Let’s be honest right up front: we don’t know what the qualifying offer system will look like for the 2020-21 offseason. It’s in the CBA, sure, but economic realities could require some rather extensive renegotiation — or, due to vast changes in key underlying information points, completely change what we think we know about the market for baseball players. But we’re not going to offer any guesses on those aspects of the future. As we learn more about how drastically the 2020 season will ultimately be curtailed, and what the means for 2021 and beyond, we’ll adjust as best we can.
(We also don’t yet know the value of the QO. It’s set by averaging the salaries of the 125 highest-paid players in the game.)
Instead, in this post, we’re going to look forward at the 2020-21 offseason with something of a presumption of relative normalcy. We aren’t aiming for any precision — just trying to create a useful starting point that we can revisit as the situation develops, both economically and on the field (if indeed MLB makes it back). Here’s a list of the pending free agents who may be candidates to receive a qualifying offer.
- Mookie Betts (OF, Dodgers): One of the game’s very best players, Betts is sure to receive a QO.
- J.T. Realmuto (C, Phillies): Barring a total collapse, Realmuto will receive and reject a qualifying offer.
- Marcus Semien (SS, Athletics): After an MVP-level showing in 2019, the expectation is that Semien will be one of the top players on the market this fall. Even if he steps back a fair bit at the plate, it’s tough to imagine he won’t be worth a qualifying offer.
- George Springer (OF, Astros): Springer is an immensely productive offensive performer and can play anywhere in the outfield.
Other Top Candidates
- Trevor Bauer (SP, Reds): This could go either way, but the Reds gave up big value last summer on the assumption that Bauer would easily be worthy of a QO. It’ll be fun to see how it unfolds given Bauer’s oft-state determination to play out his career on one-year deals.
- Michael Brantley (OF/DH, Astros): He has been healthy and quite productive for the past two seasons.
- Ken Giles (RP, Blue Jays): If he can turn in a second-straight star performance in Toronto, Giles would be a candidate for a major, long-term free agent contract.
- Didi Gregorius (SS, Phillies): If he bounces back as the Phillies hope, it’ll be an easy to call. If there’s no 2020 season, he’ll be allowed to return to free agency without encumbrance.
- Liam Hendriks (RP, Athletics): It’d be a big bet for a guy with this back story, but Hendriks was elite in 2019 and could warrant a QO if he repeats.
- DJ LeMahieu (2B, Yankees): Based on his surprising 2019 MVP-caliber season, DJLM would get a QO if the Yanks were forced to decide right now. But they have the luxury of watching the 2020 season, when he’ll try to prove he can maintain that new level of output.
- Mike Minor (SP, Rangers): Two strong seasons in Texas make Minor an easy bet on a one-year arrangement, but he’ll be watched closely in 2020.
- James Paxton (SP, Yankees): The delay to the season has given Paxton time to overcome his latest injury. He has such a high established ceiling that he won’t have to show all that much to be worthy of a QO … so long as he ends 2020 in good health.
- Jose Quintana (SP, Cubs): The trend isn’t promising, but a bounceback 2020 could put Q back on track for a QO.
- Robbie Ray (SP, Diamondbacks): It’s possible that Ray will end up being the top starter on the market. Odds are he’ll turn down a QO on his way out the door in Arizona.
- Garrett Richards (SP, Padres): With ace-like stuff, a resurgent Richards could easily warrant a qualifying offer … though there’s also an obvious downside scenario here.
- Andrelton Simmons (SS, Angels): Some might disagree with me, but I expect Simmons to get a QO from the Los Angeles organization even if he’s a slightly below-average hitter in 2020. The glove is exceptional.
- Marcus Stroman (SP, Mets): Barring injury or a total downturn, there’s little question the productive starter is going to warrant a QO.
- Masahiro Tanaka (SP, Yankees): You hate to rule out a guy with this talent level, even if he hasn’t shown that level of capability of late.
- Kirby Yates (RP, Padres): We can debate how much money and how long a commitment you ought to make to an aging relief pitcher, but Yates has been one of the game’s very best and is easily worthy of a qualifying offer-level salary on a single-season pact.
- Nick Castellanos (OF, Reds): If he plays well enough to opt out after year one, a qualifying offer would be likely.
- J.D. Martinez (OF/DH, Red Sox): Martinez can opt out of the last two years of his deal. Should he do so, he’d be sure to decline a qualifying offer, so the Boston org would likely issue it.
- Charlie Morton (SP, Rays): It was rather surprising when Morton didn’t get a QO on his way out the door in Houston. Anything close to his 2019 output would again make him a strong candidate, even at relatively advanced age. But if he’s that good and healthy again, he’ll trigger a $15MM vesting option. (Even if it doesn’t go into effect automatically, the Rays will be able to pick it up as a club option at that price — or a lower number, depending upon time spent on the injured list).
- Giancarlo Stanton (OF, Yankees): On the off chance he has such an immense season that he opts out of the $200+ million left on his deal … well, no doubt the Yanks would dangle a qualifying offer.
If teams had to make the call right now, I don’t think any of these players would get real consideration for a qualifying offer. But they’re the top possibilities beyond those considered in more detail above …
- Dellin Betances (RP, Mets): It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how a QO could happen here.
- Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, Red Sox): It’s fairly unlikely, but Bradley has enough of a track record in the field that he could warrant a QO if he can return to the offensive output he provided 4-5 years ago.
- Sean Doolittle (RP, Nationals): It’ll take a real bounce back to his prior effectiveness for the excellent lefty to warrant a qualifying offer.
- Kevin Gausman (SP, Giants): While he’s nowhere near a QO candidate after a few tough seasons, Gausman is only 29 and has big-time pedigree.
- Yuli Gurriel (1B, Astros): The odds of a near-40 first baseman getting a qualifying offer aren’t high, but Gurriel did hit quite well last year.
- Cole Hamels (SP, Braves): The Atlanta org promised him $18MM this past winter, so a QO can’t be ruled out.
- Keone Kela (RP, Pirates): Could he elevate his game as the Bucs’ closer?
- Tommy La Stella (INF, Angels): Who’s to say he can’t keep the 2019 productivity rolling? It’s likelier he’ll end up reaching the market without a qualifying offer, but it’s at least possible to imagine.
- Joc Pederson (OF, Dodgers): Unlikely for a platoon bat, but Pederson has been a consistent power source.
- Blake Treinen (RP, Dodgers): See Betances.
- Jonathan Villar (INF/OF, Marlins): He’s young enough that a QO can’t be ruled out if he turns in another ~4 WAR season.
- Brandon Workman (RP, Red Sox): If he repeats 2019, it’s possible … but the prior track record suggests cause for skepticism.
- Alex Wood (SP, Dodgers): The lefty was really good for quite some time before running into injury troubles last year.
Ineligible Due To Prior QO
- Most of these players aren’t realistic candidates to receive a second qualifying offer, but here’s the list of still-active players who are potential 2020-21 free agents but aren’t eligible for a QO since they’ve already been issued one once before: Brett Anderson, Melky Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes, Wei-Yin Chen, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, Wade Davis, Edwin Encarnacion, Marco Estrada, Alex Gordon, Greg Holland, Ubaldo Jimenez, Howie Kendrick, Francisco Liriano, Russell Martin, Daniel Murphy, Jake Odorizzi, Marcell Ozuna, David Robertson, Jeff Samardzija, Pablo Sandoval, Carlos Santana, Mark Trumbo, Justin Turner, Neil Walker, Matt Wieters, Jordan Zimmermann
Bauer feels like a slam dunk to me
He has said in the past that he would only sign a string of 1 year deals if when he reaches free agency, and the QO is a one year deal. So if the Reds don’t want to keep him around, they wouldn’t want to take the risk of offering a 1 year, relatively well paying contract just for another pick.
Even if he wants to play on one year deals, he’ll be able to get more on the open market than the QO is worth and would likely decline it.
There’s no way the best Trevor Bauer does is a 1 year 18.5 million dollar contract. For Christ sake the White Sox just gave Keuchel 3x that much. The Phils gave Wheeler almost 6x.
“For Christ sake the White Sox just gave Keuchel 3x that much.”
The season after he settled for a 1=year 13 million $ deal, coming off a muuuuch better season than Bauer will be, should there be no 2020 baseball.
Bauer’s ’18 is an outlier by a significant margin. Until he can establish that he’s closer to that Bauer than Rest Of His Career Bauer, why would teams want to shell out multiple years at significant AAV?
Bauer will get QO’d. Bauer will reject the QO. Bauer will get a better deal than the QO. Whether or not he’s worth what he gets is a whole different discussion. The big arm gets paid. He has a big arm.
“Bauer will get QO’d. Bauer will reject the QO.”
“Bauer will get a better deal than the QO.”
Not aaaanywhere near a sure thing.
“Whether or not he’s worth what he gets is a whole different discussion.”
Right the discussion was whether Bauer would do better than the QO. There’s little outside a sterling ’18 that suggests he will.
“The big arm gets paid. He has a big arm.”
There’s not a front-office in baseball in 2o2o that makes deals via nebulous sloganeering like this. Largely unremarkable career w/ single ace-level season and poor finish last season, attitude a possible liability, would cost a draft pick…but that “big arm…”
How about Zack Wheeler? Bauer has flashed more upside and is the same age. He may not get a deal quote that fat if he’s coming off a 4-4.5 ERA season but either way it’s going to be higher. He’s going to receive a QO and reject it. That’s what a slam dunk is. That was my first comment. Seems like you’re trying to pick some sort of disagreement here.
There’s a wide range of outcomes as to what Bauer could get. All those outcomes are more than the QO though. Barring some sort of TJ or serious injury obviously. But that goes for any of the “slam dunks”
I mean we can pretend that there aren’t teams willing to pony up cash for the big arm upside. But what you’re doing is lying to yourself. To suggest Bauer is only “big arm” upside isn’t what I was doing. You just took that to get in a little D’bag comment about sloganeering.
But anyway, Bauer has flashed ace upside. Those guys do not find themselves on the market every offseason. Let’s remember a “slam dunk” in this scenario is to clear a 1 year 18.5 million. Pretty ludicrous to say Bauer isn’t going to do that.
But let’s play the “nebulous big arm game”!
Let’s pretend Nathan Eovaldi didn’t get 68 million based on a postseason and a big arm. Let’s pretend the Phillies aren’t paying Wheeler for the upside of his “big arm.” Let’s bury our head in the sand and pretend for ya!
OntariGRO wouldn’t give Bauer a high AAV for multiple seasons!!! If he wouldn’t; no team would!!!! Our resident front office insider is here to talk to down to the idiots who think it’s a slam dunk!!!
Every offseason OntariGRO picks his jaw up off the floor after a hard thrower gets a large deal! He tells himself, “no front office could possibly be this stupid. Why wouldn’t they hire me to make these decisions?”
Sorry, to clarify, my initial response wasn’t to the “slam dunk” comment. I agree. he’s getting a QO. What stuck out to me was the Keuchel comparison, and his Sox contract being indicative that Bauer will, or should, do better than the QO. But the contract Keuchel signed after declining the Astros QO was not with the Sox, but a 1-year sub-QO deal with the Braves in 2019. Keuchel’s Sox contract was signed without the need for draft pick compensation.
There are a lot of similarities between Keuchel at his post-’18 season FA and Bauer’s upcoming FA: nearly the same age, both 2 years removed from their career-best season, coming off, actual or perceived, “down” years. What separates them is Keuchel’s significantly better track record/hardware/play-off experience, and the fact that Bauer’s “down” ’19 isn’t that far removed from his ’14-’17, though punctuated with an uuuuuugly 10 start Reds tenure.
I’m not trying to argue that Bauer shouldn’t be able to do better than the QO he’ll definitely get then reject, just that it wouldn’t be all that surprising/outside the realm of possibilities if he doesn’t,
“Let’s pretend Nathan Eovaldi didn’t get 68 million based on a postseason and a big arm. Let’s pretend the Phillies aren’t paying Wheeler for the upside of his “big arm.” Let’s bury our head in the sand and pretend for ya!”
Sounds fun. Doesn’t make use of the term any less nebulous. I want to assume you’re using it in place of “high-velocity arm” or “hard thrower” but more amorphous, which makes it useless for me to engage with.
Every single year….
Would you consider signing on as my biographer? Pro bono, though.
That’d be a high in demand job! Biographer for the fart sniffing thesaurus!
Charlie Morton has a vesting option in his contract for 2021.
For Padres Garret Richards won’t get a QO i think theres a better chance of Padres trade him by the deadline if healthy. Yates should get a QO but rather extend him another 2 years.
Yates wouldn’t take 2 years.
No way I see JBJ getting one. If the season is not played, the team will need that money elsewhere and if they reset the cap, they’ll look to hook a bigger fish (if not Betts, what about Springer who played college at U-Conn?).
Bradley is overpaid at 10m. Wouldn’t have broken my heart had he just not been non tendered over the winter and some replacement brought in for half, or less since about any MLB player can hit as well (or better) than him, tho the glove is still top notch.
Workman is another matter. I don’t see him getting any QO even if he somehow manages to duplicate his flukey 2019. 19m for a reliever? I don’t see it for him, tho would love to see him back on a 2-3y deal at around 8-10m average.
No way Workman but I agree on your values on a short deal. Maybe a little less.
The Red Sox are screwed if there is no 2020 season because their CBT would not reset. They would still be considered three time ‘offenders’ and would be assessed the largest tax under the rule in 2021 if they exceed the tax threshold. So the Sox will not be signing any big free agents next year if the 2020 season is cancelled.
Let’s hope they figure out how to squeeze some games in this year so the Sox can reset their CBT and put a competitive team back together for 2021.
They get Pedroia, JBJ, and possibly JDM off the payroll next year. There’s a chance that they could put a competitive team on the field and still be under.
JDM isn’t opting out if there is no season
doesn’t Pedie’s deal expire after 21?
Yeah. You’re right. Ouch. That changes things a little bit. I thought Ped’s was off
The ineligibles are fascinating. Melky, Matt Weiters, Brett Anderson, Wei-Yin Chen
There’s a ton of players who will likely be given the QO this year. Mookie Betts, J.T. Realmuto, Marcus Semien, George Springer, Trevor Bauer, Michael Brantley, Ken Giles, Didi Gregorius, DJ LeMahieu, Mike Minor, James Paxton, Robbie Ray, Andrelton Simmons, Marcus Stroman… Compared to only 8 QOs given last year, there could be a huge jump.
Barring something unforeseen there’s no way Kirby Yates doesn’t get one
Maybe…. but this cash flow crunch from this year might out a big dent into contracts next year.
The teams with owners that are less focused on the bottom line and have room under the Luxury tax line may not change their approach much. Teams closer to the line with higher budget constraints may not be so free spending as they could have been.
My Jays have lots of luxury tax room… but unfortunately profitability is huge to them with corporate owners. It’s likely a bad environment for them.
Jays for life dude.
wild bill tetley
Expecting JBJ to have a bounce back season now that Boston has Pillar to start over him against LHP. Boston might QO Bradley just to have him hold down CF for 2021 to give a prospect more time in the minors. That all depends on IF there is an emerging candidate in their system. And that’s an IF.
Duran will be ready to take over CF for JBJ next year. Unless he resigns for $8M or less, I’d consider JBJ all but gone next year. There’s zero chance of the Sox extending a QO to him. If they did, JBJ would sign it immediately!
Duran put up a .634 OPS in AA. I wouldn’t pencil him in as a starter.
Not yet. With the loss of a season, it could be 23 before he’s ready (if he makes it at all).
Stopped reading after the first paragraph. It was full of long, winding sentences that made my head spin. Write shorter sentences instead of trying to flex your writing abilities, which aren’t as good as I can tell you think they are.
Perhaps your reading comprehension is maxed out at a ninth grade level, but these sentences are quite normal and appropriate.
I thought J.D. Martinez received a QO last offseason before he decided not to op-out
He never opted out. You can’t give someone a qualifying offer who doesn’t opt out of his contract.
Ray would turn down a qualifying offer if he has his best season. However, he probably wouldn’t if he shows the same Ray. Of course he can get bad advice from his agent, but I don’t see his marketability unless he shows that he can get his walks and wasted pitches down. I’d love to trade him. Aside from a few stretches of being elite, he hasn’t been a very good starter because he wastes so much energy and he doesn’t have enough pitches. He’d make a great closer on my imaginary team.
so how is the QO calculated then with the salary reductions that were outlined for the shortened or no season?
I would love the see the QO value drop since it would make things a lot more interesting when it comes to a lot of mid tier talent that would be accepting a QO rather than hitting the market –
Betts is a good player one very good year but no Trout and I would take Jose Altuve over Betts. Jose 4 years leading league in hits, career average of .315 in 7 years vs 6 years of Betts career av of .301 if Altuve was in Boston or New York would already be in the hall of fame.
OPS or wRC+ are a much more accurate way to value a hitter. Betts has Altuve beat by a country mile, career-wise. Altuve’s speed and range are slipping and is two and half years older than Betts. Betts has doubled him in WAR over the past two seasons. It’s all moot, Altuve is signed long term and not in line for any QO like Mookie.
How good is Altuve without stealing signs?
Probably about just as good. Of his 5 best seasons WAR-wise 1st, 3rd, and 5th occurred before the ’17 season, 4th afterward.
Also note Mookie’s old team ain’t exactly without their own skeletons as far as signs are concerned.
To each his own. Like them both but Altuve has played 9 seasons to Mookie’s 6. In the span of Mookie’s 6 years in the league he has more Runs, Doubles, Triples, Homeruns, Walks, higher OPS, 8.5 more bWAR, and is 2 years younger.
Altuve has been talked about in reverent tones for years. The idea that he’s thought less of because he’s not in NY/Boston isn’t accurate.
Anyone think the Dodgers and Phillies might decline to extend the QO’s to Betts and Realmuto as a showing of goodwill and to maybe make them more amenable to staying?
Extending the QO costs Betts and Realmuto nothing, nor does declining it, and both are far too good/in-demand to have their market’s hampered by the draft pick compensation attached to signing them.
So the chances of it being read as goodwill would be slim as there’s not really any goodwill being communicated. What about it is supposed to make either player more amenable to staying.
Declining to extend QOs to them, essentially swatting a free draft pick to the ground if the teams’ respective FA doesn’t re=sign, would be more of a showing of “hey, we’ve forgotten how this works.” Seems like it would make a player less amenable to remaining with their current teams. Fans would probably be none too jazzed as well.
All not offering a qualifying offer to them would do is make the bids even higher than they’ll already be from other teams. Not offering them a QO would be completely idiotic, and players understand that it’s part of the process and the rules that were agreed to by the players association.
You must be high if you think Bradley is getting a QO. “if he can return to the offensive output he provided 4-5 years ago” LMFAO!
This guy was marginal with the glove last year, hasn’t hit in forever, and is over 30. The Red Sox already made the mistake of paying him $11 mil for 2020, there should be no way they will offer him $18 mil for 2021.
But then this site stubbornly insisted that Bradley had trade value. News Alert: No trade value!
Yeah, he won’t receive a QO unless he learns to hit much better. Which obviously he likely won’t.
Stanton opting out. Lol
Well according to Pads/Fans/Koamalu/outinleftfield/whatever username he’s using these days it’s almost a certainty.