As the clock approached the 5:00 p.m. deadline for players to make qualifying offer decisions, there was sudden clarity on whether the 10 players issued the offers had decided to accept or reject the one-year, $17.8 million pacts.
The first news was that of Giants reliever Will Smith, who rejected his qualifying offer and instead signed a three-year, $39 million deal with the Atlanta Braves. The deal also includes a club option for 2023 worth $13 million that can be declined in favor of a $1 million buyout. Smith was easily the most valuable impending free agent.
Next, it was reported that Jake Odorizzi accepted his qualifying offer extended to him by the Twins. Odorizzi had a great season with Minnesota, and his qualifying offer decision was perhaps the most interesting. His value is right around $16 million or $17 million per year, and any deal would have given him a bit more security and a bit less money per year. In the end, Odorizzi decided to return to Minnesota, which should please many Twins fans.
Odorizzi accepting qualifying offer, source tells The Athletic. Back with #MNTwins.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 14, 2019
Then, first baseman Jose Abreu accepted his qualifying offer. This was a move that was widely expected after the White Sox left some people scratching their heads in confusion by simply extending the offer in the first place. It’s worth noting that there have been murmurs that Abreu might sign an extension soon with Chicago, so perhaps the qualifying offer is simply a placeholder, giving the two parties more time to discuss a deal.
Jake Odorizzi (Twins) and Jose Abreu (White Sox) are accepting the one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer, sources told ESPN. Barring contract extensions, they will be free agents without restriction after the 2020 season.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 14, 2019
Finally, we received confirmation regarding the seven stars who declined their qualifying offers. In these cases, the offers were simply extended to allow the teams to fetch a compensatory draft pick.
The seven players who will reject qualifying offers, sources tell ESPN, and have draft-pick and perhaps international-bonus compensation tied to their free agency: Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, Josh Donaldson and Marcell Ozuna.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 14, 2019
Gerrit Cole spent 2019 baffling opposing hitters and preparing for a free agency period that should make him the recipient of the most remunerative pitcher contract ever. Cole finished second in the AL Cy Young award voting behind teammate Justin Verlander in a season that saw their Astros squad come one game shy of being named World Series champions.
Anthony Rendon is familiar with that World Series, as he and his Nationals were the ones who knocked off the Astros and were named World Series champions. Rendon is battling for the honors of National League MVP, presumably in a two-way contest with Dodgers star Cody Bellinger. Although already in his 30s, Rendon, a Boras client, should fetch a lucrative contract this winter.
Stephen Strasburg is the other member of the champion Nationals who was issued a qualifying offer. Strasburg declined his player option for an extra four years and $100 million, essentially guaranteeing he would decline a qualifying offer that came with less money and less security. Strasburg is expected to find his way back to a dominant Washington rotation this offseason, and he’ll get a lot of money to do so.
Zack Wheeler’s decision to decline the qualifying offer isn’t surprising, either. There’s murmurs of him looking for a deal that eclipses $100 million in total, which is probably the number his camp will initially ask for during negotiations. Wheeler attracted a lot of interest at the past trade deadline and will surely do so again as a free agent this offseason.
Madison Bumgarner is another player whose name came up in midseason trade rumors, but he, too, stayed put. A pitcher who rakes, Bumgarner should land a deal similar to what Wheeler sees this offseason. It appears the peak of Bumgarner’s career is in the past, but he’ll surely still be an All-Star for several seasons to come.
Josh Donaldson, coming off a one-year deal in Atlanta in which he posted a great season, declined his qualifying offer as he prepares to command a more lucrative deal with a greater length this offseason. Still a reliable force at the hot corner, Donaldson separates himself from other sluggers thanks to the hot glove that he obtains in addition to his strong bat.
Lastly, Marcell Ozuna declined his club option from the Cardinals. While it’s quite possible Ozuna inks a different deal to return to St. Louis, he could take a while to sign, as it is likely that many teams will make offers and negotiate with him before he makes a decision.