I hate the qualifying offer, because it dampens the market for perfectly good players, and forces teams to choose between the near and long term, instead of trying to improve both at the same time. I hate it because it’s a welfare system for teams that do not need it, and because it makes the trade deadline less exciting, and because it’s needlessly complicated, another layer of fiscal sludge for fans to worry about instead of simply asking: Is Player X any good? What does he do well? Can he help our team?

Most of all, though, I hate the qualifying offer because it’s currently keeping good players off the field. Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales, the last of the holdouts too proud to cave and sign for half their market value, as Nelson Cruz and Ervin Santana did, now seem likely to be forced to wait until after the Draft, in the second week of June, in order to sign with anyone.

There. I’ve said my piece about the stupidity of the institution. Now, for a more fun question: Where are these two going to land?

For Morales, the answer seems clear to me. It’s Milwaukee. There could be interest from Baltimore, under the right conditions, or from the Angels, or the Rays, and you never know about injuries, but the Brewers are the obvious choice.

With the best record in baseball and a Mark Reynolds-Lyle Overbay platoon at first base, the Brewers have a clear need, and plenty to gain from the addition of Morales. They’re still a bit more right-handed offensively than one would like, which Morales would help address, and he fits right into their offensive philosophy: He has some power, makes contact consistently and should maintain a high-ish BABIP, but he’s no Joe Mauer when it comes to plate discipline.

The Brewers’ fan base always turns out in droves when the team is good, and the early returns at the gate have been very good. That might allow them to stretch the wallet that little bit further open, making the move not only advisable, but feasible.

Drew is tougher to place. He has a larger number of potential suitors, and things that happen between now and when he signs could well dictate which one needs him most. Here’s a rundown of the candidates:

  • Boston Red Sox: It’s a long shot, after months of the Sox being unwilling to cast Drew a life-preserver, that he would want to come back to the club. If Will Middlebrooks is persistently plagued by approach issues or injuries, though, it may be necessary for GM Ben Cherington to press for a reconciliation.
  • Cincinnati Reds: Zack Cozart is batting .194/.239/.291. It’s only 110 plate appearances, and Cozart is a solid defensive shortstop, but he’s no Brendan Ryan afield—only at bat. Drew could help paper over the loss of Jay Bruce.
  • Detroit Tigers: Andrew Romine, shockingly, has not yet taken the job firmly in hand. It’s clear, through the relative inaction of the team in response to Jose Iglesias’s injury, that they’re leaving the path open for Drew. That doesn’t mean they’ll mount the best offer at the crucial moment, though.
  • Miami Marlins: Laugh if you must, but the Marlins have historically gotten aggressive once it became clear they were in a good position to do so. They’re not yet in that territory, but if they’re still above .500 in five weeks, filling in Drew in their thin middle infield could start to look attractive. It can’t hurt that fellow defending World Series champion Jarrod Saltalamacchia landed there over the winter.
  • New York Mets: Like the Marlins, the Mets need to stay competitive for another month before getting serious about a substantial expenditure. It’s not impossible, though, and shortstop in Queens is an even more glaring weakness than either middle-infield spot in Miami.
  • New York Yankees: This will get talked about, especially if the Yankees remain in first place by June, but it’s almost impossibly awkward, at least in my head. Drew would man second or third base, but whenever Derek Jeter stumbled, there would be awful beat-writer speculation and columnist diatribes about whether or not Drew ought to take over at shortstop. Plus, who wants to be the guy everyone knows is going to take over when the Farewell Tour is over?
  • Toronto Blue Jays: No team in baseball could use him more. Ryan Goins has conclusively proved himself unable to hit in MLB, but they don’t have a serious alternative. Second base isn’t likely to be Drew’s preferred destination, but if the Jays are in the right position, they might dump enough money on him to make him reconsider.

Ultimately, I see him landing in Detroit. This will be the more entertaining run of news stories, though, with mystery teams and uncertain configurations in play. It also matters (more than it usually does) what Drew is really looking for. He’d be a short-term fix in Detroit or Boston, with the opportunity to build value and become a true free agent at season’s end. If he’s lost his appetite for that experience, though, he can make a permanent home with Toronto, Cincinnati or the Mets.

The presence of these two wild cards should ensure that the trade deadline will be as dead as ever, and the actual trade activity is likely to start later than usual, on into July instead of in late June. As long as the market doesn’t freeze up all around them, though, the way it did around Masahiro Tanaka in January, it should add an entertaining dynamic to the playoff chase as summer hits its stride.

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