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MLB Offseason Preview: Who will receive qualifying offers?

It’s possible some players will return to their teams on one-year deals.

MLB: ALDS-Cleveland Indians at New York Yankees
Will this heavy hitter receive a QO?
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason’s Qualifying Offer value has been set at $17.4 million, and as usual, a handful of free agents will receive QOs from their current teams. Before we take a look at who will get an offer, though, let’s take a look at who can’t.

The following players would have been at least possible candidates to receive a QO, but can’t, because they were traded midseason:

J.D. Martinez
Yu Darvish
Jay Bruce
Todd Frazier
Yonder Alonso
Addison Reed

Now, on to the players who are at least likely to be tendered QOs. Let’s get the guarantees out of the way first; all of these players will receive QOs thanks to strong seasons, and they’ll all decline in a heartbeat:

Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, Cubs
Greg Holland, Rockies
Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain, Royals

Now, for the more difficult cases.

The mid-rotation starters: Lance Lynn (Cardinals), Alex Cobb (Rays) and Andrew Cashner (Rangers)

These three players actually had fairly similar seasons: all had ERAs between 3.40 and 3.66, posted ground-ball rates between 44 and 47.8%, and outperformed their FIP by a significant margin. The drastic difference lied in K-BB%. Cashner’s was a very poor 3.1%, whereas Lynn and Cobb posted respectable 9.7% and 11.3% marks, respectively. Cobb and Lynn are fresh off their first full seasons after Tommy John surgery, with Lynn making every start and Cobb missing just four due to a couple of occurrences of turf toe. Cashner made 28 starts, completing his third straight season with at least 27 trips through the rotation.

I predict that Cobb and Lynn will both receive QOs, with Cobb easily declining and Lynn mulling over the decision before ultimately declining as well. Cashner will not receive a QO.

The “they’d receive one if they were on just about any other team” guys: Carlos Santana and Zack Cozart

I really think that if they were playing for most other teams, these two would be a pretty obvious “yes” to receive qualifying offers. But, because of the Reds' rebuild and the Indians' potential budget constraints, I’m not so sure.

It’s been reported that the Reds would be willing to bring Cozart back on a multi-year deal, but that would carry a much lower AAV than $17.4MM (probably in the $12-15M range), and it’s very possible that the Reds want to keep payroll down during their rebuild in order to have more money to spend later. Cozart had a career year, pairing his usual stellar defense with a .297/.385/.933 batting line.

Now for Santana. The Indians would definitely love to have him back; the pop in his bat along with an elite batting eye have allowed him to produce a career OPS+ of 121 despite a career .249 batting average. He proved he could play a very good first base this year, has even filled in in the outfield at times, and can hit anywhere in the lineup from leadoff all the way down to the No. 6 spot in the lineup. However, the Indians may not have a lot of money to spend. Per RosterResource, they have just $6M to spare before reaching their 2017 budget, when factoring projected arbitration raises and pre-arbitration salaries. Thus, they, similarly to the Reds will Cozart, would in all likelihood prefer to re-sign Santana to a multi-year deal with a lower AAV, whereas many other teams would be able to absorb the extra cost.

Predictions: Cozart and Santana both receive QOs, with Cozart nearly accepting before declining, and Santana declining easily.

Do you agree or disagree with my predictions? Any other players you think are on the bubble? Sound off in the comments below!