The Blue Jays and the Qualifying Offer

It has been two years since the qualifying offer was introduced into Major League Baseball, and the Blue Jays, like more than half the teams in baseball, have yet to extend it to any of their free agents over the past couple of seasons. Josh Johnson, a free agent after this past season was the closest to receiving one, but the Jays opted not to, and he ended up signing with San Diego, for $6.1 million less than the qualifying offer would have been.

The Blue Jays have 3 players scheduled to hit free agency after this season, all of whom could potentially deserve to be extended a qualifying offer. Those players being Casey Janssen, Colby Rasmus, and Melky Cabrera, of which it would not surprise me if all 3, or at least 2 of them received the offer after the season. So, at this point, are the three impending free agents worth a  qualifying offer?

Casey Janssen
Earlier this off-season, Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays made a no-brainer decision when they exercised Casey Janssen’s club option worth $4M. It was a steal of an option attached to the 2-year contract he signed prior to the 2012 season. Janssen is coming off his first full season as the Blue Jays closer, which saw him have the best season of his career, value wise, as he was worth 1.3 wins above replacement in 2013. As the anchor of the Blue Jays bullpen, he put up stellar numbers, like a 2.74 FIP, while producing a shutdown inning 35 times, and only having 6 meltdowns.

Since the institution of the qualifying offer in 2012, only one closer has been offered it, former Yankees closer Rafael Soriano. If we compare the two players, it becomes obvious what the Blue Jays should do if Janssen continues to pitch like he has the past few seasons. The following table represents stats from Soriano’s 3 seasons (2010-2012) before hitting free agency, as well as Janssen’s statistics from 2012-2013, combined with his 2014 ZIPS projections (for nSD and saves, I just added the average of his past two seasons, because ZIPS does not project those numbers).

Name (Age entering FA)

IP

FIP

nSD

SV

fWAR

Rafael Soriano (33)

169.1

3.28

83

89

3.3

Casey Janssen (33)

170.1

2.97

63

84

3.1

From those numbers, you can tell that the two pitchers are actually very comparable. Janssen will be entering free agency at the same age Soriano did, and if he lives up to his 2014 projections, he’ll have a really good case for being able to match or exceed the 2 year $28 million deal that the Nationals gave to Soriano last off-season.

After comparing the two pitchers, it seems pretty obvious that as long as Janssen continues to pitch like he has the past few seasons (and there is no reason to think he won’t do that), the Blue Jays should be in a position to extend him a qualifying offer, with almost a zero percent chance that Janssen and his camp decide to accept it.

Colby Rasmus
Rasmus has been written about this off-season a lot around the blogosphere, coming off of a career year in 2013, and with his being a free agent after this season, people are wondering if the Blue Jays should extend him, or let him go as a free agent.

I have learned via a source close to Rasmus’ camp that the “Blue Jays have yet to discuss a long-term deal with Colby”, and that the “Jays believe Anthony Gose can handle CF in 2015 and beyond”, meaning “Colby will end up elsewhere after this season.”

So, if Rasmus is headed towards free agency, should the Jays extend him a qualifying offer?

As of now, the answer is yes, but that is only because of his age and the market surrounding him. Colby has been wildly inconsistent over his career from season to season. Even his 2013 season, in which he was worth 4.8 wins above replacement in just 118 games, can be heavily criticized. His BABIP was sky-high at .356, and his K% was 29.5%, the highest of his career and “awful” according to the Fangraphs glossary.

But, even though his offense looked like it was a fluke at times, the same cannot be said for his defense. Rasmus’ numbers show he greatly improved that aspect of his game, and just from watching him, you could easily tell that there was a drastic change in the way he got to balls hit over his head.

If Colby goes back to being 2011-2012 Colby, it would be a tough decision to qualify him. The Jays would have to decide whether they can stomach the $14 million it would take to hold onto an enigmatic player like Colby. However, if he does repeat his 2013 numbers in 2014, he’ll be a lock to be qualified, and probably a lock to get a 7 digit contract as well.

Melky Cabrera
Cabrera is also in a very similar situation to Rasmus, as nobody is really sure how he’ll perform in 2014. After putting up 8.1 fWAR from 2011-2012, Melky was suspended by Major League Baseball for testing positive for a banned substance. This led to him signing a deal well below market value for a player coming off a 4 win year. He ended up being worth -0.9 wins for the Jays in 2013 thanks, in part, to a season in which he looked like an 80-year-old man on the field. Look at this GIF, and you’ll see what I mean.

Plays like that routinely happened in 2013, so when it was discovered the Cabrera was playing with a tumor in his spine the entire year, it gave Blue Jays fans something to wonder about. What exactly will Melky be when he is healthy and in shape (which he is said to be in this spring training)?

Nobody really knows, but for Cabrera to be worth a qualifying offer, he’ll need to return to the juiced version of himself, the one which was a 4 win player and helped the Giants win the World Series (well, for the 1st half of the season anyways).

If he does put up a 3 or 4 win season, the Jays will have a tough decision to make. He’d likely get more than $14 million guaranteed over a number of years, but Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays would be taking a calculated risk because they might not be interested in paying that much money to a 30-year-old player with the shaky background, both talent and injury wise, that Melky has.

Picture courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr.

About Gideon Turk

Gideon grew up in Thornhill, Ontario, and became a Jays fan at age 8. He is currently a Freshman majoring in biology at Yeshiva University in Washington Heights, NY.

  • JaysFan1996

    So you’re trying to say that there is a 100% chance that Casey would turn down a 1 year 14whatever Million dollar contract

    • Gideon Turk

      If he posts numbers like he has the past couple of seasons, yes. His numbers are almost identical to Rafael Soriano’s, who not only turned down the qualifying offer, but also signed a 2 year deal with the Nats for $28M.

      • JefQ27BlueJayz

        The time will come, in the very near future where the players the Blue Jays currently have on staff are going to be a LOT more expensive then they are now. That being said, we also have a number of guys like Lawrie and so on who are due for some major rises in compensation. The pressure I think will come from, and from a management stand point, is supposed to come from the fact that this group of players is World Series contenders. That possibility and expectation is what may keep players like Janssen Lawrie, etc., in a Blue Jay uniform.
        This is why I firmly believe that there is still some major changes happening in the very near future regarding the starting pitching. It is simply the math. Pay now or pay later either way they are going to have to pay. Rogers has said they are committed to winning the Serious. In order to do so, Janssen and other said valued pieces will be paid to stay. How low they go will largely depend on winning. And the “State of the Franchise”.

        • Delabar’s Weighted Balls

          Good point. Jannsen doesn’t seem greedy, so if we’re winning, maybe he will accept 2 years / 12 million or so.

          i can’t see the Jays going much higher than that, because we have a glut of BP arms & also high-caliber replacements in Santos & Delabar.

          Even though Casey has to monitor his workload, I hope they reach a (reasonable) deal because he’s great in the 9th inning, solidifies the ‘Pen, and frees up Santos & Delabar for high-leverage, strikeout situations where they are most valuable (if Jannsen keeps it up this year)

    • Ewan Ross

      It isn’t a 100% question. The question becomes if he accepts can the team stomach it if he accepts. I’m not sure what the answer to that question is, but that’s just how it should be phrased.

      • Pingston

        The answer is to offer him security, for less. He’s good for it. He’s consistent. And it saves him having to move around. Better to sign him up early. Janssen isn’t flaky. And over the next few years a lot of contracts will expire.

  • Jay Blue

    The only point of making a qualifying offer is if the player is going to bring back a compensatory draft pick if someone else signs him. If none of these players are classified as compensation eligible, then why would you qualify him?

    There’s no point to qualifying Janssen because almost no reliever makes $14 million and why wouldn’t he take a 1-year, $14 million deal? Sure, $4 million is a bargain but he’s probably worth up to $10 million on the free market but the trend is that people aren’t paying as much for the “proven closer” these days (look how the Orioles have treated the reliever market).

    Rasmus and Cabrera are different cases. With his crappy 2013, I don’t think Cabrera will be a compensation eligible FA. If Sierra emerges this year, I’d say let him walk. Rasmus is tough. He’ll cost a lot to keep around (will he get Jacoby Ellsbury money?) and will likely be compensation eligible if he has another good season. In that case the qualifying offer would be a good idea because he’s far more likely to try to get a multi-year contract even if the AAV is slightly less than the qualifying offer.

    • Gideon Turk

      Every player offered a QO brings back a draft pick. Any player is eligible for a QO. There is no such thing as “compensation eligible” like you mention. The “A” and “B” system is long gone.

      Re: Janssen. He wouldn’t take a 1 year $14M deal because he can get a lot more on the FA market. His stats show he is just as good, if not better than Soriano, who turned down the QO and still got 2/$28M.

      • Jay Blue

        After looking at the basic agreement, you’re right that it appears that simply by making a QO, you can be eligible to get a draft pick back. That said, I’d argue that the relief pitching market has changed since Soriano got his deal and that there’s no way Janssen gets over $14/year on a long term deal. Sure, there weren’t a ton of premiere free agent relievers out there this year but the highest AAV on a contract was $10 million for Brian WIlson and Joe Nathan. Is Janssen better than Nathan? Yes, but is that what the market perceives? And will anyone be willing to give it to him? I don’t think he gets the QO. Different market than Soriano.

        • Gideon Turk

          Have to take into consideration though that Nathan is approaching 40, whereas Janssen will only be 33. Also, it’s not about AAV when players decide to decline the QO. It’s about how much they receive in total. If they get a 2 year deal worth more than the 1/$14M, they’ll be happy.

        • Ewan Ross

          However it isn’t a different market than what happened with Jim Johnson. He got 14 and I’d say pretty clearly Janssen is a better pitcher.

          A team was not only willing to give him that but also give up something of value (if only minimal).

          Also not a single player has ever accepted the QO, and until someone declines I’d I’m going with the default state that they will be turned down. Same with how I felt about JJ. I know he took less in SD, and I think just to get to that environment he would’ve turned down the 1/14. A draft pick up in smoke.

          • Pingston

            Kelly Johnson took the QO when the Blue Jays didn’t want him to. No? Hence the risk they didn’t take with JJ.

          • Ewan Ross

            No, Kelly Johnson was not offered a Qualifying Offer. That was a different system, where you had to offer arbitration. Johnson accepted the arb rather than test free agency.

            In that instance he wouldn’t be guaranteed 14 mil, but rather just have to submit to a standard arbitration hearing

            This is a totally different situation

          • Delabar’s Weighted Balls

            The market for closers is really drying up, not as many over-pays. Plus, Jannsen is NOT a flashy big-ticket closer, and he has a wonky shoulder. There’s no way he turns down a QO, and the Jays don’t want to pay him $14M+ when they have an option on Santos @ $6M and Delabar too until 2017.

            Looking at Drew, Morales, Santana, Cruz, Lohse, etc… there’s no way Jannsen turns down a QO. With a pick attached to him his market is like $7M/year for 2-3 years MAX. Even without a pick, he’s not getting more than $10M/year, sorry —so the Jays will let him walk or deal him at the deadline if we’re not in contention (I strongly believe we will be, and keep Jannsen for the playoff run), if we don’t extend him for like ~10-12M/2 years

  • Dimes

    I think you are correct that all of them warrant a QO assuming they have good years. However, I think it would be a mistake to allow at least Rasmus, and maybe even Janssen to get to that point, both from a baseball and a PR standpoint. Frankly I do not have much hope for Gose matching let alone surpassing Rasmus’ value if he shows last year was not a fluke. Even if Gose does show he can handle the job, we still have no LF next year, and a RFer in Bautista who may need to transition into a reduced defensive role in the next year or two (either to 1st or DH) – so there is room for both Rasmus and Gose in the outfield moving forward. Furthermore, if Rasmus is able to maintain his production from last year and the Jays let him walk it will only serve to amplify the ‘Rogers is cheap’ crowd and prove AA wrong as he has been saying all along that the money to resign players would be there when needed. As for Jansen, our bullpen is currently a strength, and I think that it would be a mistake letting one of the most consistent arms over the past couple of years walk, unless he actually does expect Soriano type money, then maybe the cost exceeds the benefit and the Jays could be sure of him turning down a QO.

    • Gideon Turk

      I agree wholeheartedly with you about the outfield situation. It should not get to a point where Rasmus can be a free agent. I’m in the extend Rasmus camp. For Janssen though, I think for the reason you stated, that the bullpen is such a strength on this team, it isn’t necessary to pay so much for a closer like Janssen when Steve Delabar or Sergio Santos(if healthy) can take over and succeed in that role at a controlled cost.

      • Pingston

        Sound logic. But from a business perspective why allow an asset to escape? Rogers has pockets like few others. They can afford to sign and trade people. Teams aren’t static but if you have value, keep it and trade it. Only poor teams let real value escape without return.

        • Gideon Turk

          Well the return would be a 1st round draft pick in the 2015 draft, and the slot money that comes with that. Anthopoulos knows that you can build a bullpen for next to nothing, like he has done these past couple of years, so giving Janssen any type of money is foolish. Let him go to a team that will overpay.

      • Dimes

        I agree that paying for a ‘closer’ is dumb, if Janssen is looking for 10 mil + a season then we let him walk, but if you can get him for say 6-8 over a couple of years then we need to lock him down. Regardless of results, I get the impression that he is generally not held in such high opinion as Soriano et al. around the league, so a Soriano type contract exceeding 10 mil over multiple years may not be realistic, especially given the downturn in F/A contracts recently. Furthermore, with relievers generally being more inconsistent from year to year what with the smaller sample, having someone like Janssen who has been extremely consistent results wise over multiple years is very valuable.

  • JefQ27BlueJayz

    It is really ironic to me that the Blue Jay board is wrought with folks who many consider immature after school posters. And then conversely here on a site developed by a high school student from Richmond Hill is the most mature and intellectual conversation with regards to the Blue Jays anywhere on the internet. Keep up the good work. Thanks.

    • Gideon Turk

      Thanks for the kind words. We try to do our best.

  • Pingston

    I believe all 3 should be extended rather than QOed. Janssen and Rasmus immediately, Melky maybe after a few months (and not, if he’s bad, obviously). At the worst, those signed would be trade-able pieces once signed.

    As we stand, I’d like to see a team that could have Gose, Sierra and Kawasaki as extra pieces on the bench. I’d trade Izturis or just let him play in Buffalo based on what I saw in 2013.

    That said, I believe we can expect some trades of some or all of the out-of-options brigade that doesn’t change expectations over the next 3 weeks. It’s reasonable that the Blue Jays’ braintrust started ST with a spreadsheet of what they expected to happen. When will they feel they’ve given all enough chances to prove them wrong? It will be interesting what comes back in these anticipated trades — vets or prospects, an arm, a bat or legs. This is a pivotal Spring Training. I’m not there this year but spent lengthy stints in Dunedin in 1986, 1991 and 1998, and visited briefly in other years. This year may be as pivotal as 1991, when Carter and Alomar arrived. So far the 3 games have been interesting. I no longer believe we need an arm (aka Santana) but I’m not the guy with the chequebook. I could see us trading for a back-up 2B and sending Izturis and 2 or 3 BP arms for that person. I don’t foresee a blockbuster SP trade. We could see a Cuban or other unexpected signing but I don’t expect impact for something like that this year (I have been wrong, however).

    Gideon’s analysis continues to improve. His only work here needs to be in text-editing — re-read what you’ve written and sort out how you can enhance clarity and remove words. One solid editing pass and this becomes a premier blog. The content already makes it worthy. The editing work will put it over the top. Thanks for your passion and effort from all of us who are much older.

    • Gideon Turk

      Thanks for the comment. We’re trying to improve our editing process, and will take your comments to heart.

      I agree about Rasmus and Melky, but as you can see from my other comments, I don’t think extending Janssen is a good idea. As a closer, he costs way more than he is worth. Use the depth for good, and replenish the bullpen with another arm from the minors when Janssen leaves.

      As it stands, there is no trade market for Izturis, so your best bet is to let him play out the rest of his contract, and bank on him bouncing back(this might be easier said then done though, given his age).

      As for the trades in spring training, I do think there will be at least one, if not more. AA made it pretty obvious(at the SOTF) that there are a few guys who are on the brink of making other teams, and if they do not, they will swoop in and acquire one of them to platoon with Adam Lind. Maybe he’ll trade for Samardzija if the price comes down, but other than that, don’t expect much to happen. Also, I wouldn’t be making evaluations of anybody 3 games into spring training.