Baseball’s Hot Stove, the game’s winter-long rumor, conjecture, trade and free agent signing frenzy, heats up soon. Free agents officially become free agents the morning after the Word Series ends, triggering the five days their immediately former clubs have to make Qualifying Offers, which this year must be $18.4 million. So the KC Royals, who have four free agents, have decisions to make.
Fortunately for them, there’s nothing to sweat. The decisions are easy.
Or, more accurately, the decision is easy. Why?
It’s all in the rules, and one free agent’s history.
Only Qualified Free Agents as defined by the Basic Agreement (the game’s collective bargaining agreement) are eligible to receive Qualifying Offers, which means the Royals don’t need to worry about their free agent quartet of Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Ervin Santana and Jesse Hahn if they previously received a QO before or didn’t spend the entire 2021 season with the organization.
That immediately and irrevocably disqualifies Holland, Davis, and Santana, all of whom received a QO at some point in their careers. Holland rejected Colorado’s $17.4 million offer in 2017, Davis did the same with the Cubs that year, and Santana turned down Atlanta’s $15.3 offer in 2014. And even if those three hadn’t received QOs before, the Royals need to move on from Holland and Davis; Santana did what Kansas City needed him to do and became a serviceable bullpen piece, but the prospect of him doing the same next season isn’t worth the $18.4 million he’d get if the Royals offered and he accepted a QO.
That leaves Hahn.
The KC Royals have no business extending a Qualifying Offer to Jesse Hahn.
Jesse Hahn, a Royal since the winter of 2018 when Kansas City picked him up in a trade with the A’s, is known to pitch well. He was 7-4 with a 3.07 in 14 games as an Oakland rookie in 2014, had a 3.35 ERA in 16 A’s games the following season, and was 1-0 with three saves and an 0.52 ERA in 18 games with Kansas City last year.
Unfortunately for Hahn and the KC Royals, however, injuries continue to plague the righthander, who underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after the Rays drafted him in 2010 and fell victim to another UCL injury during 2018 spring training that prevented him from pitching for Kansas City until early September 2019.
To make matters worse, Hahn missed most of this season with shoulder impingement syndrome, which forced him to the Injured List twice. He last pitched for the Royals in May, finishing with a 13.50 ERA in five appearances.
Hahn’s recent injury history, which limited him to 29 appearances in three Kansas City seasons, should discourage the Royals from making him a Qualifying Offer he’d be certain to jump on. He’s simply too great a risk to spend $18.4 million on.
That doesn’t mean Hahn won’t be back. The Royals don’t give up on players easily. Expect Kansas City to allow him to walk when the World Series ends, with discussions about a minor league deal to follow.
Qualifying Offer decisions won’t be hard for the KC Royals this offseason. They won’t be making any.