Jeff Luhnow and the Houston Astros made a win-win decision to offer free-agent hitter Colby Rasmus a $15.8 million qualifying offer for one year to stay in Houston. If Rasmus accepted the offer, the Astros would have the Astros’ playoff MVP for the 2016 season. If Rasmus decided to decline the qualifying offer, he could sign with any team, but that team would lose their first round pick for the 2016 MLB Draft. Luhnow made an expensive bet that Rasmus would not sign a one year deal. Instead he would be seeking a multi-year deal.
Rasmus indeed made history by being the first players in the three years of the qualifying offers existence to be accepted by the player. Ken Rosenthal broke the news yesterday afternoon that Rasmus was the accepting the offer, previously, none of the other 34 players who were offered a qualifying offer took it. This offseason, a record 20 players were extended the qualifying offer to return to their 2015 team, but will Rasmus be the only one to take it?
With this decision, it potentially takes the Astros out of contention for an outfielder such as Jason Heyward, Alex Gordon, or Justin Upton. The Astros now have their three starting outfielders in Rasmus, George Springer, and Carlos Gomez. Why did Rasmus decide to take the guaranteed one-year deal?
He loves the Houston Astros
While I don’t know this for a fact, I do know that Rasmus had a career year in 2015 and felt comfortable in the Astros clubhouse under A.J. Hinch and Luhnow. The outfielder has become a Houston icon with his shirtless-goggles wearing celebration pictures following making the playoffs and beating the Yankees in the Wild Card game. He is a Texas type of guy versus a big city type who owns a farm and drives a pickup truck. He has a close relationship with Luhnow and was a big force behind the birth of Crush City in Houston. He seemed comfortable with a team for the first time in his career.
While it’s hard to turn down the money that teams will potentially offer Rasmus down the road, there are some whispers out there that Rasmus would be content hanging up his cleats in a few years and becoming a farmer/rancher full-time. In other words, he wasn’t looking for a long term contract at this moment, which makes the one-year deal the Astros offered him very desirable. Following this season, if he wants to go year-to-year he can, or seek a multi-year deal at that time.
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Draft Pick Baggage
When the Astros gave Rasmus a qualifying offer, they essentially took several teams out of the running, because the team that signed Rasmus would have to give up their first round pick. This is player repellent for most teams, and it has hurt players in the past, such as Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales. They both turned down a sizable qualifying offer thinking that they could get a muli-year deal somewhere. However, both players remained free-agents until deep into the season, because teams didn’t want to give up that draft pick for them. This could have factored into Rasmus’ decision, why risk not getting paid when you can have a guaranteed contract?
$15.8 Million is a lot of Money
Most people reading this post right now probably have a hard time imagining earning almost $16 million dollars to play baseball for a year. Last year, Rasmus joined the Astros in 2015 on a one-year deal $8 million dollar contract. Should he have gone for a multi-year deal, he would have gotten about $10-12 million per year. It is still possible for the Astros to extend him despite the qualifying offer. Let’s say he signed a three-year deal with someone else, he would have earned about $36 million. Take the $15.8 million away from that, he can still match that $36 million three-year deal with a two-year deal of $20.2 million. Either way, he has set himself up in case he struggles in 2016 to still get a reasonable offer from another team for the 2017-18 seasons.
He Knows the Astros are Good
This Astros team can only get better in 2016 with the core players aboard. Yes, there are some holes on this team, but the Astros are more than capable of patching those holes from within or from trades or free agency.
No State Income Tax
People say this doesn’t matter, but most of them don’t care or don’t realize how much more you make without a state income tax. The difference could be a million dollars here or there.
Rasmus is betting on himself to be better in 2016; maybe something clicked for him at the end of last season where he could be closer to the player he was in the playoffs and less like the regular season Rasmus. This decision could backfire if he implodes at the plate, but if he’s ready to trade in his cleats for the cowboy boots, that won’t matter anyway.