Qualifying offers for pending free agents are set to increase to $15.8 million this off-season. That's a three percent increase on last season's $15.3 million and nearly 19 percent growth since 2012. The update was reported Friday by Sports Business Journal's Eric Fisher:
The qualifying offer for MLB free agents this offseason will be $15.8 million, up from $15.3 million last year— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) October 9, 2015
When it was first used, the qualifying offer system required deals to be worth $13.3 million. It eventually increased to $14.1 million and then to $15.3 million last year. Offer value is calculated by averaging the contracts that have the highest annual value throughout the league.
Each team has the opportunity to offer its impending free agents a one-year deal, at the given price, up to five days after the World Series ends. Players then have the ability to speak with other teams and determine whether or not to accept the single season offer. If the offer is rejected, the player's former team receives a compensation pick while the player's new team is forced to give up its highest available draft choice.
With the league average salary continuing to grow, it's good to see that pending free agents will similarly be getting a guaranteed payday. However, the history of qualifying offers hasn't always been a good one for players. For instance, in 2013, Kendrys Morales turned down his qualifying offer just to wait until the season had begun to sign for a $2 million pay cut. In the age where general managers like Theo Epstein prove the importance of building from within, it's hard for some organizations to surrender a draft pick.
Furthermore, a guaranteed one-year payday isn't really what a lot of these players are looking for. Many want guaranteed job security over a term, but contracts like that tend to be the exception. Not many players end up with a Max Scherzer-level payday, but salaries like his help to ensure smaller pay increases elsewhere.
With so many players getting moved at the deadline, several potential free agents aren't even eligible for a qualifying offer. Big names like David Price, Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist won't qualify, for instance. Perhaps the most interesting name to receive a qualifying offer will be Justin Upton. There's a lot of speculation about what the Padres will look to do this off-season, so whether they try to retain Upton or claim the compensatory draft pick will be something to monitor. Other eligible, high-end free agents include Jason Heyward, Zack Greinke, Alex Gordon, Jordan Zimmermann and Chris Davis.