Dallas Keuchel is surprised that he was the only Astros player extended a qualifying offer.
The Houston Astros have made their final decisions on whom they offered qualifying offers to before last Friday's deadline. A qualifying offer is similar to a franchise tag in the NFL, a one year deal for $17.9 million. The team can extend a qualifying offer to the player who can either accept or decline the offer. If he accepts, the player would be awarded the one year deal, but they can still negotiate an extension. If the player declines, he is free to sign anywhere.
The player can sign anywhere, but the team extending the qualifying offer would receive a compensation pick should that player sign elsewhere. There lies the problem. Teams are hesitant to sign players knowing that they will have to give up a pick. Last year, we saw players like Jake Arrieta and Mike Moustakas struggle to find a team. With the way the Astros value draft picks, you would think that they would extend their three eligible players the qualifying offers.
Instead, the Astros only extend a qualifying offer to Dallas Keuchel and not Marwin Gonzalez and Charlie Morton. The qualifying offer is a gamble because $17.9 million is a large number, so they look at it as a player by player basis. Last year, Keuchel made $13.5 million through arbitration. His projected market value is more than $20 million per season via Sportrac, so if he accepts the offer, the Astros will get a great deal.
With that being said, they know that Keuchel is not going to accept, he is trying to get a long-term deal. He is coming off his first healthy season since he won the Cy Young Award in 2015. Via Brian McTaggart, Keuchel expects to reject the qualifying offer but has not ruled out returning to Houston.
"I think they're doing what's best for the Houston Astros as a business," - Keuchel via McTaggart.
While Keuchel wasn't surprised he got a qualifying offer, he was surprised when they didn't extend a qualifying offer to the others. He alluded that Gonzalez and Morton were both expecting to receive the qualifying offer. Both players felt like they earned the qualifying offer, but the Astros chose not to. The Astros are doing what they do, try to save a buck or two.
As Keuchel said, it's a business. Maybe the Astros didn't extend Gonzalez a qualifying offer because they were afraid he would accept it. As we learned from the book Astroball, the Astros assign a value to each player. They would prefer not to pay more than that, which is why we may see Gonzalez land elsewhere. For example, if Gonzalez feels like he is an $18 million a year as a starting shortstop, the Astros see him as a $12-15 million type utility player. Salary info from Sportrac.
Morton struggled at the end of the season after pitching the most innings in the regular season in his career. The shoulder injury cost him some valuable time at the end of the season, and he was not crisp at the end of the year. Morton is nearing the end of his career, so he would have likely accepted the offer to make $17.9 million. That's a huge jump from his $7 million plus incentives he made in 2018.
Just because they were not offered or plan on declining the qualifying offers doesn't mean they are planning to leave. The two sides would have to work towards a deal and compete against other teams trying to sign those players. Of the three, Morton is still the most likely player to return to the Astros. We will see as the Hot Stove season progresses.
We will discuss this and more tonight on Talking Stros from 8-10 pm on KTXF - Houston Preeminence. We will be joined by Chandler Rome.