Real cost of the qualifying offer

If you include first-round compensation, Kendrys Morales is worth less than $1 million per year. Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

If you're like me, thoughts of spring seem far away as you shovel a foot of snow from your driveway, wondering if your back or heart will be the first to quit. But for major leaguers, spring is an imminent thing, with all teams having their full complement of players reporting in the next week or so.

That doesn't go for all major leaguers, however, as a large number of players remain unsigned. The most notable among them are the six players on Keith Law's top-rated free agents list who haven't signed yet, with five of them -- Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew, Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales -- finding the markets less receptive to their desired salaries than they had hoped, at least partially due to draft picks they will cost the team that signs them as a result of the qualifying offer they received from their former teams.

The market has been so slow for these players that it's fair to ask if teams are being too protective of their draft picks. But upon further inspection, it appears GMs are acting rationally. Allow me to explain.