The AP released the information today that a qualifying offer in 2015 will be worth $15.3 M (via MLBTR). That’s up from the $14.1 M figure last year.

A qualifying offer is made to departing free agents, and is made within five days of the end of the World Series. If a player accepts the offer, he receives that amount on a one year deal. If he rejects the offer, his former team is eligible for a compensation pick after the first round. A player has seven days to decide on the offer.

This process was significant last year for the Pittsburgh Pirates, as they decided not to extend A.J. Burnett an offer. He ended up signing a one year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, which guaranteed him at least $23 M, due to his option in 2015 (which he may or may not pick up). This time around, the Pirates have two players who are candidates to receive qualifying offers, and you could argue that both players are easier decisions than Burnett was last year.

The issue with Burnett was that he was debating between retiring and returning to the Pirates for another year. Or at least that’s the information he was giving at the time. The Pirates took him at his word, which resulted in them not making a qualifying offer, since that would heavily influence the one-year negotiations.

This won’t be the case with Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano. Both are in positions to get one last huge payday, especially coming off their 2013-14 campaigns. Neither player will be looking for a one year deal, and both are candidates to receive far more in guaranteed money than the qualifying offer.

Martin’s case is simple. He’s projected to receive $15 M per year at the least, over multiple seasons. It’s a no brainer to extend him a qualifying offer, because there’s no way he takes this. The Pirates can still try to re-sign him if he declines that offer, but they’d get a draft pick if he signed elsewhere. It would be a gift if Martin accepted the offer, which he won’t do.

Liriano is in a bit of a different situation, but still in a situation where he should reject the offer. Last year saw three pitchers getting four year deals in the $48-50 M range. Two of the pitchers — Matt Garza and Ricky Nolasco — either didn’t receive offers or weren’t eligible to receive offers. However, Ubaldo Jimenez received four years and $48 M, despite getting a qualifying offer from the Indians. The other big qualifying offer situation was Ervin Santana, who signed late in Spring Training for $14.1 M, which was the same as the qualifying offer amount.

That looks to be the scenario for Liriano. He could either sign for less money per year, but more guaranteed overall, or he could end up getting that one year deal if things don’t work out. Considering his last two seasons, he should have no problem getting the long-term deal. He has ranked 19th in xFIP out of 86 pitchers with 300+ innings over the last two years. That’s better than Jon Lester and James Shields, and not far behind Max Scherzer.

The only way it would make sense to avoid a qualifying offer with Liriano is if he is hurt. There was never really a definitive answer given as to why he was held out of the Wild Card game on short rest, and Clint Hurdle said he wasn’t considered in a relief role. He also imploded in his final start of the year. There’s no reason to believe that he isn’t healthy, but the way he finished the year definitely leaves it open as a possibility. Basically what I’m saying is that if there is a chance he is hurt, that would be the only reason I’d see the Pirates not making him an offer.

Neither of these cases are A.J. Burnett. This year the Pirates have two players who are looking to cash in with long-term deals that will offer them a lot more guaranteed money than they’d get with the qualifying offer. Both players are young enough, and have been productive enough that they should get those deals, even with the loss of a draft pick. This year there is no doubt that both players should get qualifying offers, and I’d be shocked if the Pirates don’t make offers to both players.

Links and Notes

**2015 Pittsburgh Pirates 40-Man Payroll Projection

**An Early Look at the Pirates’ 2015 Payroll Shows Plenty of Room For Russell Martin

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2014-15 Off-Season Contract Situations

**AFL: Control Issues For Tyler Glasnow in Season Opener

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57 COMMENTS

  1. The only thing that stinks is that extending the qualifying offers to Martin and Liriano, while gaining the team draft picks, won’t do anything to solve their issues at catcher and starting pitcher next year!

    Question about the QO: Can a team sign TWO players that have qualifying offers? Do they lose 2 picks, how does that work, because the picks wouldn’t be equal??

    I mentioned below that Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Minnesota, Houston, Boston, Philadelphia, both Chicago teams and the Reds all have protected picks. Could easily see the Pirates giving QO’s to Martin and Liriano and the Cubs signing both. What would happen then? The Pirates get the 40th pick and the 70th pick (or whatever the actual numbers are – the Cubs first 2 picks after their first pick??)

    • I know these are a lot of what if’s, but if the idea of losing a pick is supposed to deter a team from signing these free agent, then it seems that a team with a protected pick and, say, no 2nd round pick, has very little to lose.

      And a team that has already signed one guy with a QO (especially if they have a protected pick), has almost nothing getting in their way of signing multiple guys, since the sting is lessened each time. Seems like a weird system.

    • Nevermind, went back and looked at last year’s draft and saw that the Orioles and Yankees did just that. The Yankees signed 3 FA’s with QO’s, which caused them to give up their 1st round pick and the 2 compensation picks that they had from previously losing FA’s. So, each signing is indeed a lesser blow to a team, though I guess the argument is that it continues to make their draft worse because the first time they pick keeps dropping.

      • Indians did the same thing the year in 2012 with Swisher and Bourn, there is a declining penalty to signing QO free agents. It is a poor system rife with perverse incentives, but that is too be expected when evaluating the MLB’s labor structure.

  2. One byproduct of the extra wild card team is that it has made acquiring talent mid season extremely expensive. I see teams not viewing a QO as much of a deterrent in talent acquisition at this point as the mid season will likely be far worse.

    • I not sure this is true. The deadline and off-season market aren’t really substitutes. The structure is completely different, at the deadline a lot more information is known about expected season end record, there are discrete buyers and sellers, and the type of players move are not the same, teams are looking for a bat or pitcher to aid in the stretch run not someone they can control for the next four years. This explains much of the increased price of win at the deadline relative to the off-season.

  3. I’d much rather have Liriano at 1×15.3 than… say… 3 for 36 even though the annual value is much lower.

    It all really comes down to what they think other guys will get and how good they are.

    MLBTR predicts Brandon McCarthy to be 3×36. I can’t decide if i’d rather have McCarthy or Liriano for the same price for that term.

    On one year deals, i’d take Liriano even if more expensive, but for a long deal… i might have to bet on McCarthy.

    But i’d probably rather do liriano at 1×15 than McCarthy at 3 for 36.

    Liriano’s heavy slider usage HAS to be wearing on his elbow, right? i have no idea.

    • I think I take Liriano. A lefty, with his stuff, and his numbers…yeah, I think I side with Liriano even at 3×36.

      • Problem is he has never been healthy over a 2-3 year period in his career and his numbers, while decent this year, were not stunning. He has seen a yo yo effect most of his career, so he is not a great bet to stay consistently worth that money. They could see the QO as enough risk, and if he turns it down go with a different option like McCarthy as just as potentially valuable.

        • For all that McCarthy may contribute in GB% and xFIP, there may be a philosophical conflict as McCarthy has repeatedly said he does not want to pitch inside. That might have even been a contributing factor in the DBags letting him go. I don’t think Ray is going to get him to change.

          If it comes down to $15.3 for Liriano or $12 for Masterson, I’d take Liriano every time.

    • Great topic, jay.

      Given the state of the rotation, I think I have to bet on upside and that nod would go to Liriano.

      I there much evidence that breaking ball usage by adult pitchers directly correlates with TJS? I know there’s pretty compelling evidence that suggests developing arms shouldn’t throw them, but not sure I’ve seen similar for adult – and in Liriano’s case reconstructed – elbows.

      • Yeah Liriano definitely has the upside. We saw it last year and for half of this year. Higher risk, higher reward.

        But McCarthy’s reward isn’t negligible either.

        Tall (6’7″ !), decent ks, no walks, lots of grounders, big ERA – xFIP differential.

        He’s basically a Neal Huntington wet dre-… well this is a PG-13 message board. But i think you get the idea.

        That said, I love Liriano! like i said, I think him on a QO deal would be the ideal realistic outcome. But long term, i think there should be a higher-than-average concern about him.

        • If – IF – McCarthy can keep the K’s.

          Otherwise, I’m not sure there’s all that much separation between him and Charlie Morton, and I don’t know if it makes a ton of sense to spend about $20m or so on the combination for the next three years.

    • I’d take Liriano- but its not going to happen on a 1 year deal. We only really need one more year to bridge the gap to our young rotation of the future, i think the brass would take 1/15 all day long with FL

  4. Jorge de la Rosa, who is like 2 years older than Liriano, got 25M for 2 years and he has barely pitched 180 innings twice,
    So Liriano gets at least that.
    There are a couple of teams that have their first draft protected that have expressed interest in Liriano, so a QO won´t prevent them from signing Frankie. Arizona, Rockies and even Boston are in on Liriano.
    So extending a QO to Liriano seems like a no brainer to me.

  5. If they sign Martin to a long term deal would they change their direction on Tony Sanchez? They are going to have him work on catching in the AFL. Would they then want to see what value Tony has at 1st base. If they see what he has to offer there, it might help what decision they make on Gaby when it comes time to tender offers on arbitration.

      • I can see them pulling a Karstens. Nontendering him then re-signing him for a lot less than the arbitration cost.

        • I agree with this. I don’t see Gaby getting a tender, as they’d probably be on the hook for his salary to double. I could see them wanting him back at his current salary and thinking he’ll rebound.

            • You would think, but I’ve been looking around and haven’t found anyone I would definitely rate above Gaby. One wonders whether Evan Gattis could learn the position, and what it would take to get Atlanta to part with him. He has no future in the OF or behind the plate, and Freeman is locked in at 1B.

              • Yep. And I’d guess it will take more than a comp round draft pick to get a guy like Gattis or Scott Van Slyke.

                Gaby’s acquisition was really a perfect fit, since like him or not, there really aren’t any RH platoon bats that are better at what he does. At this point, though, I think you have to look at his arb cost, lack of versatility, and cost of acquiring a replacement and decide if a 1B platoon is really worth it.

                • I personally think I’d lean toward putting money into Russ, then pitching and more pitching before worrying too much about first base. It just isn’t that important.

                  • Let Alvarez, Davis, and Lambo fight it out. I would prefer to trade Davis and keep lambo as a bench bat and have a utility fielder who can play first in addition to outfield or another infield spot who can hit lefties

      • I absolutely this becomes a karstens situation. His numbers do not indicate someone who can do better on another team. 1/3 is about all he is going to get at most, and i wouldn’t even give him that. I personally think he is a waste of a better used roster spot, quit this crap and sign someone who can play against left and right handers

    • Honestly, I hate to say it, but I think the ship has sailed on Tony as it is. He was always supposed to be a defensive first option so I do not anticipate his bat being good enough to play elsewhere, and his defense just isn’t good enough (still).

  6. They key to avoiding paying one player more than 18% is to pay the others players more. I say that in jest. That is why picking a percent and saying you can’t go above that number because a study said it doesn’t pay off. To show why that doesn’t make sense: In the case of the Dodgers they could pay one player 43 million a year and still be ok in the study that was done.

    • I do not think the QO would be risky for Liriano, because it does not matter what other executives think. It only matters what Liriano thinks and if he thinks he can get a long-term deal he will reject the QO. If he rejects the QO and does not get a good offer we can resign him, either for 1-year or multiple years at a reduced cost. If he accepts the QO, thats OK too…we would have the money in the short-term (1-year) so that would not kill us.

      • Well for one, it absolutely matters what executives think. The job of Liriano’s agent is to gauge the market, and executives ARE the market.

        That being said, I still don’t think Liriano passes up guaranteed years given his age and injury history.

      • This is a good situation with Liriano. If we sign Martin first, our rebuilding plus our ability to have a great catcher, makes it easier to sign him. Giving him a QO forces him to run the risk of not getting any better offer due to the draft pick another team will lose to sign him, given his injury history and inconsistent past, is he work 3/40- probably, but not 3/40+ a high draft pick. All else being equal, strong coaching, strong catching, and playoff team= discount, so 3/35 becomes a real possibility. 3 players rolled the dice last year and came up snake eyes. this will be the year players take a QO or sign a hometown discount. #thesystemmayactuallystarttowork

  7. No player has accepted qualifying offer. So nothing to lose giving it to Liriano.
    If he goes against grain and accepts it…..great. Helps club in 2015.

  8. I’m hopeful Pirates are preparing to make Martin an offer he finds acceptable making the QO point moot.

    • SK: I would be surprised if that ship has not already sailed, such as a 4 yr offer for $12.5 mil a year. NH is a sharp guy and knows that the best time for such a discussion would be before the season ended. I would say that Martin’s statement that he would not make a quick decision was an indication that he was going to pursue FA. Would $15 mil make him the highest paid Catcher in 2015?

      • There is no way, given Martin’s performance over the last two years, the increased understanding of catcher defense around the league, and the rumors that Martin turned down a third year on his current contract because he wanted to re-build his value and get a big final payday, that Martin would have re-signed with the Pirates without seeing what he could get in free agency.

        In other words, that ship has not only sailed, it was never even at the dock.

      • Emjay, hopefully negotiations are taking place as I type.

        I believe the Yankees gave McCann a 5 yr/$75mm contract last year.

          • They overpaid hoping to sign a guy they hoped would be a 4.0+ WAR type of player and they got a guy that was about a 2.2 or 2.3 WAR guy, and his remaining years are his 31 thru 34 years. Look around the majors, and tell me who would pay $15 mil + for Russell Martin. Not B’mor, Yankees, Seattle, KC, Dodgers, St L, Milwaukee, Cincy, Giants, There may be one or two teams or less with a winning record that may need a Catcher, but is that the type of team Russell Martin is looking for? The Cubs or the Rangers? The Pirates experience saved his career.

      • I seriously doubt either Martin or his agent wanted to talk contract at all during the season, knowing they can test the market and push PIT for more money. NH wants the leverage of talking to them first, but Martin has no real reason to talk a deal before hitting FA and putting pressure on the teams to money up.

  9. how does this rule work? No matter what the player or his past performance, the team has to offer a $15 mil deal for one year? So theoretically, we could offer this to Barmes?

    • If you extend a QO and the player declines it, you get a draft pick if he signs somewhere else (and the signing team loses a draft pick).

      No QO, no draft pick compensation.

      And the QO is a fixed number regardless of performance – $15.1M for 2015 FAs, per the OP.

      So, yes, the Pirates could extend a QO to Barmes. Which would be stupid, because he’s not worth $15.1M.

      If you’re a team, you should only extend a QO to a player if it’s in his best interests to decline it. And if you’re a player, you should only accept a QO if it shouldn’t have been extended in the first place…

      • >> you should only extend a QO to a player if it’s in his best interests to decline it

        I think you also need to consider whether you’re okay if they accept it. It’s like asking someone to marry you to because it’ll make your parents happy and you’ll sure they’ll say no — you’d better be damned sure you’ll be okay with them saying yes.

        In this case I think if both Martin and Liriano were to surprise the Bucs and accept, they will be in good shape but probably won’t make any other additions.

      • Of course, the problem is that the first 10 picks of the draft are protected. So, if I’m looking at the standings correctly, the 1st round picks of Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Minnesota, Houston, Boston, Philadelphia, both Chicago teams and the Reds are protected, and the team losing a player will only be losing a 2nd round pick (unless they have some other pick).

    • Yes, they could. Anyone who has been with the team since Spring Training ended and is a free agent is eligible. So, John Axford can not receive a qualifying offer. Not that they would be dumb enough to give him one, but you get the idea.

  10. Liriano is an interesting case, as even with the strong run prevention and underlying metrics, you’re still looking at a guy who has pitched 180 innings once in his entire career – and that was in 2010. In other words, even when he’s healthy, he’s only healthy-ish, and a good bet to miss 5-6 starts, on average. Matt Garza’s a decent comp – 4 years/$50M. He wasn’t constrained by the QO and was a year younger, but he also missed more time and was a tick below Frankie’s performance the last 2 years. Maybe that evens out.

    And if that’s what it takes, why not just try to re-sign Frankie? Masterson’s going to cost $12+M anyway, and I’m not naive enough to believe that the dream rotation of Cole-Taillon-Glasnow-Kingham-Morton is going to line up neatly for us in ’16 without a few bumps in the road (or missed starts, or impinged nerves).

    • Four years, guaranteed, feels like one too many to me. It’ll be interesting to see how much the league trusts Liriano. I could see Scott Kazmir on the low end and Matt Garza on the high end as recent comps.

    • He’ll get a nice contract. Probably something like 3-4 years and $13M per year. Even if a QO forces him into Ubaldo territory of 4/$48, he’s still much better off than accepting the QO.

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