The Red Sox have extended Stephen Drew a qualifying offer, but is the shortstop worth it?
No GM wants to make a $14.1 million mistake.
As teams around MLB weigh whether to extend qualifying offers to their respective free agents, there's a distinct possibility that such a blunder will be made. Clubs have already given qualifying offers to many of the most obvious candidates, but some calls are much harder than others.
The deadline for teams to make their final decisions is 5 p.m. ET on Monday. Here's the list of big-name MLB free agents who definitely aren't worth the risk of a qualifying offer:
1. Phil Hughes
2013 Stats: 4-14, 5.19 ERA, WHIP 1.46, 7.5 K/9
2013 Salary: $7.15 million
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the New York Yankees were considering making Phil Hughes a qualifying offer as recently as the trade deadline.
After going 0-5 with a 7.22 ERA in his final 10 appearances, however, that won't be happening. The lack of starting pitching on the market means Hughes will find a home in someone's rotation. The 27-year-old will have to settle for less than half of what a qualifying offer is worth.
2. Stephen Drew
2013 Stats: .253/.333/.443, 29 doubles, 13 home runs, 111 OPS+
2013 Salary: $9.5 million
Which player is worth a $14.1 million qualifying offer?
The Boston Red Sox's decision to extend Stephen Drew a qualifying offer appears to be more of a calculated hedge than a statement of how much the shortstop is worth.
There's no denying his defensive prowess and this winter's class of free-agent shortstops is downright brutal.
Still, it's hard to see how Drew's less-than-spectacular play in Boston earned him a pay raise of over $4 million. The most compelling argument against giving Drew an offer, however, is that the Red Sox already have a capable replacement in Xander Bogaerts.
If Drew secures a multi-year deal with another club and the Red Sox end up with a compensation pick, then GM Ben Cherington will look like a genius. Paying Drew $14.1 million, however, is just silly.
3. Tim Hudson
2013 Stats: 8-7, 3.91 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 6.5 K/9
2013 Salary: $9 million
David O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Atlanta Braves are definitely interested in bringing back Tim Hudson—just not at $14.1 million.
Hudson hasn't pitched since the end of July due to a broken ankle, and that injury all but sealed his fate in terms of receiving a qualifying offer.
The veteran will be potential bargain wherever he lands. Prior to an injury-marred 2013, Hudson had won at least 16 games in each of the last three seasons.
2013 Stats: .303/.358/.457, 30 doubles, 11 home runs, 119 OPS+
2013 Salary: $6 million
The only way the Detroit Tigers could justify handing Jhonny Peralta a qualifying offer is if the team still needed the veteran to man shortstop.
With the rise of Jose Iglesias, however, Peralta is expendable—at least at the price of $14.1 million.
The 31-year-old will have no trouble finding a new gig, but more than doubling his salary fresh off a Biogenesis ban simply isn't happening.
5. Scott Kazmir
2013 Stats: 10-9, 4.04 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 9.2 K/9
2013 Salary: $1 million plus incentives
Scott Kazmir had a huge comeback season with the Cleveland Indians, but the decision isn't just about the lefty's performance last year.
Cleveland also has to decide whether to extend a qualifying offer to Ubaldo Jimenez. If the decision comes down to one or the other, then the choice is simple. The team has to go with Jimenez, or as Dan Szymborski of ESPN put it, the “safer” option.
6. Kendrys Morales
2013 Stats: .277/.336/.449, 34 doubles, 23 home runs, 123 OPS+
2013 Salary: $5.25 million
There's no way that Kendrys Morales' 2013 stat line deserves a qualifying offer. The Seattle Mariners offered him one anyway, as per Geoff Baker of the The Seattle Times.
The gamble might prove a wise one, as the slugger's agent, Scott Boras, thinks his client can nab a larger multi-year deal. Not all the experts agree. Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted that if a potential suitor had to give up a draft pick to sign Morales, it would "crush" his value.
The power options this winter are limited. However, if Morales doesn't take up the Mariners on their generous offer, he will be in line for a Kyle Lohse-like wait.
7. Josh Johnson
2013 Stats: 2-8, 6.20 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 9.2 K/9
2013 Salary: $13.75 million
Josh Johnson is unlikely to receive a qualifying offer from the Toronto Blue Jays, according to Heyman. Based on the starter's 6.20 ERA, it's hard to argue with that logic.
However, there's also the right-hander's track record to consider. Johnson has twice earned All-Star honors, and in 2010 he posted the lowest ERA in the NL. The decision comes down to health. Johnson only appeared in 16 games last year and has only topped 30 starts once in the last four seasons.
Johnson could certainly return to form in 2014, but the injury risk makes him too much of a gamble for Toronto's front office.
8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
2013 Stats: .273/.338/.466, 40 doubles, 14 home runs, 118 OPS+
2013 Salary: $4.5 million
Jarrod Saltalamacchia provides serious pop for a catcher.
In the last two seasons for the Red Sox, the backstop has totaled 39 home runs. There's just one major problem with Saltalamacchia's game: He can't hit lefties.
In 2013, Saltalamacchia posted an .873 OPS against righties as opposed to a .628 OPS against lefties.
Boston still could extend him an offer, but that would only be an attempt to score a compensation pick in case Saltalamacchia reaches a multi-year deal with a new team.
9. Joe Nathan
2013 Stats: 6-2, 43 saves, 1.39 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 10.2 K/9
2013 Salary: $7 million
The Texas Rangers made the correct call by not making Joe Nathan a qualifying offer.
Nathan has saved 80 games over the last two seasons, but he's simply not worth $14.1 million. In fact, there isn't a single reliever who is worth such a figure.
The Rangers will certainly be frustrated if they lose a player of Nathan's caliber for nothing. In a larger sense, the case of Nathan provides a perfect example of how the current qualifying offer system severely undervalues premier relievers.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.