Under the current collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the Players Association, free agents can be offered a “qualifying offer” currently set at $14.1 Million for the season. At the end of the 2013 season, thirteen players were given that qualifying offer. All thirteen of those players turned down that offer. That means that those thirteen players thought they were worth more than $14.1 Million for a season, and they also wanted more than one season on a guaranteed contract.
If you are one of the top players in baseball, getting that multi-year deal is not a difficult thing. Players like Robinson Cano and Shin-Shoo Choo got contracts worth well over $100 Million. But there is a fine line between being a sought after veteran, or being viewed as too expensive, thus limiting your options.
Nelson Cruz was one of the unluckiest of the thirteen when he could not find anyone willing to give him a guaranteed contract worth $100 Million for six years. Then he could not find anyone willing to give him four years and $50 million. He finally settled for one year and $8 Million from the Baltimore Orioles. I think that $14.1 Million would look pretty good right now to Cruz and his negotiating team.
Another of the unluckiest of the thirteen that turned down qualifying offers is shortstop Stephen Drew. When Drew turned down the $14.1 qualifying offer from the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox, he was advised by his agent that he was worth more than that and that the agent could get him more money and a longer-term contract. As the final week of Spring Training begins, most teams are ready to go with the players they have. But Stephen Drew is still looking for a job and that long-term contract.
Drew is a solid defender at shortstop. He also has a decent bat, having topped 10 home runs and 60 RBI’s in five major league seasons. But he is finding that most teams do not think he is worth a multi-year deal at or above $14.1 Million per season. Drew might just have gotten extremely lucky this week when the Detroit Tigers starting shortstop Jose Iglesias was diagnosed with stress fractures in both shins and will miss most of the 2014 major league season.
The Detroit Tigers are one of the top spending teams in major league baseball and have been for years. So you know that Drew’s agent has been in contract with Tigers management since the injury to Iglesias, trying to get his player the best deal possible. But so far the Tigers have not met his asking price.
The Tigers current options at shortstop currently include 23 year old prospect Hernan Perez and recently acquired Andrew Romine . Perez is ranked as the Tigers #9 minor league prospect by Baseball America for the 2014 season. Perez is an instinctive player in the field with good actions and an average arm. He also has average speed and a line-drive approach at the plate. But Perez has only 68 current major league at bats with the Tigers. The 28 year old Romine has just 152 at bats in four years as a seldom used back-up with the Los Angeles Angels. Andrew Romine’s Father Kevin also played in the Majors as an outfielder with the Boston Red Sox from 1985-1991. Andrew and his father Kevin both played college baseball for the Arizona State Sun Devils.
John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press has reported that Stephen Drew is now finally willing to “accept” a one year deal for $14 Million from the Detroit. But players don’t make offers, teams make offers, then players can accept or decline those offers. The agent continues to add conditions to any negotiations that might be taking place. The latest “condition” being that his client, Stephen Drew will not sign until after the first day of the season.
The significance of this stipulation is that when a player is signed after the beginning of the season, he cannot be offered a qualifying offer again at the end of the year. The benefit for baseball fans is that we will not have go through this again next year with Drew. But his agent, Scott Boras, yes he will do this again next year, toying with another players career to squeeze out every last nickel in another negotiation that drags well into spring training.
Drew’s agent has in the past talked about offers from other teams interested in his clients to increase the asking price. The Mets have been mentioned as one of these “other teams” interested in Drew. Yet the Mets GM Sandy Alderson has maintained that he has had no recent conversations with said agent about Stephen Drew. So Drew’s options appeared limited at this point.
Soon Spring Training will come to an end, and hopefully the Stephen Drew saga will come to an end as well. If Drew does sign with the Tigers and get the money he wants, he should thank Jose Iglesias for the opportunity. It apears that Drew might just be lucky enough to take advantage of the Tigers who have a “win-now” mentality with a veteran club looking to make it to the World Series, an already high payroll, and money still to spend.