MLB.com Columnist

Mark Feinsand

Market impact lessened for qualifying offers

Draft-pick compensation not as big a deterrent for signing free agents

Market impact lessened for qualifying offers

Nine free agents received qualifying offers from their former teams Monday, giving the players and their agents something to think about over the next 10 days.

That's when the players must decide whether to accept a $17.4 million salary for 2018 or decline the offer, which would entitle their previous team to Draft pick compensation if they sign elsewhere. (The deadline is 5 p.m. ET on Nov. 16, to be exact.)

The nine players to receive qualifying offers were Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis of the Cubs; Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas of the Royals; Carlos Santana of the Indians; Alex Cobb of the Rays; Greg Holland of the Rockies; and Lance Lynn of the Cardinals. Of those mulling qualifying offers, Arrieta, Cain, Hosmer, Moustakas and Lynn appear most likely to decline. Cobb and Santana could pass on the offer, as well, though some in the industry aren't as sold on those being foregone conclusions. Any of these players could also work out a multiyear contract before (or after) the deadline, and Santana's strong Cleveland ties make him a reasonable candidate for such a deal.

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The two most interesting QO cases might be Davis and Holland, as the $17.4 million salary would represent the highest single-season salary for any closer in history. Then again, three closers -- Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon -- signed deals last offseason worth at least $62 million, so Davis and Holland could find themselves with far more guaranteed money than $17.4 million, even if it is less per year.

Qualifying offers should not affect the market as much as they have in recent years as the rules regarding compensation were altered in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was agreed to last offseason.

CBA to affect qualifying offers

Previously, teams forfeited their first-round pick (or second-round pick if they had a protected pick in the top 10 overall selections) for signing a player who had rejected a qualifying offer, while the player's former team received a pick immediately following the first round.

Under the new rules, the only way a team gets a compensation pick right after the first round is if it is a revenue-sharing recipient and the free agent inks a deal worth $50 million or more elsewhere. If the player signs for less than $50 million, the compensation pick comes after Competitive Round B, which follows the second round.

Only the Indians (Santana), Rays (Cobb), Rockies (Holland) and Royals (Cain, Hosmer and Moustakas) will qualify for picks that fall after the first round, because they are among the 16 clubs that receive revenue sharing. The Cubs (Arrieta and Davis) and Cardinals (Lynn) would receive a compensatory pick following Competitive Round B regardless of the contracts their free agents sign.

As for the team signing one of these nine players, its highest pick is now protected regardless of where their selection falls. Any additional first-round or Competitive Balance picks are eligible to be lost, though there are three tiers of Draft pick forfeiture based on the financial status of the signing team.

The new qualifying offer rules, explained

But the change in the rules that makes a team's highest pick exempt from forfeiture should have a big impact on how the QO system works. During the first few years of the system, some free agents saw their markets limited due to the Draft pick compensation attached to them. There was no better example of this phenomenon than Kendrys Morales waiting until after the 2014 Draft -- when teams would no longer have to forfeit a Draft pick to sign him -- to ink a free-agent deal. And in less extreme cases, we saw some players waiting around until well into Spring Training to sign a contract, such as Ervin Santana inking a one-year deal with the Braves on March 12, 2014. With teams no longer having to sacrifice their highest pick to sign free agents, that should change.

"Given what teams have to give up now, it's a lesser price to pay than the system that's been in place previously," one general manager said. "For the most part, you should see teams behave in a way where there's less regard for any sort of loss that comes with signing one of those players. I would expect it to be less of a deterrent than it's been in the past."

The first three years of the qualifying-offer system saw 34 players receive the offer, though none accepted. After nine, 13 and 12 players received -- and rejected -- qualifying offers between 2012-14, a record 20 players received the offers in 2015. Three of them -- Brett Anderson, Colby Rasmus and Matt Wieters -- accepted the one-year deal, which came along with a $15.8 million salary, up from the initial figure of $13.3 million in 2012.

Two more players -- Jeremy Hellickson and Neil Walker -- accepted last year, agreeing to a $17.2 million salary for 2017.

This year's figure is a record $17.4 million, which is the average of the top 125 salaries in the game last season. The nine players who got qualifying offers were pretty much expected, though no one would have been shocked if Cincinnati shortstop Zack Cozart (coming off a career-best .933 OPS) or Tampa Bay DH/first baseman Logan Morrison (38 homers) had received them as well. They are both now free to test the open market without any concern of Draft compensation affecting the market for their services.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.