Should the White Sox Pursue a Free Agent With a Qualifying Offer Attached?

With playoff aspirations in mind, there is no excuse for the White Sox to punt on any opportunity to upgrade, regardless of whether or not they would have to give up a draft pick to secure an important piece of the puzzle.

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The MLB offseason is beginning to stir as the 2019 World Series Champion Washington Nationals’ exciting victory over the Houston Astros is beginning to sink in and GMs across the league have arrived in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona for the annual General Managers Meetings. Early on, the White Sox have been tied to several rumors indicating they will attempt to be aggressive this winter. We’ve heard this story before, so the real question is how aggressive will they ACTUALLY be? Will it be last season’s version of “aggressive,” where the White Sox seemed content with just “having a seat at the table?” Or will this be the year that management backs up the Brink’s truck and spends the money that almost seems imaginary at this point? White Sox faithful are certainly hoping for the latter, and maybe the time has finally arrived. However, will they go as far as to pursue free agents that have a qualifying offer attached to them?

A qualifying offer is a one-year contract that is offered by the impending free agent’s current team. The player is eligible if he spent all of the 2019 season on the offering team’s roster and the contract is calculated as an average of the 125 highest-paid players in the MLB. The value of this year’s one-year qualifying offer is $17.8 million. That’s certainly a decent chunk of change, but high profile players oftentimes turn down the offer while seeking a long-term deal. Sometimes this works out well, as was the case with Patrick Corbin. Last offseason, Corbin rejected his qualifying offer from the Diamondbacks and wound up signing a lucrative six-year deal worth $140 million en route to becoming a World Series champion with the Nationals. Another left-handed starting pitcher that took the same risk didn’t end up as lucky as Corbin. Dallas Keuchel didn’t have any serious suitors until June and forfeited about $6 million of earnings while settling for less money than what the qualifying offer from the Astros was worth. The reason Keuchel was left unemployed until June was because players that reject the qualifying offer from their team then have a compensation pick attached to them. This means if another team signs the player, then the former team is compensated with a draft pick from the player’s new team.

The criteria for what kind of pick the team will receive is detailed here, according to Mark Polishuk of MLB Trade Rumors:

  • If the team was not a revenue-sharing recipient or the free agent signed for less than $50MM guaranteed, the team will receive a compensatory pick after Competitive Balance Round B, which takes place just prior to the draft’s third round. This is essentially the “default” compensation for teams losing QO free agents since most teams won’t meet either of the following two sets of criteria.
  • If the team losing the player received revenue sharing in the previous season and the free agent signed a deal at least $50MM in guaranteed money, the team will receive a compensatory pick after the first round of the draft.  According to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, 16 teams are revenue-sharing recipients and could qualify for the higher pick — the Astros, Athletics, Braves, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Indians, Mariners, Marlins, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, Rays, Reds, Rockies, Royals, and Twins. 
  • If the team paid the luxury tax in the previous season, the team will receive a compensatory pick after the fourth round of the draft.

Long story short, some teams (particularly those that are rebuilding) simply don’t want to give up draft inventory to sign these players. The White Sox have often been a team that has stayed away from this group of potential acquisitions, with their most notable free-agent signing in recent history with the offer attached being David Robertson when he signed a four-year, $46 million deal back in December of 2014. The White Sox should strongly consider changing their outlook on this type of transaction this offseason, as there are plenty of players that were extended qualifying offers that would be big upgrades to the White Sox. Jose Abreu is the lone White Sox player that was given a qualifying offer. The others are Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, Josh Donaldson, Marcell Ozuna, Will Smith, and Jake Odorizzi.

Photo: CBS Sports

In my opinion, all of these players are certainly worth pursuing in place of what would be a second-round pick with the exception of Odorizzi. The main concern here is that I wouldn’t want our pick going to the division rival Twins when plenty of other viable options are available. No further explanation on why Cole, Rendon, or Strasburg would be worth giving up a second-round pick is needed. They’re in a category of their own. In the next tier, Wheeler is certainly worthy of consideration as well, as he seems to be all the way back from Tommy John surgery. Last season, he touted a career-best average fastball velocity of 96.7 MPH, which was second-best to only the aforementioned Gerrit Cole (via MLB Trade Rumors). For a White Sox team that used 14 different starting pitchers last season, Wheeler would slide into the rotation perfectly behind Lucas Giolito. The other names all have their own reasons to pursue as well, especially due to the fact that White Sox second-round picks of the past haven’t necessarily been world-beaters. Alec Hansen, a 2016 second-round pick, initially flashed some potential but had a terrible 2019 season that has his future within the system in jeopardy. Gavin Sheets and Steele Walker have both shown potential at times but are far from finished products and still don’t have a clear path to the majors. Why not give a certified bullseye (proven MLB player) a contract in exchange for giving another team one of your many darts and having them take a few steps back, giving them a much lower chance of succeeding again? As someone that isn’t the most gifted at darts, I’ll take all of the bullseyes that I can get.

With playoff aspirations in mind, there is no excuse for the White Sox to punt on any opportunity to upgrade, regardless of whether or not they would have to give up a draft pick to secure an important piece of the puzzle.

Players extended a qualifying offer have until Thursday, November 14th to accept or decline, so expect the current room-temperature stove to actually generate some heat in the coming days.


Featured Photo: AP

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