File this under: Duh. Yesterday, as we mentioned, was the deadline for teams to extend qualifying offers to impending free agents. For those too lazy to click the link, that means they can offer a one-year, $17.9 million deal to any player about to hit the free agent market. If said player accepts the offer, then that’s his contract for 2019. If he declines the offer, then he hits the open market and his news team has to give up picks to sign him while his former team gains picks, though not the same pick. For the Red Sox, they lose a second and fifth round pick as well as $1 million in international pool money for signing a free agent who declined the qualifying offer. This is because they exceeded the luxury tax threshold in 2018. Washington is the only other team to whom this applies. If the Red Sox offer a qualifying offer that is declined and that player signs for at least $50 million with another team, Boston receives a fourth round pick. Got all that?
The Red Sox did indeed extend one qualifying offer, which was what everyone expected. The offer went to Craig Kimbrel, who now has ten days to decide whether or not he wants to accept this offer. Frankly, it would be surprising if he were to accept. I think there is an argument for him to accept, for what it’s worth. If I was a free agent that was at least 30 years old — Kimbrel turns 31 in May — last winter would scare the crap out of me. I think you have to shift all expectations based on that offseason. Furthermore, Kimbrel showed control issues most of the year and those issues were magnified in October. Between the age and the control, teams could be wary. If Kimbrel were to accept the offer this year, he could play for a year and then hit the market again next winter unencumbered. Players are not allowed to be extended a qualifying offer more than once in their career.
That being said, Kimbrel is an all-time great at his position who is still in his prime, and the market has traditionally paid those guys. Last year, Wade Davis was the highest-paid reliever and he got a three-year deal worth $52 million. That would be worth passing up the QO for, and Kimbrel is a better free agent than Davis was. The future Hall of Famer is looking more at the market for Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman, who two years ago got contracts worth 5/80 and 5/86, respectively. Maybe the new market keeps that down a bit, but I wouldn’t expect less than $70 million total for Kimbrel this winter. Either way, we’ll know by November 12 whether or not Kimbrel will accept the qualifying offer.