Qualifying Offers Part 2: Rangers Targets

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Yesterday, on Qualifying Offers Part 1, we went over what a Qualifying Offer is, what the consequences are for teams that offer and sign Qualifying Offer eligible players, and who on the Texas Rangers is eligible and whether they should be extended offers.

This time, we’ll look at the rest of baseball. Okay, that’s something of a lie: we’ll look at the players that are Qualifying Offer eligible that fit a need for the Texas Rangers. A couple of things to keep in mind as we go through this list:

  1. Except where noted, I’m assuming all players on the team as of the date above are staying.
  2. I’m following this payroll projection from our site.
  3. General Managers, especially Jon Daniels, rarely mean what they say when they say they’re “not in on high-end Free Agents.”
  4. Draft picks mean a lot for someone like JD – not just because of potential in talent for his own team, but because they’re currency down the road.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at some of those attractive Free Agent names that might pique the interest of the Rangers that are likely to be tendered a Qualifying Offer contract of one-year, $15.8 million.

Zack Greinke

  • 2015 Salary: $25 million
  • 2015 Stats: 19-3, 1.66 ERA, 32 games, 222.2 IP, 0.844 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 1.26 GO/AO

Let’s get this one out of the way first. When you think of Zack Greinke’s tenure with the Los Angeles Dodgers and this most recent Cy-Young worth season, it seems pretty obvious that he would opt out of the remainder of his contract and turn down the inevitable Qualifying Offer that is coming down the pipe. That contract, for his age 32-34 seasons, would be for 3-years, $77 million. The gamble for Greinke is that he would be looking for more in both total value of contract and in length of years. The downside for Greinke opting out of this contract, unless he reworks a new contract with the Dodgers, is that it would be very difficult to find a team that can afford to out do his current Average Annual Value. When you think about it from a one-year standpoint, out of the teams that Greinke might want to go to, who’s got $26 million lying around for next year? The Rangers would have to push their payroll to close to $170 million. For one player. Sure, while another ace on the staff wouldn’t be terrible, especially with Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish at the front, Texas has other needs in other areas. Now, if you start talking about trading a first baseman, signing another first baseman for less (with no draft pick attached), and maybe trading one of your other big contracts and relying on prospects or lesser free agents…

Jordan Zimmermann

  • 2015 Salary: $16.5 million
  • 2015 Stats: 13-10, 3.66 ERA, 33 starts, 201.2 IP, 1.205 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 1.00 GO/AO

Given the choice between Zack Greinke and Jordan Zimmermann, for the cost, I’ll take Jordan Zimmermann. Lost amidst the struggles of the Washington Nationals and the injuries they suffered is the fact that Zimmermann put up another solid season. It wasn’t as good as his 2014, but for all intents and purposes, he was still more of an ace on that staff than any of his other rotation mates. Zimmermann’s a workhorse, and while he didn’t miss as many bats as he normally does this past season, he still has more swing and miss stuff than another pitcher on the same tier that Texas currently has – Yovani Gallardo. If 2015 was a “fluke” year, I’d still take that as a good year in Texas. Now, will JD and the Rangers want to shell out probably $20 million per year for 5-6 years? Signs point to no, but this is one move that if they pulled it off, might be surprising to some locally, but I’d think was a good move.

Doug Fister

  • 2015 Salary: $11.4 million
  • 2015 Stats: 5-7, 4.19 ERA, 15 starts, 25 games, 1.398 WHIP, 1.03 GO/AO

Doug Fister probably really would like a pillow contract to re-establish himself. I think Washington would tender a Qualifying Offer to the 31-year old right hander, but given the problems he had coming back from injury, they might just tip the cap and say good-bye. On that note, if he got the Qualifying Offer, it would make sense for Fister to take it, but I think he wants to go somewhere else. He wasn’t exactly handled the best way last season, with the whole move to the bullpen, and I think he’d welcome a fresh start somewhere. If he turns down the Qualifying Offer, he would have to take a steep discount, not only to just have a rebound contract, but also because of the draft pick attached to him. For Texas, Fister is a ground-ball pitcher who works quickly and has American League and post-season experience. If the Nationals decide to let him walk, scot-free, I’d jump all over this on a one-year deal. If a QO is involved, I talk him down to something in the $7-8 million range for 2016.

Hisashi Iwakuma

  • 2015 Salary: $7 million
  • 2015 Stats: 9-5, 3.54 ERA, 20 games, 129.2 IP, 1.064 WHIP, 1.53 GO/AO

A right-handed pitcher, probably only looking for a 2-3 year contract, with swing-and-miss stuff at a lower price point is hard to find, and for that reason, the Mariners will likely extend Iwakuma a Qualifying Offer. Because of the years, though, Iwakuma will probably turn it down and look elsewhere. At that point, the Rangers should look in the shop and poke around, but if anything goes beyond $10 million a year, with the draft pick attached, I’d say they were out. General Manager Jerry DiPoto will be prioritizing a long term deal with Iwakuma anyways.

Matt Wieters

  • 2015 Salary: $8.3 million
  • 2015 Stats: .267/.319/.422, 8 HR, 25 RBI, 75 games, 4.38 Catcher ERA

Positive: 29-year old, switch hitting, power hitting, two-time Gold Glove, three-time All-Star of a catcher. Negative: Two straight injury plagued seasons, including Tommy John surgery. Matt Wieters is a huge risk both for the Baltimore Orioles and for whatever team ends up signing him – which could be the Baltimore Orioles. First of all, Baltimore has already said that they will be extending a Qualifying Offer to Wieters. With a $7.5 million raise at stake, Wieters could use this as an opportunity to re-establish his value with a full, healthy season, making about as much as he would per year on the open market if he had stayed healthy. Baltimore currently features Caleb Joseph behind the plate – not a bad option, but I feel that they’d bring Wieters back if the price is right. If he doesn’t accept, the team that signs him would forfeit a draft pick for an unknown level of production. If Wieters stays healthy, he would be a huge boost for the team that picks him up. Would the Rangers be willing to sacrifice their first round draft pick for an average of .258/.320/.423, with 21 HR and 79 RBI (his career line)? Wieters won’t have a problem finding a raise above $8.3 million. It won’t be the raise a Qualifying Offer would net him, but would you do 2-years, $20-24 million if you’re the Rangers?

Chris Davis

  • 2015 Salary: $12 million
  • 2015 Stats: .262/.361/.562, 47 HR, 117 RBI, 160 games

A Chris Davis reunion? The prospects of that sound incredibly juicy. Sure, Davis is left-handed, and a first baseman, but neither Mitch Moreland nor Prince Fielder are likely going to put up the campaign that Davis did in 2015 – to that end, they probably wouldn’t put up the campaign he put up in 2014, when he had a slightly down year. If Texas were to trade away Moreland and another big contract, this type of acquisition might be worth pursuing. The Orioles, however, seem to be far more concentrated on retaining Davis than any of their other free agents, with talks of re-signing “The Big Fella” to a longer contract.

Alex Gordon

  • 2015 Salary: $12.5 million
  • 2015 Stats: .271/.377/.432, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 104 games

On Tuesday, Alex Gordon celebrated a World Series Championship. Once the floats hit the end of the parade route, though, decisions will have to be made. I originally thought about not including Gordon on this list, because I wasn’t sure if Kansas City was going to tender their left fielder a qualifying offer. It’s a risk – Gordon holds a player option for the same amount he made in 2015. If he declines the option, he can still be tendered a qualifying offer, which he can accept, which would basically be like re-negotiating his player option for $3 million more. Honestly, that’s not a bad idea, and if I were Alex Gordon, that’s probably what I would do. However, for the sake of argument, let’s assume he declines both the player option and the Qualifying Offer and decides to drift elsewhere. At 32-years old, Gordon may not command the length of contract that the Rangers gave Shin-Soo Choo (in general, I think the time of really, really long contracts to position players age around age 30-or-older is done). At any rate, given the cost involved, I think the Rangers would rather take their chances on signing a righty platoon player to tag team left field with Josh Hamilton.

Justin Upton

  • 2015 Salary: $14.5 million
  • 2015 Stats: .251/.336/.454, 26 HR, 81 RBI, 150 games

Even the casual Texas Rangers fan knows that Jon Daniels has been trying to get Justin Upton to stick a “T” on his hat for about four years now. Whether some other team beats him to the punch or the package offered didn’t blow his team away, Daniels has been vigilant in his Upton watch. This may be his chance. Coming off of a down year with San Diego (but then again, who didn’t have a down year in San Diego?), Upton will almost certainly be offered the one-year, $15.8 million contract from A.J. Preller and will almost certainly turn it down. Upton’s looking for money and years and the Rangers just might be willing to offer both to a right-handed, power-hitting, high-average corner outfielder who just turned 28. Of all the deals on this list involving position players, this seems to be the guy that Daniels would most likely sacrifice a draft pick and high dollars for.

Dexter Fowler

  • 2015 Salary: $9.5 million
  • 2015 Stats: .250/.346/.411, 17 HR, 46 RBI, 156 games, 102 runs

Dexter Fowler, one of the unsung drivers of the fun ride the Cubs went on, would be one of those players that would accept the Qualifying Offer if based on money alone, but since the length is only for one-year, the 29-year old center fielder could probably land a little more stability somewhere else. Could that be in Texas? With the talk of shifting DeLino DeShields over to left field has also come talk of minor leaguer Lewis Brinson being ready to make the jump to the big leagues (I don’t see it this year…to start…). Fowler is a speed first guy, and the Rangers already have that in DeShields. While he displayed a little more pop than he had in his whole career, he’s still not the kind of guy that Texas would be willing to sacrifice a draft pick for when they have a freebie in Josh Hamilton in left field. Still, he’s right handed and has been relatively healthy his entire career.

Colby Rasmus

  • 2015 Salary: $8 million
  • 2015 Stats: .238/.314/.475, 25 HR, 61 RBI, 137 games

While it’s hard to ignore the 25 home runs as an outfielder, something that Texas would definitely like to have, Rasmus wouldn’t be worth what it would cost the Rangers to sign. He’s left-handed, too, which is not something Texas is lacking. Honestly, Rasmus might be better suited not receiving the qualifying offer and trying to negotiate something longer term with Houston.

There are plenty more Free Agents out there, for sure. Some will probably get Qualifying Offers that end up hurting them this Winter by effectively hurting their value when they think they can get longer-term, higher-dollar contracts. Some that are not on this list are not included because I don’t think the Rangers would have any sort of interest in them, whether because they’ll cost too much, aren’t a good fit, or would be moving into an already occupied position. Also don’t forget that players that were traded in the middle of the season are NOT eligible to receive a Qualifying Offer and would not require the forfeiture of a draft pick upon signing.

Would you go after any of the players on this list? Who else, among the players likely to receive Qualifying Offers, would you want to see Texas explore a deal with? Would you be willing to give up draft picks for anyone?

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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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