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Kyle Lohse criticizes the qualifying offer system

Mar 7, 2014, 7:05 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks v Milwaukee Brewers Getty Images

Deep into the off-season, Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Ervin Santana, and Kendrys Morales were still free agents despite being productive players last season. Jimenez and Cruz recently signed with the Orioles, but the latter three still remain unsigned with the regular season just weeks away. All five rejected $14.1 million qualifying offers from their former teams and now have draft pick compensation attached to them, which is a considerable penalty for teams thinking about signing them.

Kyle Lohse knows their pain. Lohse rejected the Cardinals’ $13.3 million qualifying offer after the 2012 season and remained unsigned late into March before finally striking a three-year, $33 million deal with the Brewers.

Lohse isn’t too happy with how the qualifying offer system has changed life for veteran free agents such as himself and this winter’s five. Via Jon Heyman of CBS Sports:

“The market goes from 30 teams to like two or three,” Lohse recalled of his own experience. “I don’t think that’s the idea of a free market.”

It is, as Lohse called it, a “screwy” system whereby being part of a bad team (which triggered their midyear trades and precluded the possibility of qualifying offers), as Garza and Nolasco were, monumental benefits to the player. Meanwhile, being part of a good team like Santana was with the Royals and shortstop Drew certainly was with the World Champion Red Sox, is a detriment. Had Nolasco been saddled with a qualifying offer, there’s no reason to think he’d have gotten anywhere near $49 million.

“It seems screwy to change the system that drastically to where teams are staying away from guys who could definitely help them,” Lohse said.

The collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1, 2016, so free agents will have to put up with this system for at least a couple more seasons.

  1. raysfan1 - Mar 7, 2014 at 7:19 PM

    There is another way–have the insight to know when the qualifying offer is higher than the AAV you are currently likely to get, then accept said offer, play well, and parlay that into another contract.

    • Reflex - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:06 PM

      The problem is that the QO is non-guaranteed. A team can cut a player during spring or at any point during the season. It is worth it to a player to earn less for the following year if it comes with a guaranteed contract.

      Say Kendrys, for instance, took the M’s qualifying offer. Over the course of the winter the M’s signed Hart and Morrison and are committed to giving Smoak and Montero a final shot. Kendrys is then seen as an expensive luxury, the M’s locked him up so he can’t negotiate with other teams, but when they break camp after spring if they are convinced that Hart can hold down the DH slot, they can just cut Kendrys and he is now starting the season without a job and only a small pro-rated portion of his salary.

      I get why they turned down the QO. Two guaranteed years @20/mil is worth more than one non-guaranteed year @14.1 mil.

      • pastabelly - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:33 PM

        QOs are guaranteed.

      • pastabelly - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:37 PM

        Here is a link which explains that QOs are guaranteed contracts.

      • Reflex - Mar 7, 2014 at 10:26 PM

        Good to know. I thought it was the same as arbitration deals.

      • deep64blue - Mar 8, 2014 at 7:50 AM

        Arbitration deals are guaranteed as well!

      • tuberippin - Mar 8, 2014 at 5:53 PM

        I don’t think there are any non-guaranteed contracts in Major League Baseball.

      • Reflex - Mar 8, 2014 at 6:45 PM

        Then what the hell am I thinking of? There was a type of deal that can result in a cut and it is paid out in 1/6 increments each season. Where is paperlions when I need him?

  2. missingdiz - Mar 7, 2014 at 7:21 PM

    Well sure, he has a point. Some outcomes are not ideal. But these guys turned down $14 million. $14 million would cover the salaries of 200-250 schoolteachers or nurses. Now that’s a screwy system.

    • Reflex - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:08 PM

      Our system churns out a lot more teachers than it does world class athletes. Supply and Demand come into play. Criticality of the position is a distant second to that.

      I’d argue that my current job as a software engineer is nowhere near as critical as a teacher, soldier, fire fighter, police officer and many others. Yet I out earn all of those, and by comical amounts once stock options are factored in.

      Again, supply and demand.

      • happytwinsfan - Mar 7, 2014 at 10:45 PM

        you don’t out earn them comically but marketwise. getting to wear a a uniform and/or a gun to work doesn’t put them at the top of the actual value department it just puts them at the top of the rhetorically sacred cow department. engineer on software dude, even though the rest of us desperately, vainly, strive to deny our dependence on you. i expect no less then a developing century of enduring progress which leaves my grandchildren free of material want.

      • Reflex - Mar 7, 2014 at 11:23 PM

        I do not really agree with this. I find it strange that most software engineers fresh out of college command salaries higher than those who taught them their trade.

        And yes, I value those who protect criminal and civil law over those who simply profit from it.

      • happytwinsfan - Mar 8, 2014 at 12:30 AM


        it’s not strange at all. the “law” is mostly (not entirely) a bunch of self aggrandizing clap trap written by competing interest groups. understandably a majority seeks refuge within in it. a minority continuously objects and drives forward something way over my head but i thank God for it.

        engineer on young software dude. we did our best now it’s your turn.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Mar 8, 2014 at 11:08 AM

        The difference is as a software engineer you are probably making someone else money. Cops and firefighters are an expense. I dont know if cops bill for anything but my fire dept bills for certain services but that billing isnt doing much more than replacing the supplies that were used, it isnt making much money if any at all.

      • Reflex - Mar 8, 2014 at 6:44 PM

        brewcrewfan – Oh I agree with that, even though without the ‘expenses’ the profit making individuals simply cannot exist. But more importantly, you are making my point to the original poster all over again: Ballplayers make owners of ballclubs billions of dollars, and there are a limited number of people who can play ball at the required level, thus they are worth tens of millions of dollars per season. If teacher could make someone billions of dollars, they would be paid like ballplayers are.

        happytwinsfan – I get the feeling a lot of things are above your head. Your simplification of the ‘law’ is sad, the vast majority of law exists so that basic life can be conducted freely, and it achieves that goal very effectively.

      • happytwinsfan - Mar 8, 2014 at 10:55 PM


        damn straight a lot of things are over my head. difference between you and me is i know that and you don’t.

  3. musketmaniac - Mar 7, 2014 at 7:31 PM

    wow, how much are you overpaying those teachers.

  4. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 7, 2014 at 7:37 PM

    Lohse doesn’t blame the agents or the players but wonders about the bigger deal, the CBA itself. He said he doesn’t believe MLB knew the rule would be quite as “penalizing” as it turned out to be.

    Hmm, didn’t realize the owners forced this down the players’ throats. Figured something like this would have been collectively bargained so the MLBPA is just as much at fault. But that couldn’t be it…

    • jeffbbf - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:26 PM

      Again – how is this more penalizing than the old system in which the signing team had to give the ex-team its first round pick? The signing team still has to give up a 1st round pick. did then, does now. I guess the main difference is the loss of 1st round draft budget, so the signing team can’t turn around and overpay for a 2nd rounder that nobody else wants to reach for, but c’mon…this isn’t enough to cry that the system is flawed.

  5. leylandshospicenurse - Mar 7, 2014 at 7:44 PM

    466 teachers/nurses is closer to the #, but I get the point

    • gibbyfan - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:01 PM

      I don’t know where you are from but if my math is right at 56K/yr 14M would cover the salaries of about 250 teachers. If you factored in the real cost including benefits/pensions the number would drop below 200….

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:35 PM

        Most teachers aren’t making $56K a year. And considering how much additional work they put in that’s not paid, their “compensation” is far less.

      • gibbyfan - Mar 7, 2014 at 10:39 PM

        Average salary for a teacher where I’m from is 66000/yr not including fringe which can easily add on another 30%

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 7, 2014 at 11:10 PM

        And my wife, who’s coming up on her 10th year of teaching is making just more than half that here in NC. And she’s one of the higher paid teachers in her area (Charlotte Mecklenberg is the second largest employer in NC behind UNC schools).

      • forsch31 - Mar 8, 2014 at 12:01 AM

        As of 2013, national average starting salary for teachers is $36,141. That was pretty much my salary as an editor for a health care book and journals publisher….more than a decade ago.

        For most states, overall average salary is less than $60,000–only 9 states have a salary above that, and only 1 of those goes above $70,000 (New York).

      • gibbyfan - Mar 8, 2014 at 8:08 AM

        I think for sure we would all agree that teachers are way under paid, especially given their responsibility. But, I guess nobody ever said life was fair and no better way to illustrate that than talking about the salaries of teachers and ball players………………BTW–That 70,000/yr for teachers in NY/NJ has to be weighed in the context of the off the charts cost of living, especially in the city.

  6. leylandshospicenurse - Mar 7, 2014 at 7:47 PM

    Maybe players should settle for less money on the final year of their contract with a clause preventing the QO

  7. thebadguyswon - Mar 7, 2014 at 7:49 PM

    Boo freaking hoo, you idiot. You SIGNED the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Lohse. It’s not baseball’s fault that your agents are too stupid not to know when to accept the qualifying offer. They’re the ones dropping the ball.

    • gibbyfan - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:02 PM

      yea –and it’s a little tough to feel to sorry for a young multi millionaire who is saddled with the problem of having to accept 14 million to play baseball for 6 months………

  8. brewcrewfan54 - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:02 PM

    Ball players have complaints about their job just like the rest of us. When they are complaining about turning down $13-14 million for a seasons worth of work they shouldnt do it publicly.

    • dinofrank60 - Mar 8, 2014 at 7:34 PM

      Nobody likes ball players to complain ablut anything. But no one likes anybody to complain about anything. Nobody likes teachers, firemen, or police to complain, Nobody likes minimum wage workers to complain. Nobody likes college students to complain. Nobody likes old people to complain; nobody likes kids to complain.

      So baseball players aren’t immune; they have to be miserable like the rest of the populace.

  9. pastabelly - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:44 PM

    If the players want to eliminate QOs, they may have to give something back, like adding a third year of arbitration.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:36 PM

      They already have three years of arbitration. The only ones who have more are the Super 2’s who qualify for a 4th year.

    • Reflex - Mar 7, 2014 at 10:27 PM

      I don’t know that the owners like how QO’s are working out either. I’d say both sides are likely to want to rethink this.

  10. mtr75 - Mar 7, 2014 at 11:09 PM

    Hey Kyle, nobody forced you to reject the qualifying offer, buddy. The correct answer to the question “would you like $13.3 million for throwing a ball?” is “Yes, yes I would.”

  11. bluesdroogie - Mar 8, 2014 at 12:16 AM

    so Lohse turned down 13.3 for 1 year and accepted a 3 year 33 mill deal. I guess he wanted length instead of money. The Q.O. system is screwy. it should be if you cannot come to an agreement with your player then said player is a truly free agent. why is there compensation if no deal is made? is there any other major sport that does it like this? I just do not get it. and then it screws over that player by having to wait until what, june? in order to sign a deal with a different team with no picks being given up

  12. dcarroll73 - Mar 8, 2014 at 2:35 AM

    So we are all on the side of billionaire owners, and spoiled ballplayers should just shut up, is that what I am reading? This makes as much sense as other workers resenting coal miners in the 1880s because, you know, they made so much more than the rest of us so they really shouldn’t cause trouble. When will people realize that these players, as high in the stratosphere as their money seems to us, are a lot closer to us than the really wealthy folks who own those ball clubs? And when it comes time to build a new stadium, to whom do you think those billionaire are going to send the bill? Got a mirror? (And if you balk, the threat, spoken or un-, will be to move the team.)

    • raysfan1 - Mar 8, 2014 at 9:50 AM

      No, it has nothing to do with the owners, per se. The owners and players association collectively bargained and agreed on the current system. Specific players over-valuing themselves does not mean the owners are screwing them over. Pointing out that players are not being screwed over is not being a shill for the owners. Maybe the next CBA will address the issue if the two sides agree it needs adjusting, but I’ll bet it isn’t changed much.

  13. dirtyharry1971 - Mar 8, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    Kyle would be a great fit for the bluejays if they ever decide to spend a buck this offseason

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