Qualifying offers are a relatively new part of the baseball offseason, and they impact teams in three ways.
1. The immediate impact of extending offers to free agents.
2. The ability to gain draft picks if those free agents ultimately sign elsewhere.
3. The loss of a first-round pick if a team signs a player who received a qualifying offer elsewhere.
This afternoon, the Yankees made their decisions about Nos. 1 and 2. They made one-year, $14.1 million offers to Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Hiroki Kuroda. If any of those three accepts, he’ll be back with the Yankees next season. If not, the Yankees will get a draft pick if/when those players sign elsewhere.
That part is done from the Yankees side. It’s up the players now.
What’s to-be determined is how No. 3 will affect the Yankees going forward. It looks like 10 other players received qualifying offers — Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brian McCann, Kendrys Morales, Mike Napoli, Ervin Santana — and certainly some of them seem to be strong fits for the Yankees next season.
But how badly do the Yankees want to keep their first-round pick?
Right now, the Yankees have the 18th pick in next year’s draft. It’s their highest choice since 2005, and with a renewed emphasis on player development, the Yankees would obviously like to keep that pick to add another high-potential prospect.
That said, it’s worth noting that the last time the Yankees picked this high, it was a terrific draft class and the Yankees chose a high schooler named C.J. Henry, who was an overwhelming flop. And the Yankees are hardly the only team to swing-and-miss with that sort of pick. Go scrolling through drafts from the past decade and you’ll find that picks in the late teens are hit-and-miss, and they’re rarely standouts.
2001: Kris Honel, Dan Denham, Aaron Heilman, Mike Fontenot
2002: Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels, Royce Ring, James Loney
2003: Jeff Allison, David Murphy, Brad Snyder, Conor Jackson
2004: David Purcey, Scott Elbert, Josh Fields, Chris Lambert
2005: Chris Volstad, C.J. Henry, Cesar Carrillo, John Mayberry
2006: Jeremy Jeffress, Matt Antonelli, Kyle Drabek, Brett Sinkbeil
2007: Kevin Ahrens, Blake Beavan, Pete Kozma, Joe Savery
2008: Brett Lawrie, David Cooper, Ike Davis, Andrew Cashner
2009: Bobby Borchering, A.J. Pollock, Chad James, Shelby Miller
Some good names in there — Swisher, Hamels, Lawrie, Miller — but it’s mostly bit players and unknowns. It only emphasizes the unpredictability of a draft pick, even a high one. Beyond the top five or so, draft picks have a strong tendency to bust in a big way. If signing a player like Carlos Beltran costs the Yankees the opportunity to draft a guy like Cole Hamels, that would be a real regret. But it seems more likely it would keep them from drafting a guy like Brad Snyder, and that’s obviously a different story.
It’s also worth noting that, with three qualifying offers extended, the Yankees have a chance to add three draft picks in the 30s. Obviously not as good as an 18th pick, but it does at least somewhat offset the loss of that first-rounder.
Basically, keeping the 18th pick — or higher as other teams lose their first-rounders — would be great for the Yankees. Drafting higher is better, and this is the Yankees best draft opportunity in a long time. But it might not be a deal breaker when it comes to signing one of the top free agents on the market. The trade off might be well worth it.
Associated Press photos