Sep 26, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Mike Minor (26) is congratulated by catcher Salvador Perez (13) after a win over the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Qualified to be Free

Monday, the Royals extended qualifying offers to their top three free agents, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. That means those three have the opportunity to accept and sign a one year deal with the team for 2018 for $17.4 million. If they turn it down, they could still come back to the Royals, but the QO sets up the team to get some compensation if and when they sign with a different team. For the Royals, if they sign a deal elsewhere worth $50 million or more, they’ll get a pick directly after the first round. If they sign a deal for less than $50 million after turning down the QO, they’ll get a pick directly before the third round.

But anyway, I’m not really here to talk about the guys who did get offers, but rather those who didn’t and what may come of them. Let’s take a look at each free agent in alphabetical order. All potential teams are not including the Royals.

Melky Cabrera

Cabrera couldn’t be offered a QO because he was traded midseason and a player must spend the entire year with one team to get the offer. He wouldn’t have anyway, but it’s good to know the skinny. Cabrera came to the Royals at the deadline and looked good at the plate for awhile, but ultimately hit just .269/.303/.399 with the Royals and provided some truly awful defense. He was decent with the White Sox, but I’m not sure what his market is and I definitely don’t think the Royals are interested. They have Jorge Bonifacio and Alex Gordon in the corners as well as Jorge Soler, and given that it didn’t work out for two months in 2017, I think they’ll probably look to stay with what they have in the corners. I don’t really know where he fits, but at worst, maybe he can pick off a team that missed out on what they really wanted and find a deal late in the offseason.

Possibilities: Miami, Toronto

Trevor Cahill

Like Cabrera, Cahill couldn’t receive a QO and wouldn’t have anyway. He was bad for the Royals, but he’s a guy who I would have some interest in as one of the rotating members of the rotation in 2018. I’m not sure the organization would be too keen on bringing him back because of what he did in Kansas City after the deadline, but a guy who can get ground balls and can be effective in relatively limited work can Have some value. I don’t think the Royals are the team to sign him, but he’ll get a one-year deal somewhere, maybe even back in San Diego.

Possibilities: Baltimore, Chicago (White Sox), Cincinnati, Miami, Minnesota, Oakland, San Diego, Tampa Bay

Alcides Escobar

Escobar could have gotten a qualifying offer, but given the fact that he’s been one of the worst offensive players in baseball for the last three seasons, I just don’t see it. I think there is value in Escobar because having a guy you know will go out there and play a solid shortstop every single day is a luxury not a lot of teams have. Look at the best free agent shortstop, Zack Cozart (apologies to Dusty Coleman). He’s played 243 games the last two seasons. Escobar does that in winter ball alone. Still, even with that value, he doesn’t provide a ton else, so committing payroll and, maybe more importantly, a roster spot to him is a poor decision. Some team will give him a deal. I fear that team will be the Royals. I hope I am wrong.

Possibilities: Oakland? San Diego?

Mike Minor

There was some discussion about whether or not Minor should have been given a qualifying offer. The argument is that he’s likely going to make more on the open market than the $17.4 million, so he’d likely turn it down. And even if he didn’t, a good reliever on a one-year deal is a nice trade chip. That argument as a whole makes me laugh. Minor was fantastic for the Royals in 2017. His 2.86 DRA was in line with some of the better relievers in baseball and even better than many of them. Even so, a qualifying offer never made sense. He’d be silly to turn it down. Even if he gets the four years and $28 million projected by MLB Trade Rumors, by accepting the deal, he’d basically be banking on himself to make an additional $10.6 million over the next three seasons following 2018.

If you believe in yourself, you’re taking that bet and taking the big guaranteed deal. And as a trade chip in this scenario, Minor would be a great haul if you’re in the race, but Minor at about $300,000 per appearance isn’t going to bring back as much as maybe you’d think. The Royals would likely have to chip in some salary to get any value in return, which, I suppose is fine, but not ideal. No, it doesn’t make much sense.

So here we are, and he rightfully wasn’t extended a qualifying offer. So what’s next? I think the Royals should re-sign him. Something in the neighborhood of 3/24 or so would make a lot of sense. If he’s bad, well, that stinks, but the team probably won’t be very good anyway, so it was a decent risk. If he’s great again, well now we can talk about him as a legitimate trade chip. A season and a half of excellent relief work and a relatively reasonable salary could make Minor a huge pickup at the deadline for some team. If he’s great and the Royals are somehow in contention, then that’s not a bad scenario either.  But if the Royals don’t bring him back, there are about 29 other teams who could use a lefty with his stuff.

Possibilities: Arizona, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago (Cubs), Colorado, Houston, Los Angeles (Angels), Los Angeles (Dodgers), Milwaukee, San Francisco,  Seattle, Texas, Washington

Peter Moylan

Moylan is a workhorse, appearing in 79 games for the Royals last season, and he was the kind of guy every bullpen needs. He’s not really a multi-inning guy, but he limits hits, gets a ton of ground balls and isn’t afraid of any situation. He’d do well to find himself a contender to latch on with, but if he wants to stay with the Royals, I imagine everyone would be happy to welcome him back. He’s never going to cost much, so why not? If not the Royals, he’s in a similar position as Minor. Just about every team would likely make him an offer of some sort.

Possibilities: Literally every team

Jason Vargas

Vargas was the other guy who a QO was a possibility for, but I don’t think they ever thought too much about that given his collapse after the break. My guess is that even after a season with 18 wins, he ends up netting a contract similar to what Edinson Volquez got from the Marlins. The Royals may be the team to give it to him, and that’s fine, if they feel confident he can give them 300 innings or so over the course of the deal. In the right situation, I think Vargas could thrive again. Give him a manager not afraid to go to his bullpen in a ballpark that is a little more forgiving and he could put together a nice season of 25-30 starts averaging 5-6 innings with a 4.25 ERA. There’s a market for that. Put him someplace like Baltimore and he’s going to really miss Kauffman Stadium.

Possibilities: Atlanta, Baltimore, Los Angeles (Angels), Minnesota, Oakland, Seattle

Free agency starts Tuesday with a five-day exclusive negotiating period that ends next week. On November 13th, players have to make their QO decisions, which is also the day the GM meetings get underway in Orlando. Action is coming soon. Buckle up.

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