The Washington Nationals took their first steps toward the 2013 free agent class this afternoon when they extended a qualifying offers of $13.3 million to first baseman Adam LaRoche.
LaRoche now has until Friday, Nov. 9 to accept or decline the offer.
If he accepts the offer, a $3.3 million raise over the $10 million option he declined earlier this week, he will be under contract for another year with the Nationals. If he declines he is still free to return to the Nationals on a new contract — and the Nationals have been discussing a multi-year deal with him since before the 2012 season ended.
But if he declines that offer and signs elsewhere, the Nationals will net a compensatory pick in the 2013 draft from the team that acquires him.
The qualifying offer system is new to baseball, modified from the old “Type A” and “Type B” free agent format and put into place by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Only free agents who are made qualifying offers, and turn them down, carry with them the possibility of draft pick compensation.
Most of the compensatory picks will come after the first round of the draft in a specific compensatory round, but the team that signs a player with compensation attached will lose a first-round draft pick or, if they have a protected pick in the top 10 selections, their second-round pick.
How this affects the Nationals is mostly the way it affects all teams. It could serve to help their cause and depress the market for someone like LaRoche, who wants to return to the Nationals and who they want to keep. Teams are increasingly aware of the value of their first and second-round draft picks and, thus, are somewhat unwilling to surrender them.
It also is an added consideration for any of the qualified free agents they choose to pursue this weekend as their first-round draft pick is not protected.
But overall, with regard to LaRoche, it’s a situation for the team in which they can’t lose. They will at least gain a draft pick if they do not retain the veteran first baseman who hit .271 with 33 home runs, 100 RBI and Gold Glove defense in 2012.
The Nationals could have also extended a qualifying offer to right-handed pitcher Edwin Jackson as well, but it appears they did not, likely signifying a parting of ways between the two sides. Something can still be worked out at a later date but Jackson is likely seeking a multi-year contract.