Deep into the off-season, Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Ervin Santana, and Kendrys Morales were still free agents despite being productive players last season. Jimenez and Cruz recently signed with the Orioles, but the latter three still remain unsigned with the regular season just weeks away. All five rejected $14.1 million qualifying offers from their former teams and now have draft pick compensation attached to them, which is a considerable penalty for teams thinking about signing them.
Kyle Lohse knows their pain. Lohse rejected the Cardinals’ $13.3 million qualifying offer after the 2012 season and remained unsigned late into March before finally striking a three-year, $33 million deal with the Brewers.
Lohse isn’t too happy with how the qualifying offer system has changed life for veteran free agents such as himself and this winter’s five. Via Jon Heyman of CBS Sports:
“The market goes from 30 teams to like two or three,” Lohse recalled of his own experience. “I don’t think that’s the idea of a free market.”
It is, as Lohse called it, a “screwy” system whereby being part of a bad team (which triggered their midyear trades and precluded the possibility of qualifying offers), as Garza and Nolasco were, monumental benefits to the player. Meanwhile, being part of a good team like Santana was with the Royals and shortstop Drew certainly was with the World Champion Red Sox, is a detriment. Had Nolasco been saddled with a qualifying offer, there’s no reason to think he’d have gotten anywhere near $49 million.
“It seems screwy to change the system that drastically to where teams are staying away from guys who could definitely help them,” Lohse said.
The collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1, 2016, so free agents will have to put up with this system for at least a couple more seasons.