How are qualifying offers impacting baseball?

Could the Orioles have any interest in free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran? What about first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales? Or outfielder Shin-Soo Choo? What about pitchers Hiroki Kuroda or Ervin Santana?

Well, if the O’s do have any interest in any of those players - and a few others - it will cost a first-round draft pick to sign them. The players I mentioned and eight others were given qualifying offers by their current clubs. If they turn down those one-year offers - and we’ll know that by Monday - a team signing those players will lose a draft pick. In the O’s case, they would have to give up the 17th overall pick next June.

Could the Orioles afford to do that?

Probably not, and the qualifying offers don’t seem to be doing much for competitive balance in the game. These offers can also hurt the individual players’ bargaining power in free agency and reduce the number of teams that can truly negotiate with them.

This seems to help the teams with the most money that can afford to sign such players and, in some cases, can more afford to make the qualifying offer in the first place.

The rich getting richer?

Meanwhile, six of the 13 players receiving qualifying offers are Red Sox and Yankees, and those teams stand to get a draft pick for each one they might lose. More draft picks for the Red Sox and Yankees. That works great for the rest of the division.

ESPN’s Buster Olney, speaking on a podcast on this week with Keith Law, said the qualifying offers have not worked well for baseball.

“It is clear that the players association didn’t read this one right,” Olney said. “The qualifying offers have become to baseball, I think, what in some respects what the franchise tag is in the NFL, where it essentially chases off a lot of the suitors for free agency.

“The perceived value of draft picks and young players has changed so quickly and dramatically over the last decade after the publishing of ‘Moneyball.’ Teams now absolutely horde those draft picks.

“They place such a high value on them to the point where even guys that are doing it say, ‘Yeah we are probably overvaluing.’ It really hurts the free agents that have the draft pick compensation hung around them.”

Yeah, suddenly draft picks in baseball look like gold, and some teams, even the ones with the biggest payrolls, don’t seem to want to part with them.

“Look at what the Red Sox did last winter,” Olney said. “They were aggressive going after free agents in total dollars spent. But was there a common denominator with every guy signed?

“Absolutely. Shane Victorino, no draft compensation. Ryan Dempster, no draft pick compensation. Mike Napoli. That was their strategy. This is one of the big market teams and one of the most aggressive, and they were not going to give up a draft pick.

“After the Brewers gave up what, the 18th or 19th pick overall last year to get Kyle Lohse, they were crushed in the industry with people saying, ‘What are they doing?’

“Yes, they got a decent deal because his market was diminished, but you can’t give up those draft picks. That is part of what was unforeseen before the players association agreed to these terms.”

Here are the 13 players given qualifying offers last week:

Carlos Beltran
Robinson Cano
Shin-Soo Choo
Nelson Cruz
Stephen Drew
Jacoby Ellsbury
Curtis Granderson
Ubaldo Jimenez
Hiroki Kuroda
Brian McCann
Kendrys Morales
Mike Napoli
Ervin Santana

Could the Orioles afford to sign any one of this group and give up a draft pick?

You can listen to the podcast with Law and Olney by clicking here. It also features an interview with agent Scott Boras and the conversation about qualifying offers begins around the 18-minute mark.

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