Five days after the World Series ends, Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart will become a free agent for the first time in his career. He’ll be coming off a breakout season in which he posted a .933 OPS and was worth 4.9 wins over a replacement player as measured by Baseball-Reference. When the final tallies for MVP voting are released, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Cozart’s name on a ballot or two. That’s an enviable way to enter the open market, but Cozart might want to manage his expectations. Executives with rival teams who spoke with The Enquirer suggested that while Cozart could do well for himself in free agency, it’s unlikely he’ll break the bank. “I would be surprised if he got a three-year deal,” said one executive with an American League team. It’s unlikely Cozart’s market will be dragged down by the Reds giving him a qualifying offer. If accepted, Cozart would draw a $17.4 million salary from the Reds for the 2018 season, eating up most if not all of the money Cincinnati has available to spend this winter. If rejected, the Reds would receive a draft pick after the first round only if Cozart signed a deal worth at least $50 million guaranteed. Reaching that threshold would be highly unlikely, rival executives said. Recent history is not full of shortstops who secured such a deal at age 32 or older, the only exception being the four-year, $53 million deal Jhonny Peralta signed with the St. Louis Cardinals before the 2014 season. Should Cozart’s deal fall below $50 million, the Reds would receive a draft pick prior to the third round. The risk of being unable to sign any other free agents likely isn’t worth the expected reward of draft pick compensation, and the Reds are thought to be leaning heavily against giving Cozart such a qualifying offer because of it. Even if his market is unencumbered by the qualifying offer, forecasting Cozart’s market involves guesswork. Working in favor of Cozart are his 2017 results and the fact that he’s clearly the best shortstop option likely available in free agency. Working against him are his age, injury history – including a 2015 knee surgery – and lack of offensive track record before his breakout year.
What will Reds' Zack Cozart get in free agency?
Cincinnati Enquirer | Nov 1