The Houston Astros gave a qualifying offer to George Springer, but not Michael Brantley.
Free agency has officially begun. A total of six players in Major League Baseball were extended qualifying offers, and one of those was George Springer. However, the Houston Astros did not extend one to Michael Brantley.
The qualifying offer is a one-year offer that teams can extend to their players who are reaching free agency. It is worth the average salary of the 125 highest paid players in the game, which this year is $18.9 million. The player can accept, and thus be under contract at that salary for one year, or he can decline and remain a free agent. Then, if he signs elsewhere, his former team will receive draft pick compensation.
Springer is in a great position to receive much more money than that in free agency, so the Astros giving him the qualifying offer was expected, even though Springer is certain to decline it. This is all basically a formality at this point. Declining it does not preclude him from negotiating or re-signing with Houston.
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Still, the prevailing feeling right now is that Springer wants to go elsewhere, and three of us here at Climbing Tal’s Hill recently made our predictions that he would leave. At least if that comes true, the Astros will get some much-needed draft pick compensation after losing their first and second round picks due to the sign stealing scandal.
My initial thought was that the Astros should extend the qualifying offer to Brantley as well, but they chose not to do so. Having him back for one year at $18.9 million wouldn’t have been unreasonable if he had accepted, and the additional draft picks if he declined would’ve been worth the risk. But the team ended up not making the offer anyway.
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In the end, it’s not overly surprising considering how bleak things are looking financially for the league right now. There were several surprising contract options that were declined, including Charlie Morton, Mike Zunino and Brad Hand. It paints a pretty gruesome picture for how free agency is going to go this winter, and most of the activity could drag into next year.
Brantley can still re-sign of course, and the Astros may well try and bring him back at a lesser annual salary. He made $16 million in 2019 and the prorated portion of it in 2020, so the qualifying offer would have been a raise. If the front office can get him back for two years and somewhere in the $13 million to $16 million annual range, that’d be more than fine.
For fans, the key here is not to overreact. Springer will decline the qualifying offer, and that doesn’t mean he hates us. Brantley not getting the qualifying offer doesn’t mean the Astros want him gone. We’re still at the very beginning of the free agency process, and with the economics being what they are, we could be looking at a long, frustrating winter.