Buster Olney reported this afternoon that the Cleveland Indians are not likely to give LF Michael Brantley a qualifying offer before he elects for free agency.
Sources: The Indians are not expected to tender a $17.9m qualifying offer to outfielder Michael Brantley by today's deadline.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 2, 2018
The rules surrounding qualifying offers are a little dense, but Anthony Castrovince offers a fairly concise explanation that is relevant to this situation:
The amount of the qualifying offer is the mean salary of the league’s 125 highest-paid players. It was $17.4 million last offseason and will be $17.9 million this time around.
[I]f the team that loses the free agent is a revenue-sharing recipient, based on its revenues and market size, then the selection -- if and only if the lost player signs for at least $50 million -- will be awarded a pick between the first round and Competitive Balance Round A of the 2018 MLB Draft. If the player signs for less than $50 million, the compensation pick for those teams would come after Competitive Balance Round B, which follows the second round.
There is a lot to speculate about right now, and the details will only be clarified by the contract Brantley inevitably signs somewhere. It is possible that the Indians believed that Brantley would take the Qualifying Offer, but do not feel that he is worth $18M for one additional season. That seems to be the most likely scenario to me, unless I’m missing something. If the Indians believed that Brantley would decline the QO, then they have every reason in the world to offer it.
One thing I’m not clear on personally is whether the Indians are subject to losing a pick if they were to re-sign Brantley even after he rejected a QO. If that’s the case, it may very well be that the Indians are determined to bring him back on a multi-year contract and feel strongly that they can, and so they had no reason to lose a third-round pick to do so. If that really were the case, though, then why would they have waited this long to hammer out the extension?
If the report from Olney turns out to be true, then it is likely that we have seen Michael Brantley’s last game as a member of the Cleveland Indians.