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.)