Most of the $15.3 million qualifying offers extended to free agents made sense and weren't surprising -- Max Scherzer, James Shields, Nelson Cruz, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, Francisco Liriano, Russell Martin, David Robertson, Ervin Santana, Melky Cabrera, Victor Martinez. That's the list I projected a few weeks ago with the exception of Hiroki Kuroda, who wasn't extended an offer by the Yankees.
I missed one guy, however, and he's the surprise: Michael Cuddyer, who would seem like a lock to take the $15.3 million and return to the Rockies. Cuddyer won the National League batting title in 2013, when he hit .331 with 20 home runs. He hit .332 in 2014 -- but played just 49 games after missing two months with a hamstring problem.
Cuddyer will be 36 when the 2015 season begins, is a below-average defensive right fielder, never hit .300 until coming to the Rockies and has averaged 93 games per season during his three years in Colorado. In other words, he wasn't likely to receive a big, multiyear contract given his age and injury history.
So by giving him that offer, the Rockies seem to be betting on his return. Given that Justin Morneau is still under contract, that slots Cuddyer in right field the majority of the time. The Rockies also have Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon, Drew Stubbs and Brandon Barnes for the outfield -- and Carlos Gonzalez.
Seems like they have basically put a "For Sale" sign up on CarGo, even if that means selling low after his injury-riddled campaign in which he hit .238 and played just 70 games. Still, he is a career .294/.351/.520 hitter. Even with the Coors inflation he would be an intriguing risk for a team to take on. He will be 29 for the 2015 season and signed for three more years at $16.4 million, $17.4 million and $20.4 million. I can't imagine the Rockies paying nearly $32 million for two outfielders who have issues staying on the field. Thus the likelihood they shop Gonzalez for some pitching help.
Which teams would be candidates? A quick look:
Cincinnati Reds: Their outfielders were last in the majors in wOBA. Even expecting a Jay Bruce bounce back, they could use a left fielder. Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Mike Leake are all free agents after 2015, so the Reds could try to shop Cueto or Latos, but I'm not sure one of those guys on a one-year deal would interest the Rockies. The Reds do have Tony Cingrani and pitching prospect Robert Stephenson.
Seattle Mariners: The Mariners ranked next-to-last in outfield wOBA. Right now, they would slot in Dustin Ackley, Austin Jackson and Michael Saunders from left to right. They really need right-handed power, but Gonzalez would be an enticing gamble. A few years ago, general manager Jack Zduriencik was willing to include Taijuan Walker in a deal for Justin Upton, but with Walker now in the majors and CarGo coming off a bad year, that seems unlikely. The Mariners have a deep slate of relievers to deal from, and maybe Brad Miller or Chris Taylor would interest the Rockies as a potential replacement for Troy Tulowitzki or an upgrade at second base over DJ LeMahieu.
Chicago Cubs: While you can likely pencil in Kris Bryant at third base, Javier Baez at second base and Jorge Soler in right field for 2015, left field and center field are still up for grabs. Chris Coghlan had a nice season in 2014 (.283/.352/.452), but with room to play with in the payroll and Joe Maddon's assertion that the Cubs will be a playoff contender in 2015, maybe Gonzalez is worth considering to slot in front of or behind Anthony Rizzo in the lineup.
St. Louis Cardinals: The death of Oscar Taveras means the Cardinals need a right fielder, as Randal Grichuk probably isn't ready for full-time duty. The offense also needs more power. The Cardinals don't seem sold on Carlos Martinez as a starter, and if Michael Wacha is healthy, there may not be room for him in the rotation anyway.
New York Mets: They have the starting pitching depth to go after Gonzalez and Mets left fielders hit .219 with six home runs (fewest in the majors) in 2014, so he's a good fit. But is he worth Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard? And would the Mets want to take on CarGo's salary?