Eight of the ten free agents who were extended qualifying offers by their teams for 2017 rejected them on Monday, including the Orioles’ Mark Trumbo. With this step out of the way, we can now sketch out a picture of what the O’s should have available to them early in the 2017 draft.
Assuming, of course, that the Orioles don’t sign any of the seven other qualifying offer free agents, they will be picking first at #23. That pick will creep one spot higher for every QO free agent signed by a team that drafts from 11-22, if any do so. The top 10 picks are protected from being lost due to signing a QO-attached free agent.
The two players who accepted qualifying offers were Philadelphia’s Jeremy Hellickson and Mets second baseman Neil Walker. This is a fortunate development for the Orioles in that the Mets and Phillies were the two teams with qualifying offers out who had a worse record than the Orioles.
So, in effect, Hellickson and Walker taking their offers moves up the Orioles compensation pick for Trumbo by two spots to #32. If any of the teams who draft from 24-30 end up signing another team’s QO free agent, the O’s potential second pick will also creep up by a spot each time.
The seven players other than Trumbo who will cost a team a pick for signing them: Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond, Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Yoenis Cespedes.
That’s also assuming the Orioles don’t end up re-signing Trumbo. Anything is possible. Right around this time last year, we were all counting on the Orioles possibly getting three compensation picks. Matt Wieters took their QO for 2016 and they re-signed Chris Davis, so they only ended up getting one pick.
Add in the spring training signing of Yovani Gallardo and the cheap, short-sighted Brian Matusz salary dump trade and the Orioles draft pick bonanza of our early November 2016 imaginations just never materialized.
Just yesterday, I wrote on Camden Chat about how the Orioles should not let a lost draft pick stop them from improving the team if they have the chance to do so. But I don’t expect them to get the opportunity, because not only will those eight players cost a draft pick, they’ll also cost money, and this is still the Orioles we’re talking about.
Broadly, the Orioles have spent money on their guys and not much on anyone else. Trumbo had a nice enough season and hit a ton of home runs, but he’s not one of their guys. The rest of the QO list certainly doesn’t have any of their guys. Maybe this year we’ll at least get a couple of first round picks.
It’s not good for a team in the O’s position to value draft picks over all else, though they are still important. The odds of any one late first round pick working out are not great, but the picks are so close together for next year’s draft that the O’s will get two shots at the same talent pool, so their odds of getting one useful player will be better.
Actually making draft picks and choosing well-regarded prospects also gives another opportunity to improve the team. Prospects can be trade bait before they end up not making it at the big league level. It hurts when the Orioles trade prospects for crappy players, but when you don’t have great prospects, that’s what you’re going to get.
Many good prospects will end up being disappointments at the MLB level. It’s hard to be a big leaguer and it’s harder still to be a good one for several years. What might the Orioles of 2009 or 2010 have gotten if they traded can’t-miss pitching prospect Brian Matusz?
More recently, what might, say, the 2014 O’s have gotten for trading an uninjured Hunter Harvey? We’ll never know, but there were surely offers they fielded for Harvey, and if it had been known they were willing to trade him, they might have gotten several more offers.
If you actually make your picks and actually develop them a bit into useful-looking players - 2015 first rounder D.J. Stewart, I’m sorry, but right now I’m not looking at you - then more avenues open up to use those players to improve the team. You can call up a prospect eventually, or trade them for a better player than a two-month rental of Gerardo Parra.
The Trumbo qualifying offer being rejected will give the O’s a chance to pluck some talent from branches that they’ve not gotten as much in the past couple of drafts. Maybe they can actually take advantage of it this time.