No, I’m not crazy, please hear me out. I’m not going to tell you why Freddy Galvis is worth a salary of nearly $20M next year, because he’s not. I’m going to tell you why a bloated one-year contract for a presumptive “stop-gap” who fills a short-term need makes sense for the team and its payroll.
For the unfamilar, the “Qualifying Offer” (QO) is a feature of MLB’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that is intended to help small-market teams retain good players. A “Qualifying Offer” is a one-year contract that is no less than the average of the league’s top 125 highest paid players, which comes out somewhere north of $17M for the 2018-2019 offseason. The team has to extend the offer within five days of the conclusion of the World Series, and the player has ten days to accept or reject the offer. Once a QO is extended and rejected, any other team who signs that player must forfeit at least one draft pick, and the team that lost the player receives compensatory draft pick(s) (which pick(s) is complicated and depends on a few factors). It’s a wrinkle in baseball negotiations that has become more complicated with each CBA renewal but the intention is to give smaller-market teams added leverage to retain star players.
Freddy Galvis isn’t a star player. He’s a good player, but he’s not the kind of star who commands a top-100 contract. He’s having his best season at the plate while playing Gold Glove defense, but teams don’t pay premium money for light-hitting shortstops. He’ll be a free agent upon the conclusion of the 2018 season, and he should be looking for the long-term contract that he’s worked all these years for that will ensure the financial stability of his family. He’s earned that right, and he may have earned that contract. Yet I believe that the Padres would be best served to lay a contract on the negotiating table north of $17M for the 2019 season. The team has a need and Galvis is a great fit for that need. The problem is that Freddy Galvis is proud to be an everyday starting MLB shortstop, and the team can’t promise him an everyday starting job through the 2019 season. What they can promise him is an opening day position and a sack of cash to deal with whatever comes after that.
As we stand today, the starting shortstop and third basemen for the 2019 Padres are in question. Javier Guerra or Luis Urias might work at shortstop, and third base could be manned by Christian Villanueva, Cory Spangenberg, or Wil Myers, but none of those players are long-term fits at the position. Urias is clearly the team’s second baseman of the future, and his future starts on opening day. Fernando Tatis Jr is lined up to charge into the Padres picture some time in 2019 but that might not be on opening day, and even when that day comes, he’ll have a steep learning curve to develop into the MLB All-Star we all dream him to become. By this time next year, we hope to be looking at a middle infield with two bona fide studs to anchor the foreseeable future for this organization. Until then, both will need a veteran to show them the ropes of everyday preparation and the nuances of infield defense at the MLB level. Freddy Galvis has demonstrated a willingness to take youngsters like Urias under his wing and share his knowledge, knowing full well that his replacements are around the corner and his future with the team is uncertain at best. Tatis might slide over to third base like his idol Manny Machado in deference to the veteran, and Galvis would see diminished time as the wunderkind would surely get some starts at shortstop, but once Tatis is 100% ready for the job, shortstop should belong to him. The Padres need a quality shortstop to start the season, and a veteran mentor to finish the season. If things go well, the need for that role shrinks considerably. The team has never needed a quality “stopgap” as much as they do next year, and Freddy Galvis is the perfect fit for the job.
If the team were to sign Galvis for 2019 and beyond, his “Ironman” status of consecutive games started would be in jeopardy. He currently holds the longest streak in baseball and is on track to start every game of the 2018 season. If he had his way, he’d find a long-term fit where he’s the shortstop day in and day out until his legs can’t go anymore. The Padres can’t offer that, but there might be a team out there who can. Some have called for a 2- or 3-year deal for Galvis, which might work from a contract perspective, but would Galvis really take a deal knowing that his job would diminish throughout that term? He’s a team player, he’s a grinder, he cares about wining, he’s a leader, but more than anything he’s a baseball player, and he can’t play from the bench. So instead of dangling some 3-year deal worth $15-25M, the Padres could just blow him away with a one-year deal that’ll pay him to play as much or as little as the team needs. Instead of dreading riding the pine, he can check his bank account and know that he’s taken care of. Come the 2019-2020 offseason, he’ll be a healthy 29-year-old with a glove of gold and a healthy bank account who can take his services wherever he wishes.
If you’re wondering about the payroll implications here, there’s no need to worry. According to Baseball-Reference’s estimation, the 2019 payroll is estimated to remain under $100M, which is roughly where the Padres are this year, and it’s about $40M below league average. Things change in 2020 with Wil Myers’ contract exploding and arbitration tipping the scales, but until then there’s a ton of room to toss a bloated contract at a guy whose “intangibles” might be worth far more than his box score stats. All this goes out the window if the team goes bananas and somehow signs Manny Machado to a mega-contract, but if we’re being honest the Padres’ chances at winning that contest are pretty slim. The Padres will look to add some starting pitching and the left side of the infield is a concern, but most of the roster is pretty solid going into next season. Signing Galvis to a crazy-rich one-year deal shores up the left side of the infield at the start of the season and it would be done with a player whose personality and work ethic are known commodities.
Let’s not forget about the draft picks involved. If Galvis were to reject this offer and sign somewhere else, the Padres would receive a pick in the neighborhood of what just brought Grant Little and Owen Miller to the organization. A couple of years ago the player the Padres selected in that range was Reggie Lawson, who put on a show in last night’s Don Welke On Deck Classic. Also, the threat of losing one or more draft picks might make other teams hesitant to sign Galvis, thereby increasing the team’s leverage in signing him to a short-term team-friendly contract. The team has nothing to lose by extending a QO, unless you’re counting the cost of overpaying a player.
Everyone who is around the Padres clubhouse speaks volumes of praise for Freddy Galvis. He’s been a highlight reel on the field and his presence has been a valuable asset for this young roster. He deserves to get paid, but the team isn’t in a position where a long-term deal makes sense. Therefore, the Padres should go ahead and make him a “Godfather” offer to be the team’s short-term solution at shortstop and leave a lasting impact on the kids coming up to take his place.