The November 4, 4:00 p.m. EST, deadline for qualifying offers has now passed. As expected, the Boston Red Sox have made the offers to three of their four eligible players: CF Jacoby Ellsbury, 1B Mike Napoli, and SS Stephen Drew. They did not, however, make the offer to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
A qualifying offer means that the team offers the player an automatic salary for a one-year contract. The player then has one week to accept or decline it. The salary is the average of the top 125 salaries in the Major Leagues. This year, it is $14.1 million. To become eligible, a player must have reached free agency and played the entire season with his current team. Should the player accept, he gets the one-year deal and $14.1 million.
If he declines it, then he becomes a completely free agent able to sign any deal he can get. The team that makes the qualifying offer then gets a first-round draft pick from the signing team to use after the first round. The exception is a #1-#10 pick. The signing team keeps that pick but give up its second pick.
As expected, Ellsbury declined the offer. He is reportedly seeking at least six years and $100 million. Ellsbury is garnering interest from many teams, including high-paying teams such as the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers. He was the catalyst in this year’s World Series championship with an on-base average of .355, 52 steals, and 92 runs scored in 134 games. If not for his mid-season hamstring problem, he would have topped 60 steals and 110 runs scored. Ellsbury is in the proverbial driver’s seat in choosing a team, and I cannot blame him for seeking the best deal he can get.
Napoli has not yet announced his decision, but the Red Sox expect him to reject the qualifying offer. Napoli sought a three-year contract last offseason, but his physical revealed that he still had some hip problems. He signed a one-year, $13 million deal instead. He had a terrific season: .259 but 23 HR and 92 RBI. Except for 2011, he was never a high average man, but he is a very good run producer. He could still sign with the Red Sox, but he wants that three-year deal now. I doubt he will get $14.1 million per year, but he could guarantee himself a job for the next few years.
The man who sealed Game 6 of the World Series with a solo home run made $9.5 million this year in Boston. A number of teams, including the Yankees, could use Drew on the left side of the infield. He can play either position. He would also like a multi-year deal. I doubt he will get anywhere near the qualifying offer, but — like Napoli — he could secure a job for the long run. At age 30, he may want to go that route whether in Boston or elsewhere.
Drew hit .253/.333/.443, 13 HR, and 67 RBI, but he is known much more for his defense. That defense really showed itself huge in the postseason.
It surprised me a little that Saltalamacchia did not get the offer. He is one of those solid — but not stellar players — who just helps a team win. He is a rare switch-hitting catcher with some power from both sides. He hit 25 home runs just two years ago but 14 this year. He gets on base (.338 in 2013) and drives in runs (65). He might have had more RBI if David Ortiz and Napoli had not driven them in already. He made $4.5 million in 2013, which makes me think he would have accepted the $14.1 million qualifying offer. Perhaps his low 21% caught-stealing rate had something to do with his not getting the offer.
Still, Saltalamacchia is 28, so he has plenty of time to make more money. This may be his best chance at a big salary and a long-term contract, so it may work out better for him that he did not get the offer.