Those free agents who received one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offers last week must decide by 5 p.m. ET tomorrow whether to accept them. David Ortiz finalized a two-year, $26 million extension with the Red Sox earlier this week, so that leaves eight players with a decision to make: Josh Hamilton, Rafael Soriano, Nick Swisher, Hiroki Kuroda, B.J. Upton, Kyle Lohse, Michael Bourn and Adam LaRoche.
Most believe that all eight will decline the qualifying offers, but we’ll keep track of them anyway.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that Soriano intends to reject the qualifying offer from the Yankees. Mariano Rivera plans to return next season, so Soriano is expected to attempt to find a closer job on the open market. The Yankees will receive draft pick compensation if he signs with another club.
Another no-brainer, Scott Boras told David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Bourn will decline the qualifying offer from the Braves. The 29-year-old speedster is coming off a career year and should do very well as one of the top position players available this offseason.
Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports that Swisher will reject the qualifying offer from the Yankees. He also hears that five teams have interest in Swisher, including the Rangers and Mariners. The Yankees made the qualifying offer hoping that he would reject and sign elsewhere, ensuring them a draft pick as a result, so it appears they will get their wish.
Finally, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that B.J. Upton is set to decline his qualifying offer from the Rays. An easy call, as he should land a long-term deal in free agency this winter. The Rays will get a compensatory pick when he signs elsewhere. Interestingly, the Rays have been mentioned as a possible trade partner with the Diamondbacks for B.J.’s brother, Justin Upton.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.