It would have seemed very far-fetched when they acquired Marco Estrada from the Brewers last offseason and even now comes as a mild surprise, but the Blue Jays have made the $15.8 million Qualifying Offer to the 32-year-old free agent.
That means Estrada now has the option of accepting a one-year, $15.8 million deal to remain in Toronto or declining the offer and hitting the open market as a free agent. If he signs elsewhere the Blue Jays would receive a compensatory draft pick.
Estrada had a career-year for the Blue Jays, logging a career-high 181 innings with a career-best 3.13 ERA, but his secondary numbers weren’t much different than his previous norms. In fact, his strikeout rate of 6.5 per nine innings was a career-low and he walked the same number of batters as usual while serving up 24 home runs.
He likely would have had plenty of multi-year offers without the draft pick compensation attached, but the number of teams willing to forfeit a draft pick for the right to give a big contract to a 32-year-old with a lifetime 3.95 ERA could be limited. Which is exactly what Estrada will have to consider before deciding to accept or decline the $15.8 million for 2016.
St. Louis has made a qualifying offer to outfielder Jason Heyward and right-hander John Lackey, giving both free agents the option of remaining with the team on a one-year, $15.8 million contract for 2016.
If they decline and sign elsewhere the Cardinals will receive a first-round draft pick as compensation.
Heyward was a no-brainer, because as a 26-year-old elite free agent he’ll have no shortage of huge long-term offers and teams won’t shy away from parting with a draft pick to land him. He’ll turn down the $15.8 million and the Cardinals will attempt to re-sign him for what will almost surely be well over $100 million.
Lackey is a different story, because he’s 37 years old and the draft pick compensation attached to signing him may scare off some interested teams. It severely diminishes his market, perhaps as much as any free agent who’ll receive a Qualifying Offer this year. It’s possible he could decide to simply accept the $15.8 million and stay in St. Louis.
For more details about the Qualifying Offer and everything involved with it, check out Craig Calcaterra’s write-up from earlier today.
Tigers shortstop prospect JaCoby Jones has been suspended 50 games following a second positive test for a drug of abuse.
Detroit acquired Jones from Pittsburgh in the midseason trade for reliever Joakim Soria and he finished the year at Double-A. Picked in the third round of the 2013 draft, Jones hit .257 with 16 homers, 25 steals, and a .737 OPS in 133 total games between Single-A and Double-A this season.
While not a top prospect, he has an intriguing power-speed combination for a middle infielder and could have been in the mix to reach the majors next season if not for the suspension.
Aramis Ramirez hinted all year that this would be his final season and now the 37-year-old third baseman is officially calling it a career, retiring after 18 seasons in the majors.
Ramirez is one of the most underrated right-handed hitters of this era, batting .283 with 386 homers, 495 doubles, and an .833 OPS in 2,194 games for the Pirates, Cubs, Brewers, and Pirates again.
He made three All-Star teams and ranks among the top 10 for active players in runs scored, hits, total bases, doubles, home runs, RBIs, extra-base hits, and times on base. Oh, and he earned nearly $150 million.
Durable and consistent, he topped an .800 OPS in all but one season from 2004 to 2013, hit 25 or more homers 10 different times, and batted .300 or better in seven seasons.
Ramirez debuted at 20, finished playing at 37, and was a really, really good player for nearly that entire time.
San Francisco parted ways with two veteran outfielders, declining 2016 options on Marlon Byrd and Norichika Aoki.
Byrd was an easy call, as his contract called for an $8 million salary and required no buyout to avoid. Acquired from the Reds on August 20, he hit well in 39 games for the Giants but finished the season with a modest .247 batting average and .743 OPS in 135 games overall. Byrd still has very good power, smacking 23, 25, and 24 homers in the past three seasons, but his abysmal strike-zone control led to a sub-.300 on-base percentage and he’s 38 years old. Byrd should be able to find a prominent role in 2016, but his price tag figures to be well below $8 million.
Aoki was a tougher call, because when healthy he’s absolutely been a $5.5 million player by combining excellent contact skills, a good on-base percentage, and solid range in the outfield. Unfortunately he was limited to just 93 games this year due to injuries, including a concussion, and at age 34 the Giants decided not to commit to him this early in the offseason. It’s possible they could look to re-sign Aoki later on, but in the meantime he got a $700,000 buyout.