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|
|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|
|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.