The 2015-16 free agent season’s qualifying offer value has been set at $15.8MM, according to a tweet from Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal. That represents an increase, of course, but the rise isn’t nearly as great as it has been in the past.
The QO system used a $13.3MM number in its first year, which increased to $14.1MM and then to $15.3MM last fall. The qualifying offer value is determined by averaging the 125 contracts leaguewide that have the highest average annual values.
Here’s a quick refresher on how the qualifying offer system works: Teams can offer their departing free agents a one-year deal, at the established price tag, within five days of the conclusion of the World Series. Over the next seven days, players who receive the offer are allowed to talk with other teams and decide whether to take the single-season pact. If they reject it, then draft implications attach: their former team stands to gain a compensation pick in the following year’s draft, while a new signing team must give up their highest non-protected draft choice.
There are plenty of other elements of the system, of course, and you can check out this old-but-good overview for more. For an understanding of why the qualifying offer matters so much, read this great explanation of why “avoiding the qualifying offer” is so important for a free agent’s value.
Players traded in mid-season are not eligible to receive a qualifying offer. So, for example, the Royals can make a qualifying offer to Alex Gordon but cannot extend one to Johnny Cueto or Ben Zobrist.
And remember: we still have yet to see a player accept a qualifying offer. While several QO-declining players have seemingly experienced market impacts after being saddled with draft compensation, the opportunity to test the open market in search of a multi-year pact has thus far proved compelling.