Following the conclusion of the 2015 World Series, the 2015-2016 MLB offseason is officially under way. At the end of Friday, a total of twenty players around the league were offered qualifying offers by their respective teams. Each of the players will have exactly one week to either accept or decline the one year, $15.8 million contract. If a player declines the option, the team that signs him this offseason will be required to give up a pick to the original team as compensation.
In the three years since the new rule’s inception, not a single player has accepted a qualifying offer. This year may be the year that statistic finally changes. There are actually several players that could logically sign the qualifying offer. None, however, are more interesting candidates than that of Ian Kennedy.
More so than perhaps any other player who did end up receiving a qualifying offer, there was actually quite a bit of doubt about whether Kennedy would be extended the offer at all. While most of the other cases were pretty sure things, including Kennedy’s teammate Justin Upton, reports as recently as Thursday said the Padres were still unsure about extending him the qualifying offer this offseason. In the Padres eyes, the opportunity for not one, but two potential compensation picks in next year’s draft was too much to pass up.
Ian Kennedy is coming off a rocky year to say the least. After a horrible start to the season, one in which his ERA was closer to 6.00 in the first two months of the season, Kennedy rebounded rather well to finish the year with a 4.28 ERA to finish the season, not great but definitely a lot better. It is on the strength of that resurgent second half that the Padres are offering Kennedy the qualifying offer.
Based on his recent performance, there is a case for Kennedy to accept the qualifying offer. It seems pretty clear that it is unlikely Kennedy will get the the same average dollar value in a long-term deal this offseason if he does decline the offer. At the age of 30, Kennedy could elect to take the qualifying offer, attempt to build up his value further in 2016, and hit the free-agent market next winter at the age of 31, when there is a much thinner crop of potential starting pitchers to be signed.
On the other hand, Kennedy is getting older and he could elect for long term financial security over short term financial gain. It may make more sense for Kennedy to sign a four- or five-year deal with some guaranteed money, just in case he does decline further in 2016, thus eroding his value even more. This also makes sense, given the fact that Kennedy is represented by agent Scott Boras, a man known for getting the most money possible for his clients.
It remains to be seen whether any player elects to accept the qualifying offer this offseason and be the first player to have done so. While there are arguments for and against Kennedy accepting such an offer, it really could go either way over the next week. What is certain is the fact that Kennedy accepting the qualifying offer this offseason makes a great deal of sense for both his short- and long-term prospects.