Who could accept?

Friday afternoon was the deadline for teams to make their free agents a qualifying offer. The QO is a one-year, $15.8-million contract that entitles the player’s former team to draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. Players have until next Friday to accept or reject the QO. A record 20 players received the QO Friday. No player have ever accepted the QO since it was implemented during the 2012-13 offseason, though this offseason there appear to be three players who could realistically consider taking it and making $15.8 million in 2016: outfielder Colby Rasmus and right-handers Ian Kennedy and Marco Estrada. Kennedy, who turns 31 next month, had a 4.28 ERA (85 ERA+) in 168 1/3 innings for the Padres this season, allowing a remarkable 31 home runs, including 19 in 85 1/3 innings at spacious Petco Park. He was pretty good in 2014 (3.63 ERA in 201 innings) but the fact is Kennedy owns a 4.19 ERA (89 ERA+) in 759 innings over the last four seasons. The 32-year-old Estrada had a marvelous season with the Blue Jays, pitching to a 3.13 ERA (126 ERA+) in 181 innings. He also dazzled in Game 5 of the ALCS, with Toronto facing elimination. Estrada is also only a year removed from leading the majors in home runs allowed — he served up 29 dingers in 150 2/3 innings in 2014 — and his strikeout rate fell for the third straight year, from 25.4 percent in 2012 to 23.1 percent in 2013 to 20.4 percent in 2014 to 18.1 percent in 2015. There was no tangible difference in Estrada’s stuff this season. His velocity was in line with previous years, he didn’t alter his pitch selection, and he didn’t add a new pitch. Estrada has always benefitted from low batting averages on balls in play (career .264) because he generates a lot of weak pop-ups, but he was especially fortunate with a .216 BABIP in 2015. That isn’t to say Estrada is bad. He’s a solid major-league starter who is more likely to pitch to his career 3.95 ERA going forward, not his 3.13 ERA from 2015. If there was a new pitch or change in pitch selection or anything like that, it would be easier to believe Estrada’s success in 2015 was a sign of things to come and not just a career year. Teams will proceed with caution. In past offseasons…
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