The week after the conclusion of the World Series is rife with important administrative decisions, and clearly the biggest one facing the Cincinnati Reds is what to do with All Star shortstop Zack Cozart. Cozart, who just turned 32, is fresh off the most statistically excellent season of his career, and that just so happened to coincide with his final season of team control by the Reds.
With that the case, the Reds face the tough decision of whether or not to extend the now free agent a Qualifying Offer, essentially a 1 year, $17.4 million contract that would keep him in town for another season. According ton FanRag’s Jon Heyman, it looks as if the Reds will opt against extending that offer to Cozart.
zack cozart had outstanding year. but $17.4M qualifying offer is thought steep for reds. they'd love him, but on multiyear at <17.4 per.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 6, 2017
so in short, cozart is not expected to receive the $17.4M qualifying offer #reds— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 6, 2017
As Heyman notes, it’s less that the Reds aren’t interested in keeping Cozart around and more that they don’t think they can wedge one player making $17.4 million into their projected 2018 payroll. Given what we know about the average payroll parameters under which the Reds operate, that’s hardly surprising, either.
Exploring the idea of a 3 year, $36 million offer, for instance, would fit into the budget in a much more friendly way, but that will also come with a pair of significant caveats. For one, he’ll be able to negotiate with all 30 MLB teams instead of just the Reds, which opens up more opportunities for a bigger deal. Also, since he won’t have any QO-based compensation attached to him - i.e. forfeiting high draft picks - there’s a rational explanation that his earning power on any would-be deal is actually enhanced by not extending him a QO, which hurts the Reds’ potential chances of being able to afford him. Of course, that also includes a market for shortstops that was so quiet over the last two years that the Reds couldn’t find a team willing to trade what it took to get him, so perhaps that market as a free agent won’t be as robust as Cozart might hope.
It’s one part brinkmanship, one part Prisoner’s Dilemma, and it’s the first time the Reds have had to make such a decision since the end of the 2013 season with both Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo, the latter negotiations I tried to put into context at the time. It’s also the negotiations with a player who has been a rock at short for the franchise during his seven years wearing the Reds uniform, one whom many folks would love to see stick around.