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.
Free agent left-hander Rich Hill is rumored to be entertaining a three-year, $40+ million offer from the Dodgers, reports Peter Gammons. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo corroborated the report, adding that Hill could receive somewhere between $46 and $48 million from his former team.
Hill, 36, pitched to a 2.12 ERA and 3.91 FIP in back-to-back stints with the Athletics and Dodgers in 2016. While a chronic case of blisters on his pitching hand limited the frequency of his starts, he still figures to be one of the most productive and noteworthy starting pitchers on the market this winter.
The Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Astros have all been mentioned as potential suitors for the left-hander’s services, though Orioles’ GM Dan Duquette said the club has yet to make a play for Hill and ESPN’s Jim Bowden pointed out that the Red Sox are less involved in trade talks than other interested parties.
In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler Austin–Greg Bird combo in 2017.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.
Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.