players in the offseason. In all likelihood they will be priced out of Houston’s budget.
But for the other nine players who all come with their assorted questions and would not put the Astros over the top, losing a draft choice is just not worth it. And that is even if the price on someone like Jimenez comes down. One or two years of the starter will not make a material difference on the future of the Astros, but the draft choice very well might.