By tendering a qualifying offer Monday to free-agent pitcher Ervin Santana, the Royals guaranteed themselves of getting a draft pick if he signs elsewhere.
It wasn’t a surprise, although the club didn’t confirm the offer until two minutes prior to the 4 p.m. deadline.
General manager Dayton Moore previously indicated the club would make such an offer, which constitutes a one-year deal for approximately $14.1 million (or the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball for 2013).
The Royals, as expected, did not make qualifying offers to any of their other free agents: pitcher Bruce Chen, infielder Miguel Tejada and first baseman Carlos Pena.
Players who receive qualifying offers have until 4 p.m. on Nov. 11 to accept the offer. If the player accepts the offer, he becomes a signed player and ceases to be a free agent.
Santana is not expected to accept the offer.
The Royals, in a procedural move, also reinstated right-handed pitcher Felipe Paulino, 30, from the 60-day disabled list.
Paulino, who is eligible for arbitration, made seven minor-league rehab starts in his recovery from elbow surgery before experiencing shoulder problems that required surgery in September.
All free agents, as of 11 p.m. Monday, are permitted to sign with other clubs. Prior to 11 p.m., they were only permitted to sign with their former club under the five-day “quiet” period following the end of the World Series.
Santana, who turns 31 in December, was 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA in 32 starts as the No. 2 starter in the club’s rotation after arriving in an offseason trade from the Los Angeles Angels for minor-league reliever Brandon Sisk.
Moore has repeatedly emphasized that maintaining the rotation as a strength is his top offseason priority. The Royals led the American League in earned-run average for the first time since 1986.
“We’re going to do the best we can,” Moore said recently, “to put as many quality guys as we can in that rotation. We feel like we’ve got a lot of really good internal options.
“We’re really proud of what Ervin did for us, and we’re going to be excited to see if we can get him under contract. But we’ve got to prepare for all different scenarios. That’s what Erv is doing as well.”
Santana made $13 million this season in completing a five-year, $43 million deal signed in February 2009 with the Angels. Industry analysts project he will get a richer deal this time.
The qualifying-offer system started last year under terms of the new labor agreement. All seven players who received offers chose to reject them in hopes of signing a more lucrative multi-year deal.
Players can reject a qualifying offer and continue to negotiate with their former club. In fact, their former club enjoys a negotiating advantage in that it wouldn’t be required to surrender a draft pick if it signs the player.
Clubs that sign a player from another club who received a qualifying offer forfeit their first-round pick (and the signing bonus-pool allotment) in next June’s draft unless they have one of the first 11 selections.
Those clubs with one of the first 11 picks forfeit their second-round pick. The club losing the player, in either case, receives a pick in a supplemental round between the first and second rounds.