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Eight elite free agents decline qualifying offers

Only nine free agents received qualifying offers from their former clubs. One player signed an extension while the other eight players declined offers and will pursue free agency.

Hiroki Kuroda has turned down the Yankees offer and may return to L.A.
Hiroki Kuroda has turned down the Yankees offer and may return to L.A.
Doug Benc

Eight of the best free agent players who were extended one year salary offers of $ 13.3 million to forego free agency and remain with their former clubs have declined those offers and will instead become free agents, making them available for any club to sign. As reported here on November 2nd, only nine of the more than 120 major league free agents were extended qualifying offers by their former clubs. Clubs are required to make a "qualifying offer" to any potential free agent in order to receive a supplemental first round draft choice as compensation should the player sign with another club.

Of the nine, David Ortiz quickly signed a two year, $ 26 million contract to stay in Boston. On Friday, all eight of the other players declined the offers. Any club that signs one of the elite eight will have to surrender their highest available draft pick in next June's amateur draft, with the exception that the top ten picks are protected and can not be given up as compensation.

The eight players who were given offers are the Yankees' Rafael Soriano, Hiroki Kuroda, and Nick Swisher, outfielders Michael Bourn of the Atlanta Braves, Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers, and BJ Upton of the Tampa Bay Rays, First base/ outfielder Adam LaRoche of the Washington Nationals, and pitcher Kyle Lohse of the St Louis Cardinals. Rob Rogacki has been profiling these free agents and other potential acquisitions for the Tigers in detail here.

Of the eight, it was believed that Kuroda had the greatest chance of accepting the qualifying offer, and the best chance of remaining with his 2012 club, but the Dodgers have apparently made their former pitcher a favorite target while the Yankees have indicated that they will not give more than a one year contract, as they've sworn to get below the luxury tax threshold by the 2014 season.

Kuroda is believed to want to pitch in Japan again before he retires, and was therefore happy to take a one year contract last year, but perhaps the lure of his former club and the west coast, not to mention a pile of money, will convince him to stay for a couple of seasons. Tiger fans would like to see Kuroda return to the Dodgers, as they're also keen on Tiger pitcher Anibal Sanchez. The Red Sox are also interested in Kuroda.

Adam LaRoche is believed to want to remain in Washington, but the two sides have not come to an agreement. All of the eight players have enough value that they can easily land a multi year contract from another club should they desire. Bourn, Hamilton, Upton, Lohse, and the other Yankee free agents appear sure to be changing uniforms this winter.

Early rumors have linked the Phillies, Red Sox, and Nationals to Upton and Bourn. The Nats are also interested in Hamilton. Five teams were reported interested in Swisher, including Texas and Seattle. LaRoche has drawn interest from Boston and Texas. Not surprisingly, there are no teams yet reported interested in meeting Scott Boras's asking price of $ 60 million over four years for Soriano. The Tigers won't be in on the bidding, even when the price comes down. Danny Knobler of CBS reports that the Tigers have decided to stay in house to fill their closer vacancy.

The Tigers did not make a qualifying offer to any of their potential free agents. Sanchez was not eligible to receive a qualifying offer as he was traded in mid season. Reports are that his agent was looking for $ 90 to $ 100 million over six or seven seasons. He won't get that, but the Tigers, Dodgers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Rangers are all said to be interested once the asking price comes down to earth. Sanchez figures to be the second best free agent starting pitcher after Zack Greinke.