The Phillies could be the only MLB team this offseason to extend the one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer to more than one player.
It’s a no-brainer to make the offer to J.T. Realmuto, who is perhaps the top free agent on the market. When Realmuto declines it because greater riches await, the Phillies will be in line for draft pick compensation if he leaves town. More details on that below.
The 50-50 decision is with free agent Didi Gregorius, who is coming off of a successful one-year, $14 million prove-it deal. He is probably the closest call in the league whether to accept or reject a qualifying offer. Do the Phillies make Didi the offer? If he accepts it, as Jeremy Hellickson did ahead of the 2017 season, the Phillies will be on the hook for that full one-year sum. But unlike with Hellickson that offseason, the Phillies would be cool with the outcome because the player would be worth the price tag.
Gregorius seems unlikely to accept a qualifying offer. He just played on a one-year deal and had a strong season that merits a four-year contract in the vicinity of $14-16M annually. It’s unknown whether that offer will materialize in this uncertain free-agent period, with MLB’s 30 teams losing a combined $3 billion because of the pandemic. That uncertainty could make accepting the qualifying offer more reasonable to Gregorius, but it still might not be enough.
A major consideration in his decision will have to be next year’s shortstop class, which is loaded with Corey Seager, Trevor Story, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Javier Baez. Gregorius is a distant sixth in that group. This offseason, he and Marcus Semien are the top two free-agent shortstops.
Semien’s Athletics are the only other team that could potentially extend the qualifying offer to two players. They have free agents in Semien and closer Liam Hendriks, the top reliever on the market. It’s an interesting decision they face with Hendriks. If Hendriks is feeling frisky, he could accept the qualifying offer and re-enter free agency next year potentially in line for the same sort of multi-year contract. His deal is unlikely to carry an AAV of $18.9 million so it could make both short-term and long-term sense for Hendriks.
Specifics on the qualifying offer
It is the average of the top 125 salaries in MLB.
If a team extends a player a qualifying offer and he accepts, the team has him for 2021 at $18.9 million.
If a team extends a player a qualifying offer and rejects it, that team receives draft pick compensation if the player signs elsewhere.
If a team signs a player who was extended a qualifying offer by another team, it loses a high draft pick. This happened to the Phillies last offseason. They lost their 2020 second-round pick when they signed Zack Wheeler.
A player can no longer be extended the qualifying more than once. This applies, for example, to Marcell Ozuna, who rejected the QO from the Cardinals a year ago and is now a free agent again after one year with the Braves.
So, what draft pick would the Phillies receive if they lose Realmuto and/or Gregorius?
The rules, which are based on the team’s revenue sharing, are convoluted. Here’s an attempt to explain it simply:
Because the Phillies did not receive revenue sharing, they would be awarded a draft pick after Competitive Balance Round B in the 2021 draft if they lose Realmuto. This would work out to being about the 65th pick next summer.
Worth noting: A team that was over the luxury tax threshold the previous season is awarded a lesser pick as compensation, a draft pick after the fourth round, a difference of about 40 spots. This is one of those penalties for going over the tax that is often ignored when the topic comes up.
The Phillies came close to exceeding the tax in 2020 but former GM Matt Klentak said after the trade deadline that they were still under.
Non-Phillies who could be extended a qualifying offer include:
Trevor Bauer (definite)
George Springer (definite)
D.J. LeMahieu (definite)
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