Ian Kennedy could accept QO — and still leave Pads

Here is a rationale — a very good rationale — for right-hander Ian Kennedy accepting the Padres’€™ qualifying offer by Friday’€™s deadline at 5 p.m. ET:

A $15.8 million salary for Kennedy likely would put the Padres in a bind with their payroll — a bind so acute, it could force the team to sign him to a multi-year contract at a lower average annual value and trade him.

As it stands, the Padres are at about $100 million in commitments, including their arbitration-eligible players, some of whom they could trade or non-tender. Ownership has indicated that the 2016 payroll could be about $120 million. Keeping Kennedy at $15.8 million would leave general manager A.J. Preller with little flexibility.

The Padres, in fact, probably would not want to keep Kennedy even if they adjusted by signing him to say, a three-year, $33 million contract, lowering his average annual value by almost $5 million.

Kennedy, though, would be attractive to other teams on that kind of deal. The Padres then could recoup the value of the draft pick they would have gained if Kennedy had rejected the qualifying offer. Kennedy, as a free agent who accepted a QO, would need to approve any trade before June 15. But he would do that as a stipulation of his multi-year deal with the Padres.

The question, of course, is whether Kennedy’€™s agent, Scott Boras, would employ such a strategy. Boras generally prefers his clients to establish their values on the open market. But, as Boras has noted, a free agent who gets saddled with a qualifying offer is not quite free.

If Kennedy takes the qualifying offer, he likely will force the Padres to blink.