Two Starting Pitchers Should Accept The Qualifying Offer
After the 2011 season, the A and B type free agent classification was changed to a qualifying offer system. A qualifying offer is a one year deal that teams can extend to impending free agents the team had control of for the entire season. The one year deal is valued at whatever the average salary of the top 125 salaries in the game is. For 2015, a qualifying offer is valued at a shade below $16 million at $15.8 million. No player that has ever been extended a qualifying offer has ever accepted it. I make a case for both Ian Kennedy and Yovani Gallardo to both accept the qualifying offer and return to the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers.
The Padres acquired the former 21 game winner with the Arizona Diamondbacks at the trade deadline in 2013. Kennedy has spent two full seasons with the Padres and has had one very good season (3.5 wins, 2014) and one very bad season (0.8 wins, 2015).
In 2014, Kennedy brought a ton of value to the Padres and was a potential trade chip at the deadline. He made 33 starts for 201.0 innings with a nice 24.5 K% and a 3.63 ERA (3.21 FIP, 3.44 xFIP). The one key to Kennedy’s success in 2014 was minimizing the home run ball. His HR/9 at 0.72 was his career best total since 0.77 in 2011 which was a campaign that he won 21 games with Arizona.
2015 saw Kennedy’s HR/9 total balloon to 1.66 which was the highest home run rate for any qualified starting pitcher in the entire MLB. As a result, Kennedy’s value dipped to the 2nd lowest of his career at 0.8 wins. His K% remained virtually the same and his walk rate went down. Despite the awful home run total, his 3.70 xFIP gives reason to believe that he can bounce back to be the around the same calibre starting pitcher he was in 2014.
It’s clear that Ian Kennedy’s success is determined by the frequency of home runs he allows. Look at his two best seasons as a full time starter and the home run ball was not an issue for him at all. He consistently posts high strikeout totals and decent walk rates.
The Case: Kennedy pitches in one of the most pitcher friendly ballparks in the MLB. Petco Park is huge and does not allow many home runs. If he cuts down on the home runs, Kennedy instantly builds his value high enough to be one of the more sought after starters on the 2016 market. At $15.8 million I think it’s a no brainer for Kennedy to take the money to rebuild his value. Even if he posts another subpar season, there will be a market for his services in 2016.
The Rangers traded for Gallardo last off-season and obtained him after some seasons where he was one of the top pitchers in the game with the Milwaukee Brewers. He hasn’t really been at ace level since 2011, but he still consistently brings decent value at 2.0 or higher ever season since 2011. He is a very consistent middle of the rotation type starter.
Gallardo doesn’t rely on the strikeout like he did when he was at his peak with the Brewers and that has led him to become more of a finesse pitcher who relies on location and defense to be successful. In 2015, Gallardo was worth 2.5 wins. He threw 184.1 innings and had a nice ERA at 3.42. His K/9 continues to decline each season as his stuff becomes more and more flat but the one thing he does very well is not being a victim to the home run ball.
Despite posting a good season for Texas, Gallardo has one major thing going against him. He doesn’t pitch deep into ball games at all. In fact, Gallardo failed to make it beyond the 6th inning after a late June start at the Toronto Blue Jays. He averaged just above 5.0 innings per start which isn’t a great total. You know what you’ll get from him though. He will give you 5-6 solid each time out and when he is on, he racks up the groundballs and can occasionally dominate a lineup. He still shows flashes of being an ace, but Gallardo truly is more of a decent 2 or very good 3.
The Case: Gallardo takes the $15.8 million for 2016 to pitch another season in Texas, which is his home state. The Rangers added Cole Hamels and will be getting Yu Darvish back for 2016, so Gallardo figures to be the #3 maybe even #4 in the Rangers rotation for next season. Take the pressures of being the stopper off him and he could build his value to being one of the most reliable mid rotation arms in the game for 2016 free agency. In this day and age, a solid mid-rotation arm could be worth $14-$16 million per season.
Should Ian Kennedy and Yovani Gallardo accept their qualifying offers and rebuild value (Kennedy) or maintain or build more value (Gallardo), these are some of the arms they would be up against in 2016 free agency. Just remember, some of the arms may not even make free agency or more arms could be added:
- Andrew Cashner (30)
- Gio Gonzalez (31)
- James Shields (35)
- Stephen Strasburg (28)
- Edinson Volquez (33)
- Jered Weaver (34)
- C.J. Wilson (36)
Among this current list of starters, good 2016’s from Kennedy and Gallardo have them near the top of the list of most desirable 2016 starting pitchers. Take the qualifying offers and reap the rewards of a weak 2016 starting pitcher crop.