Love it or hate it, there's no denying that the qualifying offer has disrupted baseball's free agent economy. With less than a month to go before Opening Day, three capable players - Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales and Ervin Santana - are still on the market, potential suitors remaining hesitant to give up a draft pick and its associated bonus pool money. Some players, like Ubaldo Jimenez, have still commanded sizeable deals. Others, however, haven't fared so well. Few would have expected Nelson Cruz to settle for a one-year, $8MM guarantee at the offseason's outset, for example.
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow argued in a recent interview with MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo that turning down this offseason's $14.1MM qualifying offer, which links players with draft pick compensation, is rejecting "what a lot of people would consider pretty generous, life-changing money." The current system is, in any case, "an improvement over what was there before," Luhnow said. On the other hand, there can be little doubt that the qualifying offer is suppressing the salaries of some players at a time when Major League Baseball has never been more profitable. The system can also frustrate fans. Adding Drew, Morales or Santana would improve many clubs' chances for a 2014 postseason berth, and some find it hard to digest that the value of a draft pick can outweigh that of a player who can impact a team now.
The qualifying offer system will remain in place through at least December 2016, when the current collective bargaining agreement expires. At that point, MLB owners and players will reconvene to try to hammer out a new deal, and the qualifying offer is sure to emerge as a topic of discussion. At that time, should the system be scrapped?