2017 Reds / 2018 Reds

Report: Reds will not extend qualifying offer to shortstop Zack Cozart

This isn’t entirely unexpected, but Zack Cozart’s exit from Cincinnati has just become more likely:

In an expected decision on Monday as the free-agent market opened for business, the Reds will not extend a qualifying offer to shortstop Zack Cozart , according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. A source told MLB.com, however, that the team was debating its options.

Teams have until 5 p.m. ET on Monday to make a qualifying offer of $17.4 million to its own free agents, a figure set by the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball. If an offer is made, players have 10 days to accept and if it is declined, the team is eligible for a compensation pick in the 2018 Draft.

For the record, here are the tweets from Heyman that broke the news:

ITt was never particularly likely that the Reds would extend a qualifying offer to Cozart. The situation became murkier thanks to Cozart’s strong 2017 season, in which he hit .297/.385/.548 with 24 home runs, earning his first All-Star nod, but $17+ million for a 32-year old shortstop is awfully pricy.

On the other hand, as Heyman noted (and as Mark Sheldon noted in the piece linked above; go read the entire thing), the Reds haven’t ruled out signing Cozart to a multi-year deal. A lot will depend on the free agent market for shortstops — no one should expect Cozart to sign with Cincinnati for a sweetheart hometown discount, since this is his one opportunity to get a really big payday.

But if the market is soft, Cozart may be willing to sign a deal for the next three years to remain in Cincinnati. And I think such a deal could possibly be justified, though there are good arguments for and against the proposition. (You can read some of our arguments on the matter here.)

Stay tuned…

36 thoughts on “Report: Reds will not extend qualifying offer to shortstop Zack Cozart

  1. Chad, nice write-up and summary of a situation that has hung around the Reds and this blog for quite a while.

    With the Astros winning, I expect the model of “build a cheap, young core, add vets only when truly contending” to get even more extreme. This does not help Cozart and his bid to get paid this off-season.

    I still think he ends up with Reds on some multi-year deal, more so because it’s a marriage of convenience for both parties, neither of whom have great short-term alternatives.

  2. Maybe I don’t understand how qualifying offers work, but I don’t see the downside I offering one. Cozart would be crazy to accept it unless nobody is willing to offer a halfway decent multi-year deal. And the “worst case” scenario is they pay Cozart $17 million for one year, which might be a reasonable investment if they’re serious about 2018, and then work with him on a more team-friendly 2nd and 3rd years. What am I not understanding?

    • To start, Cozart must decide to accept or reject the qualifying offer quickly, before the market for Cozart develops. He simply won’t know if anyone is willing to really offer a halfway decent multi-year deal before he must decide. Then there’s the issue of competing in 2018. That is still a big IF for the Reds so spending $17MM for just one season makes no sense. Then there is no reason for Cozart to accept a big team-friendly discount in his only shot at a big payday. He has a family and a Donkey to think about.

      • I find it hard to believe he wouldn’t be able to have at least a vague sense of the ballpark he could expect. I think we all have at least a vague sense of what he could expect for a 3 year deal. Regardless, it would be a huge gamble to accept any one year deal right now. Any significant decline or injury next year and he’s potentially losing $20+ million over the following few years, and for what? To (maybe) make an extra few million up front? If I’m Cozart I’m looking for 3-5 years, period, and if I have to take considerably less than 17/year, so be it. As mentioned in the post, this could be his ONE chance for a big multi-year deal.

        • But if your question is what the downside is to (the Reds) making a QO, I think several have been mentioned. He gets hurt, he comes back to Earth in performance level or he stays healthy and produces but for a team that doesn’t have a likely chance of competing anyway. In any of those cases, the Reds have committed a significant portion of payroll toward a guy they don’t really need when they could be applying that money toward pieces they could benefit from down the road. So, from the Reds standpoint, it makes a lot of sense not to give him a QO.

          • What I’m saying is that it’s hard for me to imagine Cozart accepting any one-year offer at this juncture.

          • So I think the Reds wouldn’t end up paying $17 million for him even if they make the offer. They’ll get an extra draft pick and it will cost nothing.

          • J – I see what you are saying and agree. You could go two ways with it.

            It could be that the front office feels confident in the ability to replace Cozart and does not want to risk the small chance he accepts, especially considering the return is now only a 70-80 overall pick, not as valuable as it once was.

            Or, they are really trying to sign Cozart to a multi-year deal.

  3. Before the 5:00 p.m. deadline today, the Reds should get Cozart and his agent together with a 3-year, $30MM offer with a team option for a 4th year at $10MM with a $3MM-$6MM buyout of the option year. That’s a guaranteed $33MM-$36MM for 3 years and a possible $40MM for 4 years. That might get it done to Cozart’s and the Reds’ satisfaction.

    I know everyone’s heard it from the Old Cossack before and is certainly tired of the Old Refrain, but the Reds are going to miss Cozart if they don’t extend him.

    • If I am the Reds, I would rather regret not signing him if he has a few more good years than regret signing him if he gets hurt and declines and we find ourselves with another bad contract. The former is easier to recover from in my opinion.

  4. do we really want to pay a guy that much money who jogs to first base and can’t field a grounder unless it is hit directly to him? I know he was injured but good gravy. it was painful to watch him play last year.

    • Again, I would challenge anyone to identify any player who could play good defense at SS with two gimpy quads. Quads heal with rest, recovery and rehabilitation. It was painful to watch Cozart play defense during the 2nd half but even while dealing with the quad injuries, he managed an average defense that was just painful to watch. Cozart will be fully recovered from the quad injuries next spring and two seasons removed from his knee surgery.

      • I agree it was painful but still better than a lot of shortstops. I thin if we can et him at that 3yr/30mil range we could do it. If we don’t we may be wishing we had that average defense.

      • yes quad injuries heal. problem is they recur . especially playing a physically demanding position at short stop. he would be the perfect guy to move to first base but that spot is already occupied. just wouldn’t sign him for more thn a 1 year deal.

        • Hmmm…

          I may have missed those instances of recurring quad injuries, but I don’t recall any off the top of the Old Noggin. Hamstring injuries are notorious for recurrence, but I just don’t remember problems with recurring quad injuries. I may very well simply not recall them and that could be more likely than not with this Old Memory.

  5. I feel this was the expected and correct decision here. Unless the Reds can get him really cheap for 2 years (8-10 M/yr), I say thanks and wish him well. I still feel the they need to move Suarez back over to SS where he’ll soon be average on defense and above average at the plate for years to come. That clears the path for Senzel at 3B and allows the Reds to take advantage of their glut of 2B talent Gennett/Herrera/Blandino/Long. If they don’t move Suarez back, make acquiring Jurickson Profar a priority.

  6. I see Peraza is hitting .316 with 12 hits, 1 double, 1 triple 2 BB, 2 SO in the Venezuelian league.

  7. If there is no market for Zach and we can get him for one year I say bring him back. Stephen drew is an example

  8. Dick Williams has said Suarez is staying at 3b.I believe the reds really want cozart back…but at their price .
    Jose Peraza is negotiating leverage.
    I would sign Cozart for 2/20 with a team option for a third year. Will there be a team who gives him 3/40? Probably.

    But. He had no suitors at the trade deadline…lots of players with options this weekend chose to keep their deals and not test the market….cueto.marlins lefty.Tanaka. wieters etc.

    The marlins are seeking a payroll bailout and many teams will be hoarding cash to prepare for the greatest FA market ever next offseason with harper.machado.Kershaw Donaldson.

    I think someone will give him 3 years and AAV 12-14 million but it could get interesting if his value falls.

    • I think you’re dead on target with pretty much everything you say here. I especially agree on the points about teams holding onto money for the big post 2018 free-agent class and on Cozart’s expected contract amount. The only thing I’ll point out that may be contrarian is that I think a big reason for Cozart not having suitors at this year’s deadline was the fact he was hurt. Teams didn’t know if he’d come back at all, let alone come back and be able to play like he had leading up to the AS break.

  9. This was a no-brainer. There is no market out there for shortstops, especially older ones with injury histories, because every competing team already has a shortstop that they are happy with. I’ve looked high and low at which team could justify paying Cozart a big contract to play short, and I can’t identify one team for which it would make sense. If the Reds made the QO to at $17mm, he would certainly have taken it.

    The “downside” is that the Reds would be paying an older and oft-injured shortstop with one excellent offensive season likely 50% more than any other team would be willing to pay him. The Reds are correct to wait, and then either sign Cozart to a 2-3 year deal at a much lower number, or to let him sign elsewhere if the number is too high. It’s not personal, Sonny; it’s strictly business.

    I do think the Mariners may have an interest in Billy Hamilton.

    • If I’m Cozart I would certainly NOT have taken it. I’ve just had my best year and I’m about to become a free agent. That’s ideal. If next year isn’t so good, or I get hurt, I can kiss a 4 year $40+ million contract goodbye. And for what? So I’m guaranteed a few extra million next season to play for a last-place team in a small market? No thanks.

      • I just can’t identify a team that is going to pay him $40mm over 4 years, nor have I heard anybody else who has been able to do so. It could happen, and in fact I think that the Reds may offer 2-3 years @$10mm/year. Cozart, though, would have had a pretty narrow window to accept the QO, without really knowing what the non-Reds market is.

        While it is now merely theoretical, I would haven taken the $17mm bird in the hand for this year, and assumed the risk for years 2-4.

  10. This was the right move. Agree if two years 20 mill does the job then great. Otherwise, wish him the best and trade for our future SS if we can. Unbelievable that peraza has a 5% walk rate in winter ball. Jose either hasn’t received the message, or it has not been delivered.

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