Qualifying Offer Deadline Comes and Goes
On Monday, the Cleveland Indians took their second step in retaining the services of right-handed starter, Ubaldo Jimenez.
Opting to void his contract after the Indians exercised their $8-million club option for the 2014 season. As part of the package that brought Jimenez to Cleveland, a clause within his contract made it possible for him to void his 2014 contract should the team acquiring him choose to exercise the option. After a dominant second half that saw him return to form, it was a no brainer for the Indians to exercise the option in an attempt to keep Jimenez.
Sep 24, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (30) delivers in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
However, in a predictable move Jimenez decided he would rather test the free agent market rather than take $8-million from the Indians in 2014. As one of the best available starting pitchers in this year’s crop of free agents, the move made sense. It is likely that Jimenez will be able to receive multiple years for a higher average annual value than that puny one year $8-million deal.
In an attempt to both muddy the waters of Jimenez’s looming decision and also protect himself should he decide to leave Cleveland, the Indians decided to make a one year qualifying offer to Jimenez. The proposed deal, worth $14.1-million for one year, could bring Jimenez back to the Tribe for another go around or provide a compensatory draft pick in the event that Jimenez signs elsewhere.
With the current state of the free agent talent pool and the going market price for their services, it would take an aggressive offer by the Indians in order to bring Jimenez back in 2014 and beyond. Already thought to be seeking multiple years for big money, the recent two-year $35-million contract signed by Tim Lincecum may have pushed Jimenez beyond the point of reasonable money.If Lincecum, coming off of two sub-par seasons can earn $17.5 million per year, could Jimenez be looking at a pay-day of more than $20-million per year? It’s beginning to look more likely.
In other words, be prepared to see Ubaldo Jimenez in a different uniform during the 2014 season. As of right now, the leader in the club house may be the Baltimore Orioles. They are desperate to upgrade their starting pitching and will have money to spend this offseason in order to accomplish that.
Also eligible for a qualifying offer from the Indians on Monday was left-handed starter, Scott Kazmir. To the surprise of many, including the staff here at Wahoo’s on First, the Indians opted to not extend the $14.1-million qualifying offer to Kazmir. As a result, Kazmir will hit the open market as a free agent and will not bring back a compensatory draft pick should he sign elsewhere.
Sep 16, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Scott Kazmir (26) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Why though would the Indians choose not to extend a qualifying offer to Kazmir? There are two prevailing ideas surrounding the decision. The first is that the $14.1-million was too rich for the Indians tastes. The second is that the Indians may believe they can lure Kazmir back with more years as opposed to more money.
As someone who has come back from the depths of baseball hell, Kazmir may be looking for the type of long-term security that a one year deal simply cannot provide. The Indians may be able to bring back Kazmir for more years, but at a significantly lower average annual value, perhaps two years at $8-$10-million per year with a mutual option for year three. If Kazmir could maintain the same type of production in his age 30 and 31 seasons as he did in 2013, then a deal like that could prove to be a steal.
Like Jimenez, however, Kazmir is sure to have plenty of suitors. As a solid four or five starter on a good team or even a three on a bad team, Kazmir has value. It will come down to which teams value Kazmir most and which ones are willing to overpay for his services. One factor working in the Indians favor was their commitment to Kazmir last offseason and willingness to stick with him throughout the year. Will he reward them by taking perhaps less money to resign with the Indians, something he has come out and said he would like to do? We’ll have to wait and see.
However this plays out, the Indians will have to do something. As it stands today, they are potentially losing 40% of their starting rotation from 2013 and more than likely losing at least one of the two. How they react to these losses will go a long way in shaping the 2014 rotation for the Cleveland Indians and ultimately, their odds of making a repeat appearance in the playoffs.