The Blue Jays qualifying offer decisions came down today, and if you were hoping for some big surprise to get you excited about the Jays, you were probably a little disappointed.
#BlueJays extend qualifying offers to Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. No offer for Michael Saunders.
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) November 7, 2016
As predicted most everywhere, both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion received offers. They will have one week to make their decisions, but the two sluggers are basically locks to reject the offers. Even with Bautista’s down year, they are two of the premier bats in this somewhat shallow free agent market and should easily be able to get multi-year contacts. The Jays will likely make some attempt to sign both, though how hard they will try is yet to be determined. The team has lots of holes and both those players will cost a lot of money.
In a similarly predictable situations, Brett Cecil, R.A. Dickey, and Gavin Floyd did not receive qualifying offers from Toronto. They had varying degrees of success, but none would be worth a 1 year, $17.2M commitment (the value of this year QO). Scott Feldman, Dioner Navarro, and Joaquin Benoit were ineligible to receive offers (though they would not have anyway), as they were traded mid-season.
The only real question mark was Michael Saunders. If you just dropped in at the end of the season and looked at his overall line of .253/.336/.478 with a career-best 140 games played, you could make a very good argument that he would be worth the QO, even with a large dip in his defensive value.
Of course, we haven’t just dropped in. We’ve all been paying attention, and Saunders’ season has been one of two very different halves. In the first half, Saunders looked like a lock to receive a qualifying offer, reject it, and then score a large deal in free agency. After all, he hit .289/.372/.551, including a .301/.383/.614 line against lefties, and earned a spot on the American League All-Star team.
In the second half, it was as though Saunders was a completely different player. His overall line fell to .178/.252/.387 and he became barely playable. He did continue to play better against lefties than righties, with a line of .199/.276/.423 against same-sided arms, but he was just hopeless for long stretches of play. The team was left with the question of “which is the real Saunders?” and the answer is probably neither of them. He isn’t the All-Star, and he isn’t the bench player he looked like at the end. But no matter what he is, there was just too much risk to provide him with an offer.
With teams able to talk to everybody starting Tuesday, the long free agent slog is finally ready to begin.
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