Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that 10 players have received qualifying offers worth $17.8 million each: Josh Donaldson, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole, José Abreu, Jake Odorizzi, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler, Will Smith, and Marcell Ozuna.
The players have 10 days to accept or reject the qualifying offer. Accepting means they are back under contract with the offering team for the 2020 season; rejecting means they become a free agent with draft pick compensation attached to them.
We have talked in the past about how the QO system has hampered free agency. Teams that sign a player who rejected a QO must forfeit at least one draft pick. Teams losing a player who rejected their QO receive at least one draft pick as compensation, though it’s not a direct transfer from the signing team to the previous team. The compensation varies based on the team’s payroll and whether or not it receives revenue sharing.
The QO is unlikely to significantly impact the ability of players like Strasburg, Rendon, and Cole to draw interest as free agents. The next tier of free agents, however — the Abreus, Bumgarners, Odorizzis — may find a shallower market than they otherwise would have.
The $17.8 million value of the qualifying offer is actually less than last year’s value ($17.9 million), marking the first time the QO value has decreased since its implementation in 2012. The QO is derived by taking the average of the top 125 player salaries across the sport. Given some of the expensive contracts we’ve seen signed recently — Bryce Harper and Manny Machado come to mind — it’s logical to conclude we’re seeing a stratification among players. Those B- and C-tier free agents, if you’ll pardon my vague parlance, aren’t making what they should be making.
The current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1, 2021. The QO system will be a hot subject in negotiations between the owners and the union, potentially removed.