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MLB free agent qualifying offer set at $17.2 million for 2017 season

The Tigers are not likely to extend any qualifying offers this offseason.

Major League Baseball has set the dollar amount for qualifying offers for the 2016-2017 offseason at approximately $17.2 million. The exact amount is equal to the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball. The required offer was $15.8 million for the 2016 season.

The free agent compensation rules are subject to change when a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is reached between the players and owners, but the qualifying offer is expected to remain at least for 2017. The new CBA could increase the amount of the offer or eliminate the payment of compensation for signing free agents entirely, as we explained here.

Teams have until five days following the end of the World Series to make a qualifying offer to their pending free agents. Those players then have seven days to accept the $17.2 million contract or reject the offer. The qualifying offer must be made to receive draft pick compensation for players lost via free agency. If a player declines a qualifying offer and signs elsewhere before the next MLB amateur draft, their former team is eligible to receive draft pick compensation.

Under the current rules, teams who sign a player that has rejected a qualifying offer must surrender their highest unprotected draft pick in the following amateur player draft, held in June. The first 10 draft draft picks are protected. This could all be changed when a new CBA is announced.

The Detroit Tigers' No. 9 overall selection in last June’s draft was protected. The Tigers instead lost their second and third round selections for signing Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton last offseason. Detroit has no free agent players who will receive a qualifying offer this year, and they are not likely to sign any elite free agents this winter.

Here are the players who are likely to receive a qualifying offer.

Player Team 2016 WAR 2016 Salary
Jose Bautista Blue Jays 1.0 $14 million
Yoenis Cespedes Mets 2.9 $27.5 million
Ian Desmond Rangers 2.7 $8 million
Edwin Encarnacion Blue Jays 3.7 $10 million
Dexter Fowler* Cubs 4.2 $8 million
Jeremy Hellickson Phillies 3.0 $7 million
Kenley Jansen Dodgers 2.5 $10.65 million
Wilson Ramos Nationals 3.3 $5.35 million
Mark Trumbo Orioles 1.6 $9.15 million
Justin Turner Dodgers 4.9 $5.1 million

*Fowler has a $9 million mutual option for 2017 that he is likely to decline.

These players will likely be offered a one-year contract for $17.2 million. Most will decline those offers to pursue multi-year contracts via free agency. Last year, Matt Wieters, Colby Rasmus, and Brett Anderson became the first players to accept the qualifying offer since it was established. No player had accepted an offer previously, opting to pursue more lucrative multi-year offers on the free agent market.

On the bubble:

Here are players who might receive a qualifying offer.

Player Team 2016 WAR 2016 Salary
Jason Castro Astros 0.9 $5 million
Bartolo Colon Mets 3.4 $7.25 million
Doug Fister Astros 0.0 $7 million
Kendrys Morales Royals 0.9 $9 million*
Mitch Moreland Rangers 0.7 $5.7 million
Brandon Moss Cardinals 0.8 $8.25 million
Mike Napoli Indians 1.0 $7 million
Michael Saunders Blue Jays 1.3 $2.9 million
Luis Valbuena Astros 2.6 $6.125 million
Neil Walker Mets 2.4 $10.55 million
Matt Wieters Orioles 1.7 $15.8 million

*Morales has an $11 million mutual option for 2017 that he is likely to decline.

I would bet against most of these players getting an offer. In some cases, their teams would be afraid that they will accept, and they really don’t want to pay them — or any player — $17.2 million. Morales and Napoli are among those in that category. Others on this list are just not worth that amount, although they may get at least that much over multiple seasons on the free agent market. Of this group, Valbuena and Saunders are probably the most likely to get a qualifying offer.

Ineligible for qualifying offer:

The following players are not eligible for a qualifying offer because they were traded or changed teams during the season. A player must spend the entire season with their club to be eligible for a qualifying offer. These players will be unrestricted free agents.

Player Team 2016 WAR 2016 Salary
Erick Aybar Braves/Tigers -0.2 $8.5 million
Andrew Bailey Phillies/Angels -0.2 -
Joaquin Benoit Mariners/Blue Jays 1.0 $8 million
Gordon Beckham Braves/Giants -1.2 $1.25 million
Carlos Beltran Yankees/Rangers 2.0 $15 million
Michael Bourn Diamondbacks/Orioles 0.3 $14 million
Andrew Cashner Padres/Marlins -0.7 $7.15 million
Jhoulys Chacin Braves/Angels 0.2 -
Aroldis Chapman Yankees/Cubs 2.5 $11.325 million
Jesse Chavez Blue Jays/Dodgers -0.2 $4 million
Chris Coghlan Athletics/Cubs -0.5 $4.8 million
Coco Crisp Athletics/Indians 0.4 $11 million
A.J. Ellis Dodgers/Phillies -0.1 $4.5 million
Scott Feldman Astros/Blue Jays -0.2 $8 million
Jason Grilli* Braves/Blue Jays 0.4 $3.5 million
Carlos Gomez Astros/Rangers 0.1 $9 million
Aaron Hill Brewers/Red Sox 1.2 $12 million
Rich Hill Athletics/Dodgers 4.1 $6 million
Tommy Hunter Indians/Orioles 0.4 $2 million
Edwin Jackson Marlins/Padres -0.6 $11 million
Kevin Jepsen Twins/Rays -0.9 $5.31 million
Kelly Johnson Braves/Mets 0.5 $2 million
Mat Latos White Sox/Nationals 0.1 $3 million
James Loney Padres/Mets -0.2 $9.67 million
Mark Melancon Pirates/Nationals 2.8 $9.65 million
Dioner Navarro White Sox/Blue Jays -0.8 $4 million
Ivan Nova Yankees/Pirates 2.0 $4.1 million
Steve Pearce Rays/Orioles 2.3 $4.75 million
Alexei Ramirez Padres/Rays -2.4 $3 million
Josh Reddick Athletics/Dodgers 2.6 $6.575 million
Fernando Rodney** Padres/Marlins 1.0 $1.6 million
Marc Rzepczynski Athletics/Nationals 1.1 $2.95 million
Fernando Salas Angels/Mets 0.5 $2.4 million
Joe Smith Angels/Cubs 0.5 $5.25 million
Drew Storen Blue Jays/Mariners -0.3 $8.375 million
Brad Ziegler Diamondbacks/Red Sox 2.2 $5.5 million

*Grilli has a $3.5 million team option for 2017.
**Rodney has a $2 million team option for 2017.

Player and Club options likely to be exercised:

Player Team Option Type 2017 Salary
Jay Bruce Mets Team $13 million
Clay Buchholz Red Sox Team $13.5 million
Wade Davis Royals Team $10 million
Yunel Escobar Angels Team $7 million
Alcides Escobar Royals Team $6.5 million
Jaime Garcia Cardinals Team $12 million
Gio Gonzalez Nationals Team $12 million
Jason Hammel Cubs Team $10 million
Derek Holland Rangers Team $11 million
Scott Kazmir Dodgers Player Opt Out $17.67 million
Jonathan Lucroy Rangers Team $5.25 million
Cameron Maybin Tigers Team $9 million
Pat Neshek Astros Team $6.5 million
Francisco Rodriguez Tigers Team $5 million
Carlos Santana Indians Team $12 million
James Shields White Sox Player Opt Out $21 million

These players would be free agents if their options were declined, or of the players opted out of their remaining contracts. Some of them may be exercised and then traded. Shields has announced that he will not opt out. We wrote about Maybin and Rodriguez here, making the case for the Tigers picking up the options for both players.

Contract options not likely to be exercised

Player Team 2016 WAR Option Value
Matt Albers White Sox -2.0 $3 million
Ryan Hanigan Red Sox -0.9 $3.75 million
Luke Hochevar Royals 0.3 $7 million*
Matt Holliday Cardinals 0.3 $17 million
Ryan Howard Phillies -1.5 $23 million
Chris Iannetta Mariners 0.3 $4.25 million
Kris Medlen Royals -0.9 $10 million
Charlie Morton Phillies 0.3 $9.5 million
Jonathon Niese Mets 0.0 $10 million
Yusmeiro Petit Nationals 0.1 $3 million
Seth Smith Mariners 0.5 $7 million
Edinson Volquez Royals -0.8 $10 million*
Jordan Walden Cardinals 0.6 $5.25 million

*Denotes mutual options.

These players will be free agents if their options are declined by their teams. With the market for starting pitching being so desperate this offseason, clubs may have extra incentive to hang onto their pitchers, and those let go could profit from a thin market.

There are a number of players who have almost zero chance of receiving a qualifying offer. MLB Trade Rumors has a full list of all the free agents this offseason.