Will the madness of this offseason for free agents affect the Astros, free agents, next year if they are extended qualifying offers?
We are in the middle of Astros 2018 spring training, and it is surprising how many free agents remain on the market. While there are some small names, you think of Jonathan Lucroy, Jake Arrieta, and Mike Moustakas and wonder why? Arrieta and Moustakas both declined their qualifying offer making them free agents looking to cash in on a big paycheck. Instead, they are outside watching while others play ball.
As a fan without the inside information, you have to wonder if they regret not accepting the deal. There has been a shift in the thinking of organizations about throwing long-term contracts around. We have seen a few with Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, and Eric Hosmer, but a majority of the others are only getting two-year deals.
When you look at long-term deals like Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Carlos Lee, they don’t always pay throughout the entire length of the contract. Pujols still showed some production last year, but not worth what he is being paid. Teams are being more conscious of how they spend or don’t spend, as in the case of the tankers. The MLB Players Association is going after the Rays, Pirates, Marlins, and Athletics for not spending their revenue sharing money.
These teams are looking to do what the Astros did through the process, to rebuild without spending money. The Astros got away with it because they were one team and they were open about what was going on. Now that everyone is trying to replicate the Astros success, there is less demand for players with four fewer teams bidding. This situation is not affecting the Astros because they have the franchise record estimated $157 million payroll by Roster Resources.
With this in mind, would any Astros player accept a qualifying offer next year with all the drama this offseason?
This was a question that was asked on last night’s Talking Stros. It was a tough question to ask when the 2018 season hasn’t even started, but I gave it my best shot. The question was focused on Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, and Marwin Gonzalez, but Evan Gattis could also be included. Would any of them accept a qualifying offer instead of seeking a long-term deal elsewhere? My answer will also depend on the success of this season and how healthy they stay.
Absolutely not, he will be seeking that one big multi-year deal before he gets too much older. If he pitches well and stays healthy all year, Keuchel will be looking for job security for multiple seasons over just the one year. However, if Keuchel struggles and gets hurt this year, he could accept just to rebuild his value. He is young and proven enough for some team to take a chance on him.
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Yes, I think the Astros would extend the qualifying offer to him, and he would accept it. Outside of Houston, he is just another guy. But here, he is Charlie Freaking Morton! I could even see Morton and the Astros work out another two-year deal incorporating that deal. Once again, this is depending on health and performance. This could be favorable for the Astros to replace Keuchel if he leaves after this season.
Like Moustakas, I think Gonzalez would decline the qualifying offer trying to get a long-term deal elsewhere. The difference is that Moustakas is only a third baseman and coming off a career year, while Gonzalez plays multiple positions. If the Astros don’t snag him, some other team will pounce on him and sign him to serve the same role on that team. He is close to many of the players, so could emotions play a part in his decisions.
With the options the Astros have at DH, I’m not sure they would offer a qualifying offer to him. If he has a great season, that could change. It would be odd to see the Astros without Gattis on the team.
In all honesty, it is too early to proclaim who will and who won’t really. Let’s worry about the 2018 season, then worry about 2019 after winning back to back World Series. Speaking of Keuchel, he makes his first spring start today.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference and Roster Resources***