The value of this year's one-year qualifying offer for free agents will be $14.1MM, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter). That sum represents an $800K increase from last year's $13.3MM mark.
Major League Baseball's latest collective bargaining agreement did away with the old Elias Rankings and Type-A/Type-B free agent system in lieu of the qualifying offer system. Simply put, teams who wish to receive draft pick compensation for the loss of a free agent to another team must first make a qualifying one-year offer that is worth the average salary of MLB's 125 highest-paid players. Only after the free agent rejects that offer is his former team eligible to receive a compensatory first-round pick.
Unlike the the old system, the team losing their free agent does not receive the signing team's pick as compensation. A team that signs a free agent after he has rejected a qualifying offer simply loses its first- or second-round pick. (The first 10 picks of the draft are protected**, so teams with a Top 10 selection would instead forfeit a second-rounder.) That free agent's former team would then receive a pick at the end of the first round.
In order for a player to be eligible to receive a qualifying offer, the CBA states that he must have spent the entire regular season on that team's roster. For example, Matt Garza is ineligible to receive a qualifying offer after beginning the season with the Cubs and being traded to the Rangers.
Last year, just nine free agents received qualifying offers, and none of the nine accepted them. This year, the Mariners have already said that they will extend a qualifying offer to Kendrys Morales, and agent Scott Boras has said they will reject the offer. Rangers GM Jon Daniels also said that he expects to make a qualifying offer to impending free agent Nelson Cruz.
As we saw last offseason with Kyle Lohse, rejecting a qualifying offer can seriously dampen interest in a free agent. Many expected that Lohse would be able to find a four- or even five-year deal following a brilliant run with the Cardinals, but we instead heard a common refrain: teams weren't willing to part with their top draft selection in order to sign him. Ultimately, the Brewers inked Lohse to a three-year, $33MM contract late in Spring Training.
MLBTR's Tim Dierkes recently conducted a poll asking MLBTR readers which players would receive qualifying offers following the regular season. Not surprisingly, Robinson Cano led the way as the most likely to receive an offer. Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Brian McCann and Hunter Pence were the next five on the list, although Pence can obviously be removed from the equation, as he signed a five-year extension with the Giants shortly after the poll was conducted.
**Note: In the 2014 Draft, the first 11 picks will be protected instead of the first 10, as the Blue Jays will receive the 11th pick as compensation for failure to sign 2013 first-rounder Phil Bickford.