How qualifying offers sabotaged free agency

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Buster Olney has a good post up today about how qualifying offers to free agents — which were designed to compensate teams who lose free agents — are far more effective at harming the market of certain free agents by scaring away teams from signing them. Because not only do they lose a draft pick if they do, they lose money from the amateur signing salary caps too.

The fun part: Scott Boras clients Rafael Soriano, Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn are being hurt the most by this and, wouldn’t you know it, Boras is exploring a loophole to the draft pick quandary:

Let’s say Seattle was interested in signing Bourn, but without giving up a top draft pick. With Boras working in concert with the Mariners and Indians, Cleveland could be the team that technically signs Bourn — with a prearranged trade to Seattle, who would give the Indians something in return.

In this way, Seattle would get Bourn while keeping the top of its draft intact, and Cleveland would get something in return for giving up its lower draft pick.

Maybe this works, maybe it doesn’t, but it’s hard to shed tears for the free agents. The union gladly threw the amateurs and international signees under the bus by agreeing to a severe spending cap in the draft and in the international free agent market. By limiting how much teams can spend there, they inspired teams to do everything in their power to protect what little they can in that arena. Including, we are seeing, avoiding spending on players who are attached by qualifying offers.

In other news: teams that don’t put qualifying offers on players are pretty silly.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.