Monday marked the deadline for players who had been extended the $17.2 million qualifying offers to make a decision whether to accept or reject those offers. Of the 10 players who received offers, two players accepted and the other eight rejected those offers, opting for free agency.
Per the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams signing players who have rejected qualifying offers will forfeit their highest unprotected pick in the next draft, and the team that extended the qualifying offer will receive a compensation pick at the end of the first round.
The CBA stipulates that a qualifying offer must be for one year and for the mean of the 125 contracts with the highest average annual value among MLB salaries. In 2017, that meant that players were offered $17.2 million.
Second baseman Neil Walker (Mets) and righthander Jeremy Hellickson (Phillies) accepted their offers, giving them signed contracts for 2017 at $17.2 million each.
Walker is coming off a strong 2016 campaign in which he swatted 23 home runs, matching his career high, and reached base at a .347 clip, the second-highest of his career. Back injuries clouded the free agent market for Walker, who missed more than a month as the season came to a close. Accepting the qualifying offer provides certainty for Walker as he attempts to return from injury and enters his age-31 season; his medical situation could have had an impact on his standing in the market, and the draft pick compensation attached to him may have driven otherwise-interested teams to go in another direction.
Hellickson is coming off his best season since 2012, his sophomore season with the Rays. His stock has fluctuated in recent years, and his performance was underwhelming over a three-year stretch before 2016. If he can maintain his upward trajectory in 2017, Hellickson could be in line for more lucrative offers next offseason. His decision to accept his qualifying offer further thins this offseason’s free agent market for starting pitching, which is historically light. The empty market lead to some speculation that Hellickson could test his chances and earn a deal that would exceed his value.
The eight players to reject the qualifying offer were:
• Jose Bautista (Blue Jays)
• Yoenis Cespedes (Mets)
• Ian Desmond (Rangers)
• Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays)
• Dexter Fowler (Cubs)
• Kenley Jansen (Dodgers)
• Mark Trumbo (Orioles)
• Justin Turner (Dodgers)
It is too early to determine how these players’ free agency will play out, but the Blue Jays and Dodgers could both gain a significant advantage in the 2017 draft if the players who rejected their offers end up signing elsewhere. Toronto and Los Angeles finished 24th and 25th, respectively, in the 2016 standings, and would see a large increase in draft pool spending should they earn extra picks at the top.