You know how the qualifying offer works by now: most free agents to be can be made a qualifying offer following the conclusion of the postseason. If they accept it, great, that’s their salary on a one-year deal with their most recent team. If they reject it, any team that signs that player in free agency has to surrender their highest non-protected draft pick in next June’s draft.
It’s a tax on signing free agents, basically. It’s intended to be a tax and it has done a really good job of helping to depress the free agent market. But we’ll have all winter to talk about that.
How is the qualifying offer set? It’s a formula. Major League Baseball takes the average of the top 125 salaries across baseball and, bam, that’s the qualifying offer. Here’s the history of what that formula worked out to each year since the qualifying offer system was implemented in 2012. The year is for the season immediately preceding the winter for which the qualifying offer is in play:
2012: $13.3 million
2013: $14.1 million
2014: $15.3 million
2015: $15.8 million
2016: $17.2 million
2017: $17.4 million
2018: $17.9 million
As you can see, the qualifying offer has gone up every year because salaries go up every years. Makes sense, right?
Well, get a load of this:
As free agency approaches, sources say a player who accepts a qualifying offer this winter will get a one-year, $17.8-million contract next season.
That’s down from $17.9M. It’s the first time the value of the qualifying offer has ever dropped from one year to the next.
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 11, 2019
Major League Baseball and its clubs have done everything it can to push salaries down. The story they like to tell is that they’re simply more efficient and what they’re actually doing is paying less to unproductive players, but by definition, a lower qualifying offer means that salaries for the top players in the game are going down on average too. All while revenues continue to rise year-over-year.
There’s a storm coming, folks. A labor storm. If it doesn’t hit, I’ll be shocked.