The Major League Baseball offseason is rapidly approaching, and with it comes one of the most confusing times of the year. It’s time for teams to make decisions on qualifying offers.
Teams wishing to receive compensatory draft picks for the loss of a free agent can make a one-year offer to their impending free agents if that player has never received a qualifying offer previously in his career and that player spent the entire season on that one team’s roster.
According to MLB, “the player will have 10 days to accept or decline the qualifying offer, during which time he can negotiate with other teams to survey his market value. Should a player decide to accept the qualifying offer, he is signed for the following year at that rate. If a player rejects the qualifying offer, he is free to further explore the free-agent market.”
Any team that signs a player who has rejected a qualifying offer is subject to the loss of one or more draft picks. A team’s highest first-round pick is exempt from this clause, but additional first-round picks are eligible.
This year, the qualifying offer value has been set at $17.8 million in 2019, a $100K drop from 2018. This is the first time ever that the mean of baseball’s top 125 salaries decreased.
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.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 11, 2019
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.
Without further ado, here are 10 players who are essentially locks to receive a qualifying offer from their current teams, in no specific order.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Atlanta Braves
Donaldson left Toronto to join Atlanta this season (well, after a short interlude in Cleveland anyways), and he did not disappoint. On a one-year, $23 million pact, Donaldson appeared in 157 games, slashing .259/.379/.521 while knocking in 94 runs on 142 hits. He should fetch a three-year deal worth roughly $55 million, which would give him more money and more security. It has already been reported that Donaldson will receive a qualifying offer and will decline it, but both sides seem interested in him staying in Atlanta so don’t be shocked if a two or three year extension is worked out.
Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals
Rendon, 29, spent 2019 earning $18.8 million and has a shot at earning a World Series ring, too. Once the postseason concludes, the Nats will extend a qualifying offer to him, which he will immediately reject. He will test free agency and could put pen to paper on a deal worth roughly $32 million per year over six or seven years after slashing a career-best .319/.412/.598 with 126 runs knocked in on 174 hits, including 34 homers.
Gerrit Cole, SP, Houston Astros
Cole, who has used the postseason and each of his starts to increase his value more than it already was, has put himself in an amazing position to fetch a six-year deal worth at least $200 million. He was 20-5 in 34 games this year, striking out 326 batters and posting his first sub-one WHIP (0.895). The Astros will issue the qualifying offer but there’s no chance it’s accepted.
Marcell Ozuna, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Ozuna, 28, is coming off a year in which he earned $12.25 million. Due to earn a bit more than Josh Donaldson will this offseason, Ozuna spent 2019 slashing .243/.330/.474 with 89 runs plated on 114 hits, including 29 homers, being dubbed one of the best left-fielders in baseball. Like Donaldson, he could accept the qualifying offer, but won’t.
Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets
Wheeler’s name came up in mid-season trade talks, but he stuck around with New York for what ended up being an eventful run that fell shy of the postseason. There’s been some speculation that Wheeler could stick around with the Mets, but only for a generous price and discount. That discount would presumably be a qualifying offer, giving him the choice to stay in New York or take his talents elsewhere. After going 11-8 with a 3.95 ERA in 2019, Wheeler is projected to fetch a four-year deal just shy of $90 million this offseason. His time with the Mets is likely coming to an end.
Jake Odorizzi, SP, Minnesota Twins
Odorizzi had a great 2019 campaign with the AL Central champion Twins, for whom he won 15 games while striking out 178 opposing batters while working a 3.51 ERA, the second-best of his major league career. Odorizzi had an arguably better season than Wheeler, although it may have gone undervalued considering the heavy media presence in New York. Odorizzi deserves to fetch more money than Wheeler does this offseason, so he’ll certainly reject the qualifying offer.
Aroldis Chapman, RP, New York Yankees
The Chapman situation is an interesting one, as he has an opt-out clause in his contract. It’s a clause that could trigger or nullify the add-on of two years and $30 million. It seems likely he will decline because, for the most part, the speculation is that the Yankees would try to keep him in New York by issuing a qualifying offer — an offer that he would probably accept. Chapman posted 37 saves this year and has continued to be a force on the mound. He’ll get that qualifying offer and probably choose to remain in New York.
Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants
Bumgarner’s long stint with the Giants has finally come to an end, and he will not return to San Francisco, ending a relationship most Bay Area fans hoped would never come to an end. Bumgarner is surely worth more than $17.8 million, as he is expected to sign a pact that would pay him between $20 and $25 annually this offseason. As with many players on this list, Bumgarner will be offered a qualifying offer simply so his ex-team can add a draft pick.
J.D. Martinez, DH, Boston Red Sox
In a situation that closely mirrors that of Aroldis Chapman, J.D. Martinez has the chance to opt out of his contract this winter. He could nullify the upcoming three years and $62.5 million, or trigger a one-year, $23.75 million pact that gives him future options in declining or accepting a pair of one-year, $19.35 million deals. The Red Sox are hoping for Martinez to opt out to stay below the luxury tax threshold, but the decision is up to Scott Boras and his client. In the end, if they do decline the option, the Red Sox will issue the qualifying offer so they can secure a solid draft selection.
Didi Gregorius, SS, New York Yankees
The last player on this list is Gregorius, who has played great since returning from injury — much to Yankee fans’ delight — thus raising his value even more as free agent approaches — much to Yankee fans’ displeasure. He’s expected to land a three-year pact worth between $50 and $60 million, which would garner average annual values between $16.7 million and $20 million, right in the ballpark of a qualifying offer. It’s hard to imagine a situation where Gregorius isn’t a New York Yankee, and my gut feeling tells me Gregorius will decline the Yankees’ qualifying offer but sign a three-year, $54 million deal with them in free agency.