Now that Mark Trumbo has re-signed with the Orioles, all ten players who were issued qualifying offers last November have found landing spots for 2017. Based on the teams who gained and lost draft picks from these qualifying offer free agents, the order for the first round of the 2017 amateur draft has now been finalized.
The biggest takeaway from the updated order, of course, is how relatively static things have remained since the order was originally established at the end of the regular season. Of the 10 players who were issued the one-year, $17.2MM qualifying offers, two (Neil Walker, Jeremy Hellickson) accepted, and five others (Trumbo, Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Bautista, Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner) re-signed with their original teams. It was a far cry from last offseason, when 20 players were issued qualifying offers and 11 switched teams.
Here’s how the first 30 picks in the draft will shake out, covering both the first round and the compensation round…
11. White Sox
22. Blue Jays
24. Red Sox
COMPENSATION ROUND (bonus picks given to teams who issued qualifying offers to players who signed elsewhere; picks are allotted in inverse order of 2015 record)
Teams don’t easily part with first round picks under any circumstances, though this offseason’s QO market may have been particularly impacted by uncertainty surrounding the new collective bargaining agreement. Several of the game’s biggest spenders decided to largely sit out the free agent market for luxury tax purposes, plus a glut of first base/corner outfield/DH types in the market also contributed to Bautista, Trumbo and Encarnacion all receiving smaller deals than expected.
Encarnacion’s quiet market opened the door for the Indians to make a rare free agent splash, signing the slugger to a three-year, $60MM deal. The Tribe are clearly in win-now mode, and they felt that the chance to sign Encarnacion at a relative bargain price was worth giving up the 25th overall pick (Cleveland was originally selecting 27th, but their pick was bumped up after the Desmond and Fowler signings).
The Rockies originally held the 11th overall pick (the highest non-protected pick in the first round), so they single-handedly shifted the draft order when they rather surprisingly inked Desmond to a five-year, $70MM contract. Adding to the curiosity is the fact that the Rockies intend to use the athletic Desmond as a first baseman, though those plans could still change if Colorado deals from its outfield surplus before Opening Day. This signing could end up being widely debated for years, depending on how Desmond performs in Denver and who the White Sox select now that they have moved up to that 11th overall draft slot.
This will be the last offseason where business is conducted under these qualifying offer and draft compensation rules, thanks to the new CBA. Beginning next winter, players who have been issued a qualifying offer in the past are no longer eligible for another QO, which could bode well for players like Bautista, Hellickson and Walker. Teams that sign a QO free agent will no longer have to give up a first-rounder in compensation, though such signings will still some at a notable cost; the new rules will more closely tie qualifying offer free agents to the luxury tax, international draft pools and revenue-sharing systems.
MLB.com has the full order for the entire draft, including the order for the two Competitive Balance rounds, which respectively take place after the compensation round and the second round. Competitive Balance picks can be traded once the season begins, so there’s still a chance that the draft order could be further altered before teams start making their selections on June 12. The Rays hold the top Competitive Balance pick, drafting 31st overall.