According to the Associated Press the value of the free agent qualifying offer has risen from $14.1 million last offseason to $15.3 million this offseason, which means teams hoping to receive draft pick compensation for losing a free agent will need to risk the player accepting a one-year deal for that amount.
Last offseason zero of the 22 players who received $14.1 million qualifying offers accepted them, although several players who turned them down (Kendrys Morales, Stephen Drew) ended up regretting the decision later.
The price of the qualifying offer is the average salary of the 125 highest-paid players in baseball and since being introduced in 2012 has risen from $13.3 million to $14.1 million to $15.3 million.
Among the free agents who seem like good bets to receive qualifying offers this winter: Max Scherzer, James Shields, Hanley Ramirez, Victor Martinez, Pablo Sandoval, J.J. Hardy, Russell Martin, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, David Robertson.
Impending free agents who were traded during the season (Jon Lester, for example) are not eligible to receive qualifying offers.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.