It’s no secret that this past offseason was brutal for fans of the game of baseball, as the lockout and the back and forth between the league and the players made not only for a boring offseason but a sour taste in fans’ mouths across the league. While both sides had their sticking points, the two eventually came to an agreement at what seemed like the 11th hour and the Blue Jays’ season moved forward with only two cancelled series that would be made up later in the year so no games would be lost.
One point that was still needing to be ironed out as the season moved on was the introduction of an international draft, as the MLB and the MLBPA decided on a July 25th deadline to get a draft in place. The league has supposedly wanted an international draft for quite some time and they tried to sweeten the deal by motioning to drop the qualifying offer process should the players union vote in favour of the draft process. This ultimately failed to gain traction and the two sides could not agree, meaning the qualifying offer stays and there will be no international draft this offseason (and potentially following offseasons).
For those unaware, this process generally has a harsher impact on veteran players eligible for free agency, as they are now tied to draft pick compensation should they sign with another team in the offseason, which could limit their chances of maximizing on a deal because of the value associated with the draft pick. For example, the Blue Jays gained the 77th and 78th picks this past offseason for losing Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien when they rejected their QO’s and signed elsewhere. The offer is a one-year deal and is the average of the top 125 contracts on the season, which has normally sat at around $17-19 million since 2016 ($18.4 last year).
Looking at the Blue Jays roster, there are only two roster players currently slated to be free agents at the end of the season: reliever David Phelps and RHP Ross Stripling.
Phelps will surely not receive a QO (most relievers don’t) while there is a chance Stripling could fall into the potential offer category if he can continue to pitch well over the rest of the season. The right-hander has been a workhorse for the Jays since coming over in 2020 and has done everything the club has asked for him both in the rotation and the bullpen. This year, Stripling owns a 3.10 ERA through 22 appearances (14 starts) and owns a 7.1 K/9 and a 1.098 WHIP through 78.1 innings of work, amassing a 1.3 bWAR in the process.
It would make sense that by the end of the season, Stripling will most likely be sitting in the 2.0 to 3.0 area in terms of bWAR and everyone already knows that he is in line for a pay raise in free agency this offseason. Question is, will the Blue Jays present him with a qualifying offer which should have a value around the $18-$19 million area?
The qualifying offer is back on the table, and with a limited crop of free agents emerging from the Blue Jays this offseason, what will the impact be?
For reference sakes, former Jays LHP Steven Matz was sitting borderline on the QO question last year similar to Stripling and the Jays decided to let him test free agency without an offer, instead attempting to sign him to a longer-term deal. He decided to sign a four-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals instead at $44 million and has struggled this year on the field (5.70 ERA through 10 starts) and is now potentially out for the season with an MCL tear.
On one hand, Striping has been an effective pitcher when he is on and could be a valuable asset for the Blue Jays down the line whether in the rotation or the bullpen. On the other hand, if the club was unwilling to give Matz a QO, who finished with a 2.1 bWAR in 2021 which could be similar to Stripling this year, could they follow suit with him this year and let him walk? I would imagine the club might try to do a shorter-term extension and try to avoid the QO scenario altogether but it wouldn’t be crazy for Stripling to try and bet on himself this offseason considering he is currently pitching well and is out of the rotation, for the time being, helping his value.
The Jays will have to make a decision on Stripling later this season while more QO decisions will await the Blue Jays next offseason when more players head to free agency in Hyun Jin Ryu, Matt Chapman, Teoscar Hernandez, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
In terms of free agency, there are a few players coming up that should receive qualifying offers that could impact the Blue Jays’ decisions should they decide to go for one of the bigger names like Aaron Judge, Trea Turner, Jacob deGrom, Joe Musgrove, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Rodon, and Chris Bassitt. This of course changes if any of these players are traded over the next week, as a player must spend all season on one team to be eligible for a qualifying offer, which is why Kris Bryant wasn’t tied to draft pick compensation for the Colorado Rockies this past offseason.
The Blue Jays might not be spending the big bucks to land Turner or deGrom, especially considering the current roster and future money needed for contract extensions, but there are some names available who won’t be tied to draft pick compensation that could interest the Blue Jays (they have received QO’s before and cannot be offered again).
- 1B Brandon Belt
- RHP Noah Syndergaard
- RHP Kenley Jansen
Overall, the Blue Jays have one decision to make later this year on Ross Stripling and then a few more next year when more players head towards free agency barring a trade or extension before then.