5 players set to benefit from lack of qualifying offer
Hill, Ramos among free agents who aren't tied to Draft-pick compensation
By Andrew Simon
Ten free agents were presented with one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offers ahead of Monday's deadline and now have until next Monday to accept or decline. The threat of losing a first-round pick in the 2017 Draft will hang over most clubs interested in signing those who choose the latter option.
In that sense, free agents who did not receive a qualifying offer have a bit of an advantage.
Some are in this position because midseason trades rendered them ineligible. Others simply did not receive an offer despite credentials that could have put them in line for one.
This figures to matter less for free agents such as closer Aroldis Chapman, who was dealt from the Yankees to the Cubs during the season. Players at the top of a class will find plenty of interest regardless, but the lack of an offer could provide a boost for those who are seen as riskier bets.
With that in mind, here are five players who stand to benefit the most from the lack of a qualifying offer.
1. Starting pitcher Rich Hill
Circumstances have aligned perfectly for Hill. First, this winter's free-agent class is astoundingly light on starting pitchers, putting the left-hander at the top of the heap. Second, his Aug. 1 trade from the A's to the Dodgers made him ineligible for a qualifying offer he certainly would have received after posting a 2.12 ERA across 20 starts.
That seems especially important for a pitcher who didn't re-emerge as a big league starter until late in 2015 and who will turn 37 in March. (This season, only three pitchers 37 or older made more than two MLB starts). Considering that signing Hill seems like more of a short-term solution, losing a Draft pick may have been harder to swallow. Now it's not a concern.
2. Catcher Wilson Ramos
Ramos was a lock for a qualifying offer before tearing the ACL in his right knee late in the season, an injury that required surgery. With a 6-8 month recovery time, the 29-year-old might not return until midseason, making $17.2 million too hefty of a price tag for Washington.
Ramos' health still adds a lot of uncertainty to his situation, but the absence of an offer should open up more possibilities. Coming off a campaign in which he hit .307/.354/.496 with 22 homers and 80 RBIs, Ramos could look to prove himself in the second half of a one-year deal or opt to maximize his security with a longer commitment.
3. Starting pitcher Ivan Nova
When the Yankees sent Nova to the Pirates on Aug. 1, it both resurrected the righty's season and protected him from a potential qualifying offer. With New York, he posted a 4.90 ERA and 5.10 FIP. In 11 starts with Pittsburgh, he posted a 3.06 ERA and 2.62 FIP. A season earlier, J.A. Happ made a similar transformation after a Deadline trade to the Bucs and scored a three-year, $36 million from Toronto, despite being three years older than Nova.
In a thin starting-pitching market, Nova belongs in the conversation for the No. 2 option behind Hill, along with the likes of Jeremy Hellickson. Nova and Hellickson are an interesting pair, because the two righties are the same age, and both have spotty track records but enter this offseason on a high note. Yet Hellickson got a qualifying offer from the Phillies, and if he rejects it, that could lead at least some teams to favor Nova.
4. Closer Mark Melancon
Although Melancon leads the Majors in saves (98) over the past two seasons and owns a 1.80 ERA since 2013, he would seem to rank a notch below Chapman and Kenley Jansen, who both have electric arms and much higher strikeout rates. But like Chapman, Melancon was traded before the non-waiver Deadline, moving from Pittsburgh to Washington.
The right-hander, who is entering his age-32 season, still will be costly. But for teams that don't want to spend at the top of the market or surrender a first-round pick, Melancon could offer a solution.
5. Outfielder Josh Reddick
Unfortunately for Reddick, he hit a mere .258/.307/.335 after the Dodgers acquired him from the A's in the Hill trade. On the plus side, he now has an argument as this winter's top outfielder unburdened with a qualifying offer, with competition from the likes of Michael Saunders and Carlos Gomez.
Reddick still has been worth at least 2.4 WAR for five straight seasons, but his struggles against left-handed pitching make him a potential platoon player. That might have been a tougher sell with Draft-pick compensation attached.
Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.