Hot Stove Week 2: Qualifying Offers and GM Meetings

The Hot Stove season started off with a flurry of activity in the first two weeks, as it does every week following the World Series. We saw new managers named to Colorado and Arizona in Bud Black and Torey Lovullo. More notably for the Rangers, we saw the official promotion of long-time Texas Assistant General Manager Thad Levine to the position of General Manager for the Minnesota Twins.

On the player side of things, we saw Qualifying Offers tendered to ten free agents and options declined on certain players who will now enter the free agent market. Now the seeds of the 2017 season will be planted. Here’s a look at what’s happened so far and what will be happening, at least today.

November 7-10 – The General Manager Meetings

Out in Scottsdale, Arizona, all 30 General Managers got together to start getting things together for what is sure to be a busy winter. This is different from the vaunted MLB Winter Meetings which happens in early December.

Big deals don’t usually get made here, but it’s never out of the realm of possibility. There was a trade of Howie Kendrick from the Dodgers to the Phillies but outside of that, not much in the way of big name moves.

Think of it as the opening minutes of a fight – the GMs are feeling each other out right now, getting an idea for who might be selling, who might be buying and who needs what for 2017. We’ve seen one relatively significant move made already, as the Dodgers have sent catcher Carlos Ruiz to the Rangers’ AL West Rival Mariners for pitcher Vidal Nuno.

What does it mean for the Rangers?

Before Jon Daniels is able to talk any sort of player transactions, he’s needing to get his office in order following the departure of Levine. While it doesn’t appear that he will be naming an Assistant GM immediately, he’s already moved Major League Field Coordinator Jayce Tingler to the Front Office to take an as-yet-unnamed role. Daniels is also touching base with the other GMs to find what he can use to fill the holes in his club.

As you have already heard, the Rangers are looking to fill voids at Starting Pitching, First Base, Center Field and Bullpen – probably in that order. The buyout of Derek Holland made him a free agent. He joins Colby Lewis, Ian Desmond, Carlos Gomezand Carlos Beltran as key free agents from last year. Daniels has no doubt touched base with the agents for all five to gauge their interest level in returning. Often times, when trades are completed, you’ll hear that initial talks began here – at the GM Meetings.

November 8th and 10th – Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards

Awards aren’t just a nice trophy to put on a mantle, they’re also used as a negotiating chip. One of the many reasons major deals don’t frequently happen during the GM Meetings (besides the fact that these things take some time to come together) is that the names that earn these awards can now bring that to the table when talking contracts. After all, what sounds better? “He’s a good outfielder,” or “He’s a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger outfielder?”

What does it mean for the Rangers?

The Rangers put forth two Gold Glove winners in 2016 – First Baseman Mitch Moreland and Third Baseman Adrian Beltre. In Beltre’s case, it’s just icing on the cake. Beltre will play the next two years with Texas and likely retire a Ranger. In Moreland’s case, the difference may be minuscule, especially with defense not being as highly valued at first base. Without being attached to a draft pick, however, the Gold Glove award will net him a few extra dollars, wherever he signs.

November 14th – Accept or Decline the Qualifying Offer?

For the ten free agents that received Qualifying Offers from their teams, this is where they make the decision that can make or break their off-season. The Qualifying Offer for 2017 is a one-year contract worth $17.2 million – a number derived from the top 125 player salaries in the league. If the player accepts it, he plays for his team for that amount. If he declines it, then whichever team signs him must sacrifice the first available draft pick they have in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft.

Why is it such a difficult decision on both ends to have a Qualifying Offer? On the team side, the amount of the contract isn’t exactly chump change. For the player, he is once again playing for a contract next year – he sacrifices the definitive job security of a multi-year deal and potentially more money.

On the other hand, if he declines the deal, teams value draft picks and rebuilding their farm system, so the sacrifice of a pick makes the player less appealing to sign. That’s why this may be one of the hot-button issues negotiated in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement – should a free agent ever be attached to a draft pick? Is there another way to balance out the free agent market?

What does it mean for the Rangers?

The only player the Rangers tendered a Qualifying Offer to was outfielder Ian Desmond. He is expected to decline, just as he did from Washington last year. Last year, though, that decision impacted Desmond’s chances at a big contract. He had to settle for just $8 million from Texas. This year, after a very good bounce-back season, he’s expected to get much more, even though he will cost a draft pick.

Whenever Desmond signs (presumably with another team), Texas will get a pick in the compensation round of the 2017 Draft. This will happen between the first and second round.

The Draft Pick attachment also has meaning for the Rangers as it relates to the other nine free agents. Should Daniels ink any of those to a contract, he will lose his First Round Draft Pick. This year, that pick is slated to be the 29th. Right now, the Rangers could have interest in three free agents that received Qualifying Offers – Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Jeremy Hellickson.

Perhaps the Draft Pick gained by Desmond signing elsewhere would make signing any of the above three easier to execute.

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Matt Fisher
Matt Fisher is an Editor/Staff Writer for ShutdownInning. He is a baseball lifer, preferring to use the eye test and rely on the knowledge and analysis of baseball minds greater than his, while using relevant stats to encourage situational discussions. He is also co-host of The Most Valuable Podcast on the NextWave Radio Network, talking sports, entertainment, and sports entertainment.

While Matt's favorite team will always be his hometown Texas Rangers, he knows the ongoing story lines of every team in Major League Baseball. If you sit next to him at a game, be prepared to hear him try and do play-by-play. If you're famous and reading this, just know that he's not afraid to drop names.

Matt Fisher. ShutdownInning Editor/Staff Writer

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