Rockies Extend Qualifying Offer to Michael Cuddyer

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In a surprising move, the Colorado Rockies have extended a qualifying offer to outfielder Michael Cuddyer.

Actually, scratch that: extending a qualifying offer to a 35-year old coming off an injury filled year would be surprising if it were any team other than the Rockies. For this team, though, it’s normal.

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To clarify, a qualifying offer is a one-year, $15.3 million offer that usually is given only to stars or good players in their primes. To give you a sense of the players who usually get qualifying offers, Melky Cabrera, Francisco Liriano, Russell Martin, David Robertson, Victor Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, Ervin Santana, Max Scherzer, Pablo Sandoval, Nelson Cruz and James Shields have all already gotten one. They are all pretty good.

Players rarely actually accept these offers, both because they are looking for more than $15 million per year and especially because they want more than a one year offer. In fact, no player has ever accepted a qualifying offer. Why, then, do teams give these players offers they won’t accept? Because if a player who has been awarded a qualifying offer signs elsewhere, the team that loses the player gets draft pick compensation. It’s a good way to recoup at least some value for a lost superstar.

All of this leads to Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer is likely to be the first player ever to accept a qualifying offer. He’d be getting a huge raise on last year’s $10.5 million contract as he enters his age-36 season, and also would be rewarded for playing all of 49 games last season. If it sounds bad, that’s because it is. The Rockies are probably costing themselves a chance to go after a starting pitcher who could drastically upgrade their rotation. With $15 million, they could get Ervin Santana, or they could get Justin Masterson and a top-flight reliever. Instead, they could well be paying a 36-year old- at their deepest position, no less- $15 million.

Unless the Rockies plan on trading Carlos Gonzalez, they could have headed into 2015 with a starting outfield of Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, and Corey Dickerson, with Drew Stubbs and Brandon Barnes as fourth and fifth outfielders. That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Now, they will likely have the same logjam in the outfield they had last season; it’s impossible to play Cuddyer AND CarGo AND Blackmon AND Dickerson together, not to mention the X-number of games Stubbs and Barnes should and will start. It just doesn’t seem like a great way to spend $15 million.

I write all of this with the expectation that Michael Cuddyer will accept the qualifying offer. That might not be the right way of thinking of it because it’s unprecedented, but I just feel like it’s going to happen. And if it does, the Rockies are going to head into 2015 with a roster more like 2014’s than any of us want.

When healthy, Michael Cuddyer is a good player, especially offensively. If the Rockies were to sign him at a reasonable price, I’d be happy. There’s been some speculation that the Rockies plan on eventually signing him to a two-year deal for less money per season. But forgive me for not having the utmost confidence in the front office. The off-season has barely started, and it already feels like Jeff Bridich is sinking to a level often frequented by Dan O’Dowd.

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