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.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.
Twins’ right-handed pitching prospect Yorman Landa passed away in a tragic car accident on Friday night, per a team statement. According to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, 22-year-old Landa was in the passenger seat of the vehicle when it struck a fallen tree.
Daniel Szew, Landa’s agent, spoke highly of the young pitcher, who was one of his first clients back in 2010. Szew acknowledged Landa for helping him expand his company, LA Sports Management, and referred to the late pitcher as a leader and his “little brother.”
He was very even-keeled,” Szew said. “That was his personality. He wasn’t wild. That’s why this is so tragic. He wasn’t a wild guy. He was a happy-go-lucky guy who took life as it came, and he was super happy — always happy.
If leadership was one facet of Landa’s personality, so was loyalty. The 22-year-old agreed to a minor league contract with the Twins on Tuesday after getting cut from the 40-man roster, fulfilling a promise to re-sign with the club despite fielding multiple offers from competing teams. The deal included an invite to spring training, and comments from his agent suggested that the right-hander was “super confident” he’d break through to the major leagues in 2017, notwithstanding a troublesome shoulder injury that hampered his progress in High-A Fort Myers during the 2016 season.
“He never wanted to leave,” Szew told Berardino. “It was the only organization he ever knew.”
Our condolences go out to Landa’s family and the Twins organization during this terrible time.