The Royals have made qualifying offers (one-year contract offers of $17.4 million that net the team a draft pick if the player refuses) to pending free agents Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer. This move did not come as a surprise but nonetheless may play a role in the Mets' offseason as they look to retool their lineup.
This year marks the debut of a new system of qualifying offers, one designed to have a lesser impact on a player's market than in prior years. If the Mets sign a player who has received a qualifying offer, instead of losing a first round draft pick, they will lose their second-highest pick This is based on there being a big market team that didn't exceed the luxury tax last season, the rules vary for teams in other situations.
To the Mets, this is a lesser obstacle to signing a player than it would have been last year, though the league may see overall sticker prices on these players rise because they don't "cost" as much in draft pick compensation.
None of the soon-to-be-ex Royals are a perfect fit for the Mets, but a weak market, particularly for position players, may require the team to take on a square peg or two -- a concession more palatable when it doesn't cost a top draft pick.
On the surface, Moustakas and Cain make the most sense for the Mets because they would fill specific holes in the team's lineup -- third base and centerfield, respectively. During the season, I outlined some of the pros and cons of a matchup with Moustakas and the math hasn't really changed much since.
If this season was a legitimate breakout and not a statistical blip, Moustakas is a good fit, but because he doesn't have much history of sustained success, he's a big risk -- even moreso because the thin infield market will drive up his price.
Cain could provide an answer to the Mets' long-time question mark in centerfield and he is without question the best all-around player at that spot on the free agent market this year.
While not quite the elite defender he was from 2013-15, Cain is still an asset in the field and capable of above average offense, including a solid OBP that reached a career-high .363 this past season. A leadoff candidate as well as a true center fielder, the fit for the Mets seems ideal, but he will be entering his age-32 season and is poised to sign for four years or maybe more -- a risky combination the Mets have tried to avoid in recent years.
These are the kinds of player who would have been seriously hamstrung by a qualifying offer in the past. A first round draft pick is a huge loss to take in exchange for someone carrying a lot of risk, but even a second round pick is a very different equation, because the expected value is significantly lower. With the first round pick protected, the Mets may even consider adding someone like Hosmer, a known-quantity type player who would free up an existing piece -- perhaps Dominic Smith -- for a trade.
Players now have a full ten days to test the market after receiving a qualifying offer before they need to officially accept or refuse it, so get ready for a spike in rumors and speculation as everyone starts making phone calls. None of these three players will likely accept the offer and that should put them on the Mets' radar sooner rather than later.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring