With a little more than a week to go before free agency begins, teams are having the final discussions on which of their free agents they should make a qualifying offer to.
Under the current labor agreement, the figure is set by the average of the 125 most lucrative contracts, as detailed by the Basic Agreement.
Should a player reject a qualifying offer and sign a Major League contract with another club before the next year's First-Year Player Draft, his former team receives a compensation pick at the end of the first round. The club signing the player loses its first-round pick in the Draft, unless that pick is among the top 10, in which case the signing club loses its next-highest pick.
While those rules affect the signing team, there are certain players who won't receive $14.1 million per year in a new contract they sign. For some, length is a bigger concern over dollars. For others, struggles in 2013 hurt their free-agent value, so a one-year qualifying offer would give them an opportunity to up their value for free agency after next season.
Here's a look at four players who should accept qualifying offers from their current teams and test free agency next year.
Curtis Granderson is coming off of a season where he only played in 61 games after various stints on the disabled list. He hit .229 with seven home runs and 15 RBI.
If anyone needs to accept a qualifying offer to re-establish their value, it's Granderson. All you have to do is look at his stats from the previous four years:
More than anything, he has to re-establish his power value. Next year's free-agent class lacks a power-hitting center fielder, giving Granderson a leg up on the rest of the competition.
Granderson has to prove he's healthy at his age. Next year, he will be 33. He's only got one more chance at a decent-sized contract.
Does he want that contract to be after an injury-riddled 2013 or after a 2014 season where he could possibly put up better offensive stats?
Prior to the All-Star break, Ubaldo Jimenez wasn't even thought of as deserving of a qualifying offer after going 7-4 with a 4.56 ERA. After the break, he went 8-5 with a 1.82 ERA.
For Cleveland fans who were looking to see the Jimenez from the 2010 season in which he went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA, they finally got it.
However, just because he had a good second half of the season doesn't mean he's going to get a huge contract.
Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors sees Jimenez getting a deal around three years and $39 million. But imagine if he pitches in 2014 like he did in the second half of 2013. His contract length and dollars could skyrocket.
By accepting a qualifying offer from the Indians, Jimenez will have the chance to prove he is an ace-type pitcher again. And if he does, he'll be one of the top pitchers on the market next year.
It's a risk for Jimenez, especially if he can get around $13 million guaranteed over each of the next three years. But the risk of losing $26 million guaranteed doesn't compare to a contract that could see him earn $50-70 million during next year's free agency.
Josh Johnson was once the prize of the Marlins' organization, but his inability to stay healthy and be the ace that many thought he was has hurt his value.
In 2009, Johnson was one of the best pitchers in baseball, going 15-5 with a 3.23 ERA and 191 strikeouts. He was dominant again from 2010-11 with a 2.14 ERA in 37 starts, but injuries put a halt to his successes.
In 2012, he was decent for a bad Miami team, going 8-14 with a 3.81 ERA. Then, he was traded to the Blue Jays in a blockbuster deal last offseason. He and Jose Reyes were the key pieces in the deal, and it would be a shame to see the Blue Jays let Johnson go without seeing what he could really do.
Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors sees Johnson signing a one-year deal to rebuild his value anyways, so why not accept a qualifying offer for more money?
It's worth the risk for the Blue Jays, as most of their top pitching prospects are still a few years away from the big leagues.
Johnson has proven he can be an ace, and if he can overcome his injury history, he'll get a chance to show he is that ace.
And if he does, he'll be the top power pitcher available on the market next year.
It's plain and simple. Nelson Cruz has to prove he can still be a legitimate threat at the plate without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs.
Cruz was one of the many players suspended for his role in the Biogenesis scandal and has a lot to prove.
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported the Rangers were looking to make a qualifying offer to Cruz:
We’re going to need corner run production, (GM Jon) Daniels said. We’re going to need power. Obviously, Nellie’s been a source of that here for the last few years. The first order of business we’ll have to decide is whether we extend the qualifying offer to him. I would expect we will.
If Cruz is smart, he'll accept that offer and make up for letting the Rangers down this season. Had it not been for his suspension, the Rangers likely wouldn't have missed out on the playoffs. After all, he was worth at least one win...wasn't he?
Cruz has batted .272/.331/.511 with an average of 27 home runs and 81 RBI over the past five seasons. The PED questions will continue to surround him until he can prove he can put up those numbers after being suspended for PED use.
If he signs the qualifying offer, Cruz will show his thanks to the Rangers for bringing him back for the one-game playoff. He'll also give them a bat in the middle of the order they desperately lacked down the stretch in 2013.