CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – If the Cleveland Indians truly had any interest in outfielder Colby Rasmus, the left-handed hitter’s price tag just got a little steeper.
On Friday, the Houston Astros extended a one-year qualifying offer to the 29-year-old worth $15.8 million. In doing so, Houston guaranteed themselves compensation if Rasmus should decide to decline the offer and sign with another club.
Under baseball’s current structure, any team which signs a player who declined a qualifying offer must forfeit their first round pick in the following MLB Draft. Teams in the top 10 of next season’s draft are protected and must forfeit their next highest selection outside the top 10.
The departing player’s former club then receives compensation at the conclusion of the first round.
The Indians are currently slotted 16th in next year’s MLB Draft after finishing 81-80 in 2015. That means if Cleveland should choose to pursue a free agent player who was extended a qualifying offer, the Tribe will be forced to forfeit their first-round choice in 2016.
Many do not expect the Indians, who have limited financial flexibility, to be big players in free agency this off-season. While nothing has officially tied Rasmus to Cleveland as of yet, he was a name some have speculated could be a good fit.
The left-handed hitter slashed .238/.314/.475 in 2015 with Houston. He would instantly, however, become the Indians’ biggest power threat, as the outfielder smacked 25 homers with the Astros this past season.
Overall, he finished with a 115 wRC+ (which means he created 15 percent more runs than the league average) in 2015 and has been an above average offensive player over his seven-year career. And while he played a lot of left field for Houston, Rasmus has played a pretty average center field throughout his career.
Center field is an area Cleveland could look to upgrade this winter. Abraham Almonte was better than expected after the Tribe acquired him from the San Diego Padres at the 2015 trade deadline, but Almonte might be better suited to contribute as a backup outfielder.
A fit between the Indians and Rasmus, who figures to earn a multi-year deal, seemed to make some sense prior to Friday’s somewhat surprising qualifying offer extension by Houston. Now, the price tag for the outfielder — which includes the money paid in free agency in addition to the forfeiting of a first-round pick — might be a little too steep for Cleveland.
While the attachment of compensation tied to Rasmus could conceivably limit his contract offers to a degree, the surrender of an early draft choice makes any decision to pursue him a lot more difficult to consider.
In the meantime, players have seven days to accept or decline the qualifying offer.
Overall, a record 20 players received qualifying offers, including Kansas City’s Alex Gordon, Chicago’s Dexter Fowler, Los Angeles’ Zack Greinke, San Diego’s Justin Upton and Baltimore’s Chris Davis.
No player has ever accepted a qualifying offer, which increases in value every year.