The Least Valuable (Big Name) Free Agent

Published: Dec 17, 2013 21:45pm EST
By Lance Rinker, Managing Editor for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Dec 17, 2013 @ 09:45pm EST

 

Thirteen players received qualifying offers from their former teams this off-season and seven of those players have already been signed to new, lucrative contracts. Two of the players ended up re-signing with their former teams.

Player

Position

Team

Qual?

Years

Amount

AAV

Carlos Beltran

RF / DH

Yankees

Yes (Denied)

3

$         45.000

$  15.000

Robinson Cano

2B

Mariners

Yes (Denied)

10

$      240.000

$  24.000

Jacoby Ellsbury

CF

Yankees

Yes (Denied)

7

$      153.000

$  21.857

Curtis Granderson

LF / RF / CF

Mets

Yes (Denied)

4

$         60.000

$  15.000

Hiroki Kuroda

SP

Yankees

Yes (Denied)

1

$         16.000

$  16.000

Brian McCann

C

Yankees

Yes (Denied)

5

$         85.000

$  17.000

Mike Napoli

1B

Red Sox

Yes (Denied)

2

$         32.000

$  16.000

The one thing that is clear from the list above is that receiving a qualifying offer didn’t exactly hurt the going rate for these free agents; with a floor average annual value of $15MM and a ceiling of $24MM (average for all is about $17.8MM per year). Then again, this list represents a portion of the best free agents that were available on the open market.

What about the six remaining Q.O. (Qualifying Offer) free agents left on the market though? Should we expect each of them to not be negatively impacted by the draft pick compensation tied when, or if, they sign with another team?

I wouldn’t count on it.

Here are the six players with draft pick compensation tied to them still hanging around:

Player

Position

Qual?

Shin-Soo Choo

CF / RF

Yes (Denied)

Nelson Cruz

RF

Yes (Denied)

Stephen Drew

SS

Yes (Denied)

Ubaldo Jimenez

SP

Yes (Denied)

Kendrys Morales

1B / DH

Yes (Denied)

Ervin Santana

SP

Yes (Denied)

The impact of the Q.O. on players such as Shin-Soo Choo, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, and even Stephen Drew are likely to be minimal. Choo is one of the best free agent position players still available, Jimenez and Santana find themselves leading a very weak starting pitching market, and Drew is the best shortstop available. The same can’t be said of Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales though, as one is heading into the decline phase of his career and is widely considered a DH who happens to be played in the outfield, and the other doesn’t offer much in the way of positional flexibility as he is strictly a DH/part-time first baseman type of player.

Even though having draft pick compensation tied to Nelson Cruz should hurt his value quite a bit, right-handed power bats are in short supply these days so he could still end up signing a sizeable contract. Something in the three years, $42MM range makes the most sense to where the deal wouldn’t be a complete albatross but you’re also highly unlikely to see a return on your investment at that rate either.

The reason why is simple; Cruz is a bat-first player who offers no real value outside of that. Throw in the fact that he’s 33-years-old, would cost you your first round draft pick, and has played through a full season just once in his career and you have the makings of the right-handed version of Luke Scott.

His big, breakout season was in 2009 when he put up 3.0 WAR behind a .260/.332/.524 batting line with 33 home runs over just 128 games. He was even a touch above average defensively back then because he has a cannon for an arm. He followed that up with his career year in 2010 by hitting .318/.374/.576 with 22 homes runs and 4.9 WAR over just 108 games. However, that ‘monster’ season of his was largely due to a well above average batting average on balls in play which sat at .348.

What I’m telling you is his career year had a lot to do with dumb luck.

The Oliver projection system at Fangraphs has a five-year projection put up and it confirms what we already know. He’s a player that will hit 25 or so homeruns and won’t provide much value anywhere else.


If all you’re looking to sign is a player that can pop off for 25 or more home runs and be your full-time DH than there’s a fellow by the name of Mark Reynolds that will take substantially less to play for your team.

The other player remaining of the bunch that will have his free agent value sincerely hampered is Kendrys Morales. The reason the market is down on him is because he is strictly a DH and doesn’t have quite the allure, or ‘shine’ of being a known power-hitter, surrounding him the way that Nelson Cruz does. However, Morales may actually end up being a safer bet than Cruz over the next three or four years and is likely to cost roughly half as much.

Oliver also has a five-year projection out on Morales and you’ll notice the areas in which Morales is considered the superior player to Cruz, as well as the ways in which he would ultimately be more valuable to a team as a DH.


As you can clearly see, Morales appears to be a player that will produce more overall offensive value by hitting for a higher average, getting on-base at a higher rate, and creating more runs for whatever team that signs him. Of course it also will depend on the home ballpark he plays in, but he did just get out of Seattle with some pretty respectable offensive numbers.

It’s interesting that Cruz is likely to get the bigger payday over Morales but Cruz actually appears to be the least valuable of the two. Go figure. 


 

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Lance Rinker
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