Updated: Aug 3
With the 2021 MLB season in the books (and a sigh of relief knowing the Astros are not the champions), the MLB offseason has officially begun. Aside from the issues surrounding MLB’s collective bargaining agreement, and rumors that we may see the first strike in baseball since 1994, one big question mark that remains has to do with this offseason’s free agency class. More specifically, how MLB’s newest qualifying offer (“QO”) will affect this year’s free agents.
A qualifying offer in baseball is a one year offer, worth the average of the top 125 salaries, to impending free agents. In order to be eligible for the qualifying offer, players must (1) have never received a QO before, and (2) have spent the entire season on that team’s roster (MLB.com). This year’s QOs must be made by November 7 (five days after the World Series), and players will have up to 10 days to accept or deny. If a player denies and ends up signing elsewhere, the team who loses that free agent will be compensated with a draft pick. This is a strategy that teams use when they make QOs to players they know will not accept, just so they can get a compensatory draft pick.
This year’s MLB qualifying offer was calculated at $18.4 million, $500 thousand lower from a year ago — only the second time since its birth in 2012 that the qualifying offer has decreased year over year (AP News). This is significant because it means that the salaries of MLB’s highest paid players have gone down.
What does this mean?
Because this year’s QO is set at a comparatively lower rate, it is possible we may see more teams less hesitant to make the offer to their impending free agents. Why? Well, teams may see it as less of a burden on their payroll if players were to accept (Bleacher Nation). On the other hand, players may be more hesitant to accept the offer, and instead opt to explore the open market, to seek a larger deal.
In essence, all free agents who receive a qualifying offer and accept will be signing a one year deal worth $18.4 million. Out of the 96 qualifying offers that have been made since its inception, only seven have been accepted. The most recent of them being Kevin Gausman and Marcus Stroman during last year’s offseason (AP).
Who is eligible for a qualifying offer?
Some of this year’s players eligible for the QO include Freddie Freeman (pictured above), Carlos Correa, Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Story, and Marcus Semien.
Who is not eligible for a qualifying offer?
Because players like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Eddie Rosario, and Max Scherzer were all traded during the 2021 season, they are not eligible for the QO.
The Future of the QO:
With the current CBA set to expire on December 1, it will be interesting to see what changes, if any, will be made to the QO rule.