They said they were going to do it, and they've followed through. The Mariners extended impending free agent Kendrys Morales a qualifying offer today, for an estimated figure of 1 year, $14.1 million. Scott Boras is expected to advise that Morales reject this offer and explore his options elsewhere, which I'd normally question if it weren't for Boras' ability drum up interest out of nowhere and get teams to bid against themselves.
At face value, this is an obvious overpay for Morales. But Seattle is protecting their investment by hurting his market value around the league and assuring they won't be left with nothing. If Morales somehow accepts, it isn't devastating. The Mariners have a solid hitter at a premium price for a single year. Low risk. If he declines, the Mariners are left with tons of options, and that's why they've done it. The M's are gambling on Scott Boras wanting more than Morales deserves. It's ballsy. I love it.
Teams would be needlessly desperate to give up an unprotected first round pick for Morales, so that should eliminate a good chunk of options. He really can't play in the National League thanks to his health, so that cuts out another batch of teams. He plays the easiest position in the world to fill. Slice, slice, slice. Who's left? The best match for Morales is standing right in front of him, but if he rejects this offer, the Mariners have a luxury of turning their attention elsewhere - perhaps to Corey Hart.
There's only been one move, but everything is on track for the Lookout Landing off-season plan. Let Morales reject this offer and go hard for Corey Hart. Morales is a fine fallback plan, but only if his contract demands fall to a more reasonable level. The Mariners can't be held hostage by him, and need to pursue alternatives early, since the thin market for Morales has all the makings of a late signing close to Spring Training.
This decision makes Morales poison to a lot of teams. The Mariners simply can't let themselves fall into a trap by overpaying him before they see his quickly shrinking market. The M's must let him walk, go after somebody else, and check back in later if their efforts fail.