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Zimmermann, Desmond get qualifying offers; Span doesn’t

Nov 6, 2015, 5:04 PM EDT

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The Nationals extended 1-year qualifying offers worth about $15.8 million to Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond in advance of Friday’s 5 p.m. EST deadline, ensuring they will at least get back draft-pick compensation for either of those free agents should they sign elsewhere this winter.

The Nationals did not submit the offer to Denard Span or Doug Fister, not wanting to risk the possibility of either veteran accepting the deal and returning to D.C. next season on the heels of disappointing performances in 2015.

Players who were given the qualifying offers have one week to either accept them and thus re-sign with their team for 2016 at the $15.8 million salary figure or decline them and move into free agency while giving their past club a draft pick as compensation once they sign with another franchise.

The decisions to extend qualifying offers to both Zimmermann and Desmond were no-brainers, even though each player enters free agency off a disappointing season.

Zimmermann wasn’t up to his usual standards in 2015, going 13-10 with a 3.66 ERA. (The previous three years he had averaged a 15-7 record and 2.96 ERA.) But the 29-year-old right-hander still has been one of baseball’s most consistent and durable starting pitchers and figures to command a 9-figure contract from another club this winter. The Nationals haven’t expected to re-sign Zimmermann for some time, but they’ll at least receive a draft pick as compensation for losing him.

Desmond suffered a more significant drop-off in production this season, hitting just .233 with a .290 on-base percentage and a career-high 187 strikeouts. The 30-year-old shortstop won’t get the 9-figure contract he had been seeking, but he’s still expected to get a long-term deal as a free agent and probably wouldn’t take the risk of accepting the qualifying offer and attempting to reestablish his value with one more season in D.C.

The decision whether to extend a qualifying offer or not to Span wasn’t an easy one. The Nationals understood how valuable the 31-year-old center fielder was to their lineup and defense the last three seasons. But on the heels of an injury-plagued 2015 that included three separate surgeries for injuries to his hip and core muscles, Span is no sure thing in 2016. He might have accepted the offer, leaving the Nats on the hook for $15.8 million to a player with major health questions. Had he declined the offer, Span might have faced a depressed free agency market, with other teams not willing to give up a draft pick in exchange for signing him.

The Nationals probably would have made the offer to Fister had he put together another solid season on the mound. But the 31-year-old right-hander bore little resemblance in 2015 to the consistent groundball machine he was in 2014, going just 5-7 with a 4.19 ERA and losing his spot in the rotation down the stretch to rookie Joe Ross. Of all the Nationals’ free agents, Fister would have been most likely to accept a qualifying offer, so the club was forced to concede zero compensation for his loss.

  1. Dave - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:11 PM

    Interesting. Sorry about Span, but I think it’s a reasonable decision and easy to understand.

    JZimm will, of course, get paid. Desi will also, I presume, go out on the market–but would he take another year with the Nats at 15.8M?

  2. positivelyhalfst - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:13 PM

    I am disappointed that they did not send an offer to Span. I would have been fine if he accepted, even though nobody ever does. I see this as a sign that they might sign him back at a discount, or that they are willing to spend the money on another outfielder instead.

    Three draft picks would have been better than two. One would be better than two if they signed a big free agent pitcher again.

    • abqnatsfan - Nov 6, 2015 at 6:44 PM

      If you think Span might come back for one year at a discount, than it is far more likely he would have accepted a qualifying offer. You don’t turn down $15.8M if you are willing to sign for $10M. They had a difficult choice, but I think they made the right call. Time will tell.

  3. Doc - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:13 PM

    I guess that Span could have an outside chance of coming to the Nats’ ST. But his recent medical history may have finished his career anywhere in MLB.

    • natsguy - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:33 PM

      Isn’t that a little pessimistic for you Doc. He played pretty well this year even when hurt. He would be a bargain for the Nats or someone else. Just not worth 15.8 million if he took the QO.

  4. Section 222 - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:16 PM

    I have every confidence Span will find a deal for next year. Just not for $15.8 million. He’ll need games played incentive to get anywhere close to that level. And maybe someone signs him for more than a year, but at nowhere near $15.8 million/year. Maybe a Cuddyer- like deal, but I think his health uncertainties make even 2 years/$20 million unlikely. It might be different if he was under 30, but he’s not.

    • janebeard - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:24 PM

      I’m shocked by no offer to Denard. Seems ungrateful. He’s been aces for us. I know Ian is better off elsewhere with a longer deal. But I would be so happy to keep him. Ah. The business side of baseball kills me. Except DFAing Pap would add ten years up my lifespan. So not ALL business s hard.

      • natsguy - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:35 PM

        I like the way you think about Papelbon. I really love the way Span plays and will miss him if he moves on, but unfortunately 15.8 is a pretty steep price.

      • Whynat - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:54 PM

        In a way, not giving Span a QO makes him more marketable as a free agent,

      • virginiascopist - Nov 6, 2015 at 6:09 PM

        Not tendering the QO to Span is doing him a huge favor and, since Boras is his agent now, may be an attempt to garner more good will with him (lest anyone think we don’t have enough banked yet), if we are going to try to extend Harper, Rendon, and Stras.

      • abqnatsfan - Nov 6, 2015 at 6:49 PM

        I can’t imagine how gratitude plays into offering Span a qualifying offer. He didn’t refund money this year when unable to perform (nor am I saying he should have). It is a business, and at the money involved it is a business for both sides. We are talking about folks who are making generational wealth either way. They don’t need sympathy on being dissed on getting extra money just cause we like them.

        I wish Span well. But I don’t worry about him having the wealth to have a good life.

      • veejh - Nov 6, 2015 at 6:50 PM

        Good will from Boras? LOL!

  5. Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:19 PM

    Denard will land somewhere in MLB, possibly even here. When he was on the field, he was productive.

    • senators5 - Nov 6, 2015 at 7:23 PM

      and that is the problem and clearly could continue to be the problem for Span (who I like very much) WHEN??

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 6, 2015 at 11:29 PM

        Exactly. But he’s still useful, just not at that QO contract.

  6. chaz11963 - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:24 PM

    Can someone please tell me the strategy and benefit in waiting until the last second to make this announcement? I would think they would have made this decision already. Are they, for some reason, waiting to see what other teams do first?

    • Section 222 - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:28 PM

      They may have been in talks with the players since they have exclusive bargaining rights until tomorrow. Some teams did announce in the last few days.

      • chaz11963 - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:31 PM

        Is Desi, ZNN, or Span Boras client(s)?

      • NatsNut - Nov 6, 2015 at 7:33 PM

        Span switched to Boras earlier this year.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 6, 2015 at 11:30 PM

        It’s also possible they told the players, personally, some time ago, and just announced it today because, why not?

  7. Sonny G 10 - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:36 PM

    I agree with the Nat’s QO decisions. Fister is definitely not worth it and I think Denard is too much of an injury risk to make at QO. We need to concentrate on making the playoffs and hopefully winning the World Series, for which we need healthy players.

  8. langleyclub - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:40 PM

    Span is represented by Boras. Desi and JZ are not.

    Not QOing Span and Fister was so predictable.

    Span missed 60% of the season, and it’s still not clear if his injury issues have been addressed. Really hard to commit to paying $15.8 to a player when you have no idea if he can even play in 2016. Fister looked done in 2015, When pitchers are over 30 and lose velocity, they usually don’t get it back. There was no chance that the Nats were going to QO him.

    The Nats will be in the mix for Span. No team has a better relationship with Boras than the Nats, and if some other team does not blow Span away with an offer (the Cubs are reportedly interested), could see the Nats and Span agreeing to an incentive laden deal.

    • chaz11963 - Nov 6, 2015 at 6:01 PM

      Thanks. I think they can do some homework on Span’s injuries and the recovery risk. Likely even offset that risk by some other means- not relied upon as starter, insurance, etc. I think a team does that homework and could likely offer a multi-year deal commensurate with what he made in 2015 ($9M) or even at a discount if the risk can be articulated and shown to Boras in terms of $$$s.

  9. sunshinebobby - Nov 6, 2015 at 6:03 PM

    I have no problem with this. Stockpile the draft picks. I will be most curious which team rolls the dice with Span. I’m a Span fan, but remember, he was hurt prior to coming to the Nats. I guess Boras will call in a chit somewhere. But he’s high risk. I can’t imagine any team giving him a two-year. But I could be wrong.

  10. alexva6 - Nov 6, 2015 at 6:50 PM

    this is the safe play financially. there may be a lot of inactive payroll this year.

    • infideljack - Nov 6, 2015 at 10:19 PM

      Hmmmm..RZim, WRamos and JW come instantly to mind and who knows how Rendon will be based on his history?

  11. mauimo22 - Nov 6, 2015 at 7:38 PM

    I think 15.8mm is disgusting! At the end of the day these guys are the best athletes in their sport but to command that kind of green when the average fan makes 50 or 60k a year if they have a great job? I’m disgusted by it.

    • natsjackinfl - Nov 6, 2015 at 9:49 PM

      Then don’t take part in the fan experience.

      • Candide - Nov 7, 2015 at 8:30 AM

        + 15.8 million.

        I think 15.8mm is disgusting!

        That’s the amount the players (through their union) and the owners agreed to, by contract. Obviously neither the players nor the owners are disgusted by it. So what’s your beef, mauimo22?

      • Joe Seamhead - Nov 7, 2015 at 9:29 AM

        +15.8mm

      • mauimo22 - Nov 7, 2015 at 2:19 PM

        I believe as a fan I’m entitled to have this opinion without someone saying “then don’t be a fan”.
        America was built on dissenting opinions but has turned into fear and bullying.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 6, 2015 at 11:19 PM

      a) The average fan probably isn’t as good at anything as these guys are at baseball;
      2) the median income in DC is closer to $90 K, FWIW;
      iii) “That kind of green”? compared to who, movie stars? musicians? Google employees in San Francisco?

      Most musicians aren’t rock stars. Most actors aren’t movie stars. Most baseball players aren’t in MLB. The Potomac Nationals play less than an hour from Nats park, and they probably average a little more than minimum wage. Frederick, Hagerstown, and Delmarva are all within a reasonable drive from DC.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 6, 2015 at 11:24 PM

        Oh, and I forgot point #1: So you’d rather the billionaire owners just keep that money for themselves, like they could do before free agency?

      • ArVAFan - Nov 7, 2015 at 6:45 AM

        +IV

      • natsfan1a - Nov 7, 2015 at 8:19 AM

        As well, the average fan’s career lasts decades longer than the average MLB ballplayer’s career.

      • NatsNut - Nov 7, 2015 at 9:26 AM

        Hey. I’ll have you know, I can file a paper as well as, if not better, than Werth can hit a fastball.

      • natsfan1a - Nov 7, 2015 at 9:50 AM

        And could he index a book on humanities GIS? I think not.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 7, 2015 at 11:31 AM

        Well said, all, but in my defense, I never considered either of you average.

      • mauimo22 - Nov 7, 2015 at 2:22 PM

        And in my book they are way overpaid. Just sayin’

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 7, 2015 at 2:36 PM

        Do you object to anybody making “Top 1%” money, or just entertainers? Just wondering.

    • Guapo - Nov 9, 2015 at 10:11 AM

      The top 0.0001% in any profession generally make a lot of money.

      The average pro ball player (minors included) makes more in line with what an average working stiff (like me) makes.

  12. natfan33 - Nov 7, 2015 at 7:52 AM

    Well, we know one team Desi won’t be going to: KC. Not with 187 strikeouts.

  13. Candide - Nov 7, 2015 at 8:36 AM

    So if Denard is gone, who’s going to be the Nats’ 4th outfielder? Someone who we can probably already pencil in to start half the Nats’ games this season?

    Clint Robinson?
    TyMo?

    What FA outfielders is Rizzo looking at?

    Gonna miss Denard. He taught Cunegonde to not gasp in dismay every time a ball was hit to the outfield.

    And by all accounts, a total class act off the field as well.

    • veejh - Nov 7, 2015 at 8:50 AM

      Right now it’s den Dekker, until we sign that lefty bat we so direly need. I’d say 2 lefty bats wouldn’t hurt now. Sign Zobrist and that takes care of the lefty issue, the outfield issue, and the infield issue all at the same time.

      • infideljack - Nov 7, 2015 at 1:27 PM

        den Dekker. Did we strike gold? Or is it just pyrite? Maybe we will learn more during ST?

    • donniebenth - Nov 8, 2015 at 12:08 AM

      My wish list begins with Jason Heyward.

  14. topnat - Nov 7, 2015 at 7:29 PM

    One thing to keep in mind on the compensatory draft picks is it’s not just about the chance to draft young talent. Having two potential picks allows you to persue other QO’d players knowing at worst you are nuetral on draft picks. You can be more aggressive in the FA market.

  15. Guapo - Nov 9, 2015 at 10:13 AM

    Guapo has officially joined the Ian Desmond fan club.

    He is the greatest player ever. He hits HR’s all day! Fantastic athlete! Great clubhouse guy! And he’s a big hit with the 35+ female fans in your fanbase. Would look great in Padres blue.

    Someone sign him, please. Please.

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