Tim Dierkes at MLBTR recently reviewed 2013's potenial free agents who could justify receiving a qualifying offer from their team, to either retain their services or receive draft pick compensation for their departures. He immediately crossed Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, and Zack Greinke off the list as locks to receive these offers (currently estimated at $12.5m). So I've decided to run through his list of others who may qualify to receive such an offer and hazard a guess as to which of the following options their current team (and the player) will choose: to extend a qualifying offer (Q.O.), to not extend a qualifying offer, or to negotiate an extension prior to free agency filing. Today we'll cover catchers and infielders.
- Yadier Molina - Molina's imposed a deadline for extension talks, so if an extension isn't signed sooner rather than later, I would expect St. Louis to recoup some draft picks, thus offering a Q.O. since he seems bent on receiving a lucrative long-term deal. And he will get one, but as rumors suggest, I think it will be with his current team. Prediction: Extension for 4 yrs/$45m with fifth-year option.
- Miguel Montero - Montero is a year younger than Molina with a more potent bat, so he also seems like a lock to find a long-term deal. GM Kevin Towers has yet to complete an in-season extension with a D-back, and extension talks with Montero have so far seemed to made little headway. Expect a resolution with him to come after the season, and I suspect it'll be a Q.O. that is not accepted. I don't think draft picks will be netted in the end, though, as I predict Montero to be re-signed.
- Mike Napoli - Since extensions rarely occur while the 162-game schedule is being played, it's doubtful Napoli is extended before becoming a free agent, especially since there's been little chatter of any extension talks. Texas, like Arizona, will put out a Q.O. that is not accepted, but will find the means to re-sign their offensively gifted catcher.
- Lance Berkman - I expect this situation to be decided by on-field results. If Berkman replicates or something close to it, he's easily worth $12.5m in 2013. And I do expect him to be healthy and produce, meaning a Q.O. that is accepted is likely. It makes sense for a team built to win in these next two years (only Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are signed beyond that) and it makes sense for a productive player nearing the twilight of his career.
- Brandon Phillips - This is also another team built to go "all in" these next two years. If extending Joey Votto beyond 2013 appears undoable, then maybe re-signing Phillips wouldn't be Cincinnati's best option; some sort of rebuild may appear necessary at that point. Regardless, the second baseman has made it clear he will get a long-term deal without a hometown discount, and I think the Reds will do it, and do it soon. Extension for 4 yrs/$50m.
- Erick Aybar - As Spring Training goes on, the likelihood of an Aybar extension diminish. It seems the club may prefer Jean Segura over the incumbent, but the question remains if Segura will be quite ready for a full-time role in 2013. If not, which is my opinion, the Angels may flirt with offering Aybar the Q.O. $12.5m would be a tough pill for them to swallow, but it could insure them the Gold Glove shortstop's services for another season or draft picks if the youngster declines and seeks long-term security. If such a scenario comes to fruition, I think it will be a Q.O. that is accepted.
- Stephen Drew - Drew is in a similar boat to Aybar's, though his contract has a 2013 mutual option that comes into play as well. I expect that to be nullified, meaning Arizona can choose whether to extend a Q.O. for either another year with Drew or draft picks. If his injuries continue through this year and/or Scott Boras fears he may find him another Edwin Jackson-type market, Drew could accept a Q.O. If it's a strong year, forget about it; Boras should make him a rich(er) man in 2013, most likely with another club. For that reason I foresee a Q.O. that is not accepted.
- David Wright - This may be the most interesting case out there with several possibilities. If the Mets decide they want Wright around for the long run, then picking up his 2013 option and a subsequent extension seem like the route to go. If they want to get a good haul of prospects for him in a trade, then they'd most likely wait the season out, pick up the option, and then deal the third baseman. If GM Sandy Alderson would prefer draft pick compensation instead, then declining the option and extending the Q.O. would be the road to take. The latter choice would most likely offend Wright and fans alike, so seems the least likely. With this franchise hurting as much as it currently is, I can't help but seeing the middle option happening. That's why no Q.O. is extended, but the option will be picked up and Wright will be dealt.