Colby Rasmus signing a $15.8MM qualifying offer to return to the Houston Astros for the 2016 season – this seems like non-headline news during the early stages of the offseason. However, Rasmus’ decision may have a reverberating effect throughout the league. Here are some takeaways from the Astros’ outfielder’s choice.
In all due respect to Rasmus, the big piece of news with this story is not that he signed a qualifying offer, but that he is the first player to have ever signed a qualifying offer. Introduced in the collective bargaining agreement started in 2011, a qualifying offer is an option given to teams with the main purpose of getting something back when losing a free agent. It now seems to be outdated as the idea behind the offer was that it was reducing the gap between high-spending teams and low-spending, giving the low-spending an extra draft pick if the New York Yankees of the league offered way more money than a lower class team would be able to for their own free agents.
The basics are actually pretty simple with the offer – a team gives a pending free agent the option to take a one year, $15.88MM deal to stay with the team and wait one more year before hitting the open market. Current contract value states that 1 WAR is worth between $7 and $8MM so the team is in the simplest terms, wagering that the player they offer will be worth at least 2 WAR.
The fact that no player has ever taken the offer before has lowered the risk of teams making the offer. Now that one player has broken the ice, should other teams be concerned? Of the 20 qualifying offers given out, five are currently not projected to reach the 2.0 WAR in 2016 – Dexter Fowler, Yovani Gallardo, Ian Desmond, Marco Estrada and…Colby Rasmus.
As far as this writer’s personal interest, Jeff Samardzija will be deciding on his qualifying offer by the end of Friday. Even though he is projected at 2.7 WAR, I do not want him back even at a qualifying offer level. When Samardzija was asked about the offer in September he stated “…for me it’s more about a professional thing and respecting the guys that came before me that have put us in this situation in the game.” Those comments were in regard to accepting a qualifying offer and essentially saying no player had done it before, why should I be the first? Now that he isn’t the first, will that affect him, or any others’ decisions?
What Rasmus is getting
Rasmus is only projected as a 0.8 WAR player in 2016 even though he was a 2.8 WAR player in 2015 and that doesn’t even include his amazing postseason. Rasmus became notorious for his “party guy” personality in the Astros’ celebrations this season and he is ensuring that he is part of a promising team for one more year. The Astros have a crowded outfield after the acquisition of Carlos Gomez which should allow for platooning and should take pressure off Rasmus. After being paid $8MM in 2015, it must be nice to double his salary. He will have another chance to hit free agency after the 2016 year as a 30 year old and with another good season, and perhaps another amazing postseason, he could still get one more big contract.
What the Astros are getting
Rasmus had a bounceback season in 2015 with a .789 OPS (113 OPS+) and then capped it off with an outstanding postseason. He had eleven hits with four homeruns in the Astros’ six postseason games and added at least 9.6% in WPA in three of the six games. As a lefty who can hit lefthanders (Rasmus actually had reverse splits in 2015), Rasmus gives the Astros plenty of flexibility. He played all three outfield positions during the 2015 season and is a slightly above average defender. He doesn’t run well and strikes out a little too much but it does seem like an okay bet that he will be worth the one-year commitment. And if he can repeat his postseason performance again next year, the contract will seem like pennies.