ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Baseball's annual gathering of general managers began Monday when $14.1 million qualifying offers were turned down by all 13 free agents who received them from their former teams, a group that included Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew of the World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
Three New York Yankees also said no thanks: Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Hiroki Kuroda. The others turning down the offers were Atlanta's Brian McCann, Cincinnati's Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland's Ubaldo Jimenez, Kansas City's Ervin Santana, St. Louis' Carlos Beltran, Seattle's Kendrys Morales and Texas' Nelson Cruz.
"I don't think it's that particularly surprising that all the offers were turned down across baseball," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. New York Mets GM Sandy Alderson interpreted the turndowns as an indicator a bull market is possible.
"That ought to tell you a little bit about their expectations," he said. If a player who turned down the offer signs with a new team, his former club would receive an extra amateur draft pick at the end of the first round next June. All 22 players given qualifying offers have said no during two offseasons under the new system.
"When we made the qualifying offers, we did not expect anyone to accept. We would have been happy if any of them did," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. Cashman was an early arrival at the sessions, with some GMs due to check in on Monday night. In addition to early talks with agents and trade feelers, GMs will hold rules discussions, such as whether there should be any limitations on bowling over catchers.
Owners then arrive for their fall meeting on Thursday morning, with expanded instant replay on the agenda. A baseball official familiar with the deliberations, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said management probably would approve the additional video review by umpires in phases. The go-ahead to spend the funds probably will occur Thursday. Approval of the rules likely would be put off until the January owners' meeting.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized. For expanded replay to start next season, agreements with the World Umpires Association and Major League Baseball Players Association would have to be reached.
"Both parties are working diligently to iron out every possible scenario that could occur with a replay," WUA President Joe West said. These meetings usually are the spark for trades and signings later in the offseason. The pace figures to increase during the winter meetings, to be held in nearby Lake Buena Vista from Dec. 9-12.
"These meetings will probably be mostly about just getting information," Cherington said. "I'd be surprised if anything actually happens in the next three days." With many clubs seeking top starting pitching, Tampa Bay is expected at some point to trade 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price, who is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. Detroit's Max Scherzer, favored to win a Cy Young on Wednesday, can be a free agent in 12 months and the Tigers may try to gauge what he would bring in return.
Texas would consider offers for middle infielders Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus to clear a starting spot for Jurickson Profar. After missing the playoffs for just the second time in 19 years, the Yankees figure to be a central figure in the market. Cano, an All-Star second baseman, has been seeking a 10-year deal in excess of $300 million. Re-signing Cano is a top priority, but at some point the Yankees would have to move on.
"Those type of players dictate the dance steps," Cashman said. "So we'll do the dance as long as we can but, yeah, at some point you can't do that forever. But we're in the very front end of this thing, so the music hasn't even started yet."
While New York wants to get its payroll under next year's $189 million threshold for the luxury tax, the Yankees may not be able to unless Alex Rodriguez serves a major part of his 211-game suspension for violations of baseball's drug agreement and labor contract. The players' union filed a grievance to overturn the penalty, and arbitrator Fredric Horowitz is expected to rule during the offseason.
New York would be happy to save much of Rodriguez's $25 million salary if he misses a significant part of the season, but the Yankees would need to find a third baseman. "I have question marks clearly with the controversy at third. I have a question mark at short with Derek Jeter coming back from his ankle, a free agent in Cano," Cashman said. "So ultimately, I need to look and be open-minded to improving aspects when I can."
With more cash available because of the increase in national broadcast contracts, more teams could be bidders. After cutting payroll by about 33 percent over two years, the Mets may be ready to spend. And they could be interested in some of the players who turned down qualifying offers, because they wouldn't forfeit their first-round draft pick — the top 10 selections in the opening round are protected, and those clubs would lose their second-round slot.
"The fact that we only have to give up a second-round pick may give us a little bit of an edge," Alderson said. "We'll see." He even joked about his newfound financial flexibility. "I was upstairs stacking our money," he said. "Don't get excited. They were all fives."