This year, the one-year qualifying offer teams can extend to outgoing free agents is $15.3 million. It's a logical graduation from the last two years, but it's really quite the payday for a 30-plus player to pass up. Really, I'm just thinking about Michael Cuddyer, here. Hell is Michael Cuddyer have to be thinkin' to pass up $15.3 million? Ain't gonna happen.
The deadline for players to accept a qualifying offer is Nov. 10. If they decline, they are free agents who can be signed for longer deals, or cynically waited out and offered less than even the QO, but in any case, the White Sox would need to surrender their second-round draft pick. The White Sox drafted Spencer Adams with their second round pick, so the cost of signing a free agent with a qualifying offer is the equivalent of maiming 18-year-old Spencer Adams so that he can never play baseball again, or having him abducted and deported. That's the only reasonable way to think through this.
Here's a list of players who have received QO's thus far. Are they ruined in our eyes? Can we ever yearn for them in the way we once did, oh, six or seven days ago? Do we even care? Did we ever?
Melky Cabrera, 30, OF - At his age, athleticism (he was a bad centerfielder, but he was a centerfielder) and contact ability, he's a long-term solution at the position.
Nelson Cruz, 34, OF/DH - The man hit 40 home runs, so this wasn't a curveball (is it kosher using baseball metaphors while talking about actual baseball?) but it's another one of those factors that makes you cringe as you look over the prospect of a five-year Cruz deal like it's a chicken that was left out for an hour and a half (that metaphor is safe).
Michael Cuddyer, 35, OF/1B/3B/DH - Cuddyer was an intriguing stopgap bat if he could be had for an 'old and busted' discount. Costing a draft pick and fresh off turning down $15.3 million and hoping for more is not a fun discount. Cuddyer will be 36 by the draft. I checked, and no, he does not have any kids old enough to be selected.
Francisco Liriano, 31, SP - There's a slight but unshakable feeling that Liriano is cursed and can only bring harm to the city of Chicago and its denizens. So, now he's got another minus. A right-hander with less volatility was already preferable.
Russell Martin, 31, C - There is one catcher in free agency worth a damn and this is it. There are reasons why it will take too much to bring in Martin and they go way beyond "second-round draft pick."
Victor Martinez, 35, DH - The draft pick isn't the reason to crow about the Sox signing up for the age-36 season (and many more!) of guy coming off a far and away career year, who can't play the field anywhere, used to catch and boasts a surgically repaired knee, in the immediate wake of clearing out Adam Dunn and watching Paul Konerko turn from a very good contact and power hitter to completely effing toast right in the middle of his late-career renaissance...but when the Sox are pushing to buy out the back half of Martinez's deal, it will make a fun footnote.
Hanley Ramirez, 30, SS/3B (we hope) - Han-Ram hitting the market and demanding the moon has been a long time coming. After a contract in excess of six years and $120 million, it'd probably be necessary to sell that second-round pick as a laborer to a nearby coal mine anyway.
David Robertson, 29, RP - This is probably the final nail in the coffin. Robertson is an elite reliever, but the deep-pocketed Yankees want him back bad, and have set his price well above acceptable levels. There are always a lot of relief options, and most don't ask you to sacrifice the future in this way.
Pablo Sandoval, 28, 3B - Of course you knew he was going to get a QO, but it's something to think about. Thinking is not the path to bringing in Pablo Sandoval. The Sandoval path is full of "Woo Panda hats!" and "Remember when he took Verlander deep 400 times during the World Series! Can't wait till he's doing that again when we're somehow playing the Tigers in the World Series!" Thinking leads you to wonder about how much longer Sandoval can play third and stay healthy and productive at his size, or how he hasn't had a big offensive season since 2011. You don't want to be thinking about this one.
Ervin Santana, 31, SP - Well he was the poster-child for "I'm interested, but the QO is annoying" last off-season and had to settle for a one-year deal after a long Boras exercise. Then he had a worse season and got a year older while doing it. It's still a factor.
Max Scherzer, 30, SP - If it turns out Scherzer isn't worth a second-round draft pick, Rick Hahn won't care because he'll have long since been fired for spending the GDP of that secret island Jerry Reinsdorf owns on a lemon.
James Shields, 32, SP - It's 'Big Game' James, not 'Maybe a Chance to Play the Spoiler in September As You Build From Within James.' That would be my nickname if I was pitching.
Well, no. Then it would be 'Crap James.' 'Bum James.' Probably just 'Bum.' Don't think they'd really bother learning my name. I'd try to bean people but, you know, I'd miss.
Shields is more of the No. 2 starter variety, possibly giving Quintana a run for his money--and given the handedness, the Sox might split him between Sale and Q anyway--which raises him above the cadre of No. 3 starters that you'd prioritize by affordability.