The deadline for Major League Baseball teams to extend qualifying offers to eligible free agents passed at 5 p.m. ET Monday. In total, 10 players were extended the offer, including postseason stars Gerrit Cole of the Houston Astros and both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals.
They will have until Nov. 14 to decide between accepting the one-year, $17.8M offer or testing free agency.
Worth noting, it’s the first time since the qualifying offer system was instituted eight years ago that the value of the offer actually dropped. It’s a slight drop from last year’s $17.9M offer, but any drop is a significant development. The value is determined by the average of the top 125 salaries in the sport, which means baseball’s best players took a pay cut last year.
What does a qualifying offer mean?
If the player accepts the offer, he returns to his club for another year at the agreed to salary — in this case $17.8M. If the player rejects it, the team receives draft-pick compensation if that player signs with another club.
It’s a way to soften the blow for teams that might lose a key contributor, but it also presents a big decision for the team and the player. The team could get stuck with a salary it might not necessarily want on the books if the player accepts, while the player might not find free agency as fruitful as he anticipated if he rejects it.
The qualifying offer tag can also lessen the appeal of a free agent because the signing team has to forfeit a draft pick to complete the signing. We saw that impact the free agency of Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel last winter. They were two of six players to reject the qualifying offer. Neither was signed until after the 2019 MLB Draft, which is when the draft pick stipulation runs out.
It’s also important to note that not all free agents are eligible for a qualifying offer. Most notably, players who were traded midseason are not eligible.
Players who received the qualifying offer
• Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox
• Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants
• Gerrit Cole, SP, Houston Astros
• Josh Donaldson, 3B, Atlanta Braves
• Jake Odorizzi, SP, Minnesota Twins
• Marcell Ozuna, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
• Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals
• Will Smith, RP, San Francisco Giants
• Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals
• Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets
Of the seven players to receive a qualifying offer last season, only Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu accepted it. Even with free agency being a disaster for the players last winter, it’s possible, if not likely, that number will be zero this season.
Cole, Strasburg and Rendon in particular are looking at landing massive deals after sending their stock soaring with big postseason performances. Will Smith’s stock is on the rise as well after Aroldis Chapman took himself off the open market by opting in and adding another year to his contract with the New York Yankees.
Notable players not receiving a qualifying offer
• Yasmani Grandal, C, Milwaukee Brewers
• Cole Hamels, SP, Chicago Cubs
• Mike Moustakas, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers
• Didi Gregorius, SS, New York Yankees
Grandal was among the six players to reject the $17.9M qualifying offer last season. He ended up accepting a one-year, $16M deal with Milwaukee. With a multi-year deal expected to be his this winter, he likely would have turned it down again anyway.
Gregorius is the most notable name on this list. He’s coming off an injury-shortened 2019 season in which he batted .238/.276/.441 with 16 homers in 82 games. The Yankees have flexibility in the infield with Gleyber Torres comfortable at shortstop and DJ LeMahieu a Gold Glove second baseman, so they’d rather risk losing Gregorius than potentially guaranteeing him the one-year deal.
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