We know that this year’s qualifying offer will be worth a hefty $18.9MM, though that is one of the few points of certainty we have heading into the most unpredictable offseason in baseball history. The revenue losses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted every corner of the sport, and since there’s so much up in air about how the 2021 season will operate, it is widely expected that many free agents in this year’s market will feel a crunch.
Will that squeeze extend to the very top of the market? We did see Mookie Betts and the Dodgers agree to a massive extension, so there’s evidence teams are still willing to break the bank for superstar-level talent. Betts was rather a unique case, of course, and negotiating an extension is different than negotiating a free agent deal. Even the old mantra of “there’s no such thing as a bad one-year deal” might not necessarily apply this winter, as while there are certainly some players teams would love to have back for $18.9MM, a lot of clubs might hesitate at even making that kind of potential investment on anything less than a surefire star.
From a player’s perspective, a guaranteed $18.9MM might be preferable to testing an uncertain open market. This has been the reasoning for many free agents who chose to accept qualifying offers in the past, and that was during more normal offseasons. It makes for a tough decision for many players, who have worked their whole careers to get a chance at free agency only to see their opportunity come in the wake of a pandemic.
MLBTR’s Anthony Franco recently published a refresher on how the qualifying offer system works, including the key details about draft pick compensation and how the QO is a one-time application. For the latter, this is why major free agents like Marcell Ozuna and Nelson Cruz aren’t included in this list, as both players have been tagged with the QO in past trips through the free agent market.
This post will focus on the position players who could be plausible candidates to receive qualifying offers…
Easy Calls: J.T. Realmuto (Phillies), George Springer (Astros), DJ LeMahieu (Yankees)
Along with Reds ace Trevor Bauer, these are the clear-cut stars of the 2020-21 free agent class. All will receive qualifying offers from their respective teams, and all will reject the offers since lucrative long-term contracts surely await on the open market.
Of the players who could become free agents if their teams decline their 2021 club options, Anthony Rizzo seems like the only reasonable QO candidate, but the Cubs are almost a lock to exercise their $16.5MM option on his services.
Leaning Towards Yes: Didi Gregorius (Phillies)
There was speculation last winter that Gregorius might get issued a qualifying offer from the Yankees, but New York let him cleanly walk away into free agency and the shortstop inked a one-year, $14MM deal with Philadelphia. Gregorius was coming off an injury-shortened 2019 season and, though he and his representatives had some multi-year offers on the table, chose the one-year deal so he could rebuild his value and quickly re-enter free agency in search of a richer multi-year contract. The bounce-back did happen, as Gregorius hit .284/.339/.488 with 10 home runs over 237 PA and played in all 60 of the Phillies’ game.
The only thing that makes Gregorius less than a QO lock is the question about how much the Phillies are willing or able to spend next season. With so many roster needs to address, and the possible need to save as much money as possible to bid on Realmuto, the Phillies might not want to risk a qualifying offer for Gregorius if they think he will accept. Going by Gregorius’ strategy last winter, however, it would seem unusual to see him take the short-term pillow contract for 2020, have his desired comeback year, and then take another one-year contract in the form of a qualifying offer. If Gregorius only signs for one year, he would then face heavy competition next winter when so many star shortstops will hit free agency after the 2021 season.
All this to be said, Gregorius seems less likely to accept a qualifying offer, so the Phils can probably feel safe in issuing the QO and lining themselves up for draft pick compensation if Gregorius leaves. There’s enough uncertainty here that I couldn’t make Gregorius an “easy call,” though there’s more evidence he might get a qualifying offer than the likes of…
Borderline Cases: Marcus Semien (Athletics), Michael Brantley (Astros)
For an Athletics team that has long relied on refreshing its system with young talent, it would be a tough blow to let Semien sign elsewhere and not even receive a draft pick in return. Yet, the A’s find themselves in a difficult decision given that Semien’s production dropped off significantly in 2020. He hit .223/.305/.374 with seven homers over 236 plate appearances, a far cry from his MVP-esque numbers in 2019.
That 2019 campaign remains the only true superstar-caliber year of Semien’s career, as he has otherwise been a steady player who provides solid pop for a shortstop and has worked hard to go from being a defensive question mark to a good defender. If Semien had been a free agent last winter, he certainly would have been looking at a nine-figure contract. This winter, however, there’s certainly a case to be made that he might accept a qualifying offer in the hopes of better numbers in 2021.
Even under non-pandemic circumstances, the A’s have never extended their payroll to spend $18.9MM on a single player. Given the possibility that Semien could accept a QO, it’s tough seeing Oakland taking that risk, especially when they have a similar qualifying offer choice to make with another notable free agent in Liam Hendriks.
Brantley has continued to mash through his age-33 season (.300/.364/.476 in 187 PA) and throughout Houston’s playoff run. This was despite battling quad problems for much of the season, and while there are questions about how much longer Brantley can hold up as a regular outfielder, he is still a very solid defensive left fielder when he plays on the grass. There’s a lot to like about Brantley’s chances of being a future contributor, so why is he a borderline QO case?
In short, Brantley might be the kind of veteran player who gets squeezed in an offseason where every free agent dollar will be heavily scrutinized. Teams will focus on Brantley’s age (he turns 34 in February), injury history, and lackluster hard-hit ball data as reasons to avoid paying him big money, while secretly hoping his price tag drops low enough to be signed at a bargain rate. It’s possible the Astros could use these marks in Brantley’s “cons” column as a reason to extend a qualifying offer — if Brantley also has draft pick compensation attached to his services, it could further dampen his market and allow the Astros a better chance at re-signing him for less than $18.9MM in average annual value. That said, if Brantley and his agents see a tough market coming, they could choose to accept the QO if Houston issues one.
The Astros also face a difficult payroll situation in 2021. $137.75MM has already been committed to eight players, one whom (Justin Verlander) is a non-factor due to Tommy John surgery. A big arbitration class could be trimmed by some non-tenders, but that still leaves the likes of Carlos Correa or Lance McCullers Jr. in line for significant raises. Adding Brantley at $18.9MM might be an added expenditure the team isn’t willing to make, especially if the Astros still have designs on re-signing Springer.
Probably Not: Andrelton Simmons (Angels)
We’ll end with yet another shortstop, arguably the best defensive shortstop (or player?) of all time. However, Simmons’ glovework actually seemed mortal in 2020 — he had a minus-2 Defensive Runs Saved and -1 Outs Above Average over 265 1/3 innings, though he was hampered by an ankle sprain that led to an injured list stint.
Simmons turned 31 in September and hit decently well (.297/.346/.356) over 127 plate appearances, though he only played in 30 games due to his IL trip and his decision to opt out of the season’s final five games. He might be apt to accept a qualifying offer under those circumstances, and the Angels aren’t likely to extend one since they have a shortstop replacement on hand in David Fletcher, and would probably prefer to put $18.9MM towards fixing the struggling rotation.
We’ll also place Reds outfielder Nick Castellanos in the “probably not” category, as Castellanos can become a free agent if he opts out of the three years and $48MM remaining on his contract. However, it is very doubtful Castellanos exercises that clause to become a free agent again, as he only hit .222/.298/.486 with 14 homers in 242 PA in 2020.
I think the Phillies should decline to extend the QO to JT Realmuto as a showing of goodwill and to hopefully make him more amenable to staying. After all, the QO only matters if the player doesn’t sign (if he does sign they don’t get a draft pick regardless of whether or not they QO him) and their only goal with JT should be to get him signed.
Lol I doubt that. There are a dozen contenders who wild give him a deal right now
That’s fine. It’s not like the Phillies can’t match those offers. And maybe not hanging the QO on him means he takes a discount to stay.
That ship has sailed. Not re-signing with Phils at this point. Why should he when he has all the leverage?
Because they’ll pay him and because he has said multiple times that he likes it there. Maybe he likes it there even more if they treat him right in his upcoming trip to the open market.
Why would he want to stay with the Phillies when he can get paid to win somewhere?
Because he can get paid to win in a city that he has already said that he likes.
I disagree with the whole idea “he will stay in a city he likes”. Money talks, BS walks is the old motto. TJ would take more money elsewhere if the opportunity rises. I wouldn’t feel comfortable exposing him to the free agent class in hope of him signing back because of his “ like of the city”. That spells disaster
@Shannon Wolfe it’s not like the Phillies can’t and won’t pay him
if the Phils place a QO on him it won’t affect his market at all. There is no need to extend an olive branch
@kahnkobra there is also no need to extend a qualifying offer. The only reason they would need to do that is if they weren’t bringing him back.
A dozen contenders? I don’t see a dozen teams making huge offers to Any free agent given the pandemic. A few players will get multiple 60m+ offers but that’s it.
then they should have let him take the 12.5 he wanted in arbitration this year. full measure or none at all. i dont think that sways him at all at this point. with next year’s draft likely to be the wild west, most teams will probably be more willing to part with the pick anyway so its no fetter on him and his earning power either way. he’s smart, he knows this too.
Yeah. They should have. But that ship has sailed. The QO ship hasn’t.
i mean there’s no given that he would have been more likely to resign even if you made both concessions. and again, i dont think the QO point really matters anyway knowing what his market will look like either way.
Oh so now players aren’t more willing to play ball if their team does right by them? We all see what is happening over in Chicago. Don’t think Kris Bryant is going to stick around beyond 2021 (and he probably gets traded this offseason anyway).
You mean after trying to screw him in arbitration? This league is all about money… not feelings.
So pay the man. It’s not like they don’t have the money.
Like I said, if they sign him they don’t get a draft pick regardless of whether or not they QO him. So if they already know they are going to sign JT it really doesn’t matter.
“So if they already know they are going to sign JT it really doesn’t matter” (if they don’t ‘QO him’ and thus theoretically forfeit the draft pick).
The point is the Phils don’t know they are going to sign JT, so relinquishing a draft pick in “good faith” or whatever may just be throwing it away. JT may decide to go to a team with a better shot at the WS… The Phils can’t bank on signing him no matter what. They just can’t.
He has already said that he likes it there and the feeling appears to be mutual. I’m sure the Phillies will pay him what it takes.
Also, you can only QO a player once. if they don’t do it now, sign him and he is still looking good at the end of his contract. They can QO him then.
that sounds like a noble idea to not to extend the QO to Realmuto out of good grace, but this is business and you would be eaten alive if you were a GM if you did stuff like that.
Not if they are able to keep him.
And were Brodie Van Wagenen and AJ Preller eaten alive for not manipulating service time on Pete Alonso and Fernando Tatis Jr?
If not then you don’t get a comp pick and you look very bad for losing Realmuto for absolutley nothing as Realmuto owes the Phillies nothing. Not a risk any FO will be willing to take.
Service Manipulation is a different discussion all together. BVW and Preller took a gamble and hope it works but players don’t owe them nothing for doing what they are suposed to be doing in the first place.
@Patches but we’ve already established that my only goal is to get JT signed. And if they do sign him they don’t get a draft pick regardless of whether or not they QO him.
The service time manipulation is exactly the same thing. Teams working within the existing confines of the rules to work towards their own benefit at the expense of the player. If the Phillies don’t do that with JT there’s a good chance that it convinces him to stay. And even if it doesn’t, it will at least earn them some goodwill in the eyes of other potential future free agents or players they are trying to extend. This will never show up on any stat sheet. And the boo hooers will never give it any credit. But it’s a very real thing.
It’s not about owing them or not owing them anything. It’s about working together to come to terms that both sides agree upon rather than making it an “us vs. them” proposition.
if the Phillies seriously expect to bring back JT then Didi may be too big a risk. he might be a bargain at that price but those two will cost a lot if Didi takes the QO. (which i would say he isnt a given not to, especially given the strength of the SS market and the wacky nature of 2020 team finances)
Just wanted to say… the WS is next week, and the Winter Meetings are in about two months. Wait… are the Winter Meeting going to be online this year? I just though of that, but I’d assume it’s reasonable. Unless all of the personnel quarantine in the same hotel a week or two before the meetings in the same hotel lol.
i think these predictions are right on the money. i dont think most players likely to accept a QO would get one in this market. the top 3 are the only 3 locks not to accept, with even Didi being a possibility given the market.
by that i mean Didi might accept
Where are Jackie Bradley Jr and Yadier Molina?
No and No.
Sox have to QO Bradley because the alternative is to lose him for nothing.
Yadi’s stats this year don’t warrant a QO but considering what he means to the Cardinals organization there is definitely room for discussion.
No one is going to lose a draft pick to sign JBJ if the Red Sox give him a QO.
Bradley would accept the QO offer in a half second and Sox then burns $18 million on payroll on a guy you could of gotten much cheaper without extending. bas business move.
By that logic the sox should QO Mike Kickham who is also a free agent. going to lose him for nothing.
Nobody is paying JBJ 19 million, You only give a qualifying offer to someone who you’re willing to pay 19 million next year.
@Patches that’s fine. It’s not like the Red Sox can’t afford him. The point is to not let him walk for nothing.
@cjb1125 their options were either trade him or QO him. Letting him walk for nothing is not acceptable.
Letting him walk saves you 19 million. Sounds good to me.
Trading him would have also saved them $19m and whatever return they ended up getting for him
You don’t get it. No one is going to pay him 19 million. Everything you’re arguing is centered around JBJ’s value being at 19 million. It’s not.
@Briffle They should have thought of that before they chose not to trade him at the deadline.
Did anyone want him?
Ding ding ding!
Yes other teams did want him.
Curious doesn’t mean they are really interested. The Giants have curious about JBJ since Sabean was GM. They never made the move.
Why would the Red Sox be worried about losing JBJ when they could have signed him to an extension the last several years? Finding a good fielding, no hit CF isn’t the hardest thing to acquire. They tried to trade him all this past season with no takers. He would definitely take the QO money.
Because the Red Sox didn’t trade JBJ, they have to QO him. That’s all I’m saying and so many people get triggered it’s insane!
Because your viewpoint doesn’t make any sense. So because they didn’t trade him for a jock strap, they have to pay him 19 million dollars, an amount that he’s not even close to worth?
@Briffle The only reason not to trade him was if they planned on QOing him.
So you want the Red Sox pay him $19 million for next year?
Because that’s what is going to happen if the offer him a QC. He will accept and the Sox will be stuck paying $19 million to a guy that they could have had for $5-7 million, if that.
Molina is a 38 year old slightly above average catcher at this point in his career, if they offer him a 1 year deal worth $18.9M, he will 100% accept it.
Cards would probably be better off trying to sign him for 2 years at that amount.
They weren’t going to get anything for JBJ anyways. At the trade deadline he worth probably an org filler. So what? Nobody is giving him more than 50M so a QO is useless. If they they really like JBJ as a platoon guy just to offer him 5M.
Ok then take the org filler. Gives them as much value as one month of JBJ when they are out of the race does and doesn’t cost $1833K.
What does it matter if he gets $50M or not? They get the comp pick either way.
They are not going to get a comp pick because NO TEAM will sign Bradley with a comp pick attached, he will find himself looking for a team to play with in June but that will never happen because he accept the QO in a heartbeat and Red Sox just wasted $18 million in payroll that is needed for other areas.
Red Sox can bring back Bradley cheaper than the QO.
JBJ is not going to get a QO nor should he. If he received one he’d accept it. It would run contrary to what the team was doing financially. At some point you have to realized a sunk cause is a sunk cause. Nobody wanted to touch him at 11M and then you add another close to 8M.
I go back to the original question, who cares if they get something for him? If they really like the guy then again they can re up him around the 5-6M mark. A lost cause to get nothing but an org filler is still again wasted resources. Your 12M to 18 M saved is way better suited to outfit a MLB product. The “You have to get something” just doesn’t fit in certain scenarios. He’s the type of guy that ends up of having to wait until July to get a job if he somehow miraculously received and declined a QO.
@Blue_Painted_Dreams_LA the Red Sox front office sure cares if they get something for him. You don’t keep a pending FA when you are out of the race when you aren’t contending. If they really want to re-up him for around $5-6m, they could have done that even if they had traded him, like what the Yankees did with Aroldis Chapman, or your Dodgers with Alex Wood.
@jim. I remember you were defending this idea before. Do you think JBJ will reproduce his numbers from this season? I ask because I think JBJ doesn’t reproduce it and goes back to his norm. So wouldn’t chasing almost $19 million after him make the loss worse than getting nothing? If you really think he reproduces his production from this season than I can see why you would argue for this. I just don’t think it’s likely.
@SalaryCapMyth it doesn’t matter if I think he will or won’t reproduce his numbers from this season. Because the Red Sox didn’t contend this year, they had to either trade him or QO him. Because they didn’t trade him, there’s only one option left. And don’t say “No one was interested in trading for him.” The MLBTR article I shared an hour ago says otherwise.
Okay, even if there was interest in him and the Red Sox DID make a mistake in not trading him, don’t you think it would be a FURTHER mistake to throw almost $19 million at the guy? To me it just looks like you would be doubling down on what was already a bad decision, right? It doesnt make a lot of since to make a SECOND mistake on a player because you made one on him at the trade deadline. It DOES matter if you think he will or won’t reproduce his 2020 production because if you think he WON’T than throwing that much money would be the Red Sox SECOND mistake concerning JBJ. In this case, letting him walk seems less damaging than paying him a QO.
There wasn’t that much interest in him.
If they could have gotten so much as a used jockstrap for him they should have taken it
Again I don’t see why it’s so important to pay the prorated version to obtain as you say a jock strap. The prospect return for a upcoming FA is limited in a majority of respects especially for one dimensional types.
The mistake the red Sox’s made wasn’t their inability to trade him, but their decision to tender him, hoping he’d have a good season and have value. Couple that with the ever changing landscape of milb baseball you could buy a whole bunch of those guys with that money, or undervalued guys in general. What good is trading for a piece that isn’t going to be a part of your org in a couple of months?
Even when you discuss a Chapman or a Wood you’re reaching . Chapman in season commanded legitimate prospects. Wood in the offseason yes you trade him because as a package it was worth the legitimate prospects. You’re just overvaluing JBJ.
It is what it is. You don’t compound the mistake of tendering him and hoping by throwing a QO teams would suddenly be intrigued by JBJ if he has an astonishing 1st half. The evaluation somewhat doesn’t change as the track record speaks for itself. Teams didn’t want to touch the 11M mark. I just don’t see the sanity in giving him 18.9M and hoping you can squeeze as much out of his trade value as possible. Which is the reason why he won’t receive a QO. He’s valuable at 5-6 as a defensive first type that provides some sock as a platoon guy. Nothing more nothing less.
What’s wrong with letting a player walk? It happens all the time. They don’t have to get something for a player every time. I don’t understand why you are adamant about this.
Are Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman, righthanders approaching their 30th birthdays, at least worth a mention?
Article is about position players. They will likely post a similar article for pitchers later today.
I see the Padres as a dark horse candidate for Springer or Ozuna.
Myers rebounded nicely in 2020. I can see Preller attaching rule 5 eligible prospects, cant keep them all, to his contract and unload most if not all the salary to a team in dire need of prospects (Boston and put Myers at 1st?).
Then signing Springer or Ozuna.
After the year he is coming off and with 1/3 of his contract relative to last offseason now phased out, I think Preller would still be willing to trade Myers, but he’s probably not attaching anyone relevant to do it.
They would be able to keep all the Rule 5 eligible prospects if Preller hadn’t wasted roster spots on 4 PA’s of Luis Campusano and 1 and 1/3 innings of Ryan Weathers.
I’m putting Springer in Boston. They reset the tax and have 141 million committed to next years payroll with the only really serious arbitration raise going to Devers.
The Red Sox can land Springer and still have enough money to spend on Stroman while adding a closer like Colome.
Boston has some strong building blocks on offense and adding Springer would give them a strong middle of the line up, especially if Devers bounces back in 2021. The rotation isn’t stellar but adding Stroman would give them a decent 1-2 when Sale comes back. Maybe get another strong season of Eovaldi and you are decent shape while staying out of LT area for the following year.
The problem with trading away Myers with prospects to make room for Ozuna is does the organization actually get any better by doing that? Ozuna is really bad on defense. He raked this year at the plate, but so did Myers. I feel like at that point just might as well keep Myers and the prospects.
The other component is they need to earmark that Myers salary for Tatis moving forward. Next two years Myers is getting $22.5M each… when that comes off the book Tatis is going to be in Arbitration. SD needs to extend him now and use that salary relief on him not Ozuna or someone else like that.
The Tatis Jr money is going to come from Hosmer being off the books after 2025.
Tatis Jr is FA in 2025
Hosmer is a FA in 2026.
Myers wasn’t exactly a defensive stalwart either.
Ozuna at -7.8 and Myers at -4.3.
Preferably, I’d opt to trade Myers and bring in a 1 or 2 year stop gap to platoon his spot while Abrams finishes developing.
Possibly Joc Pederson or Jackie Bradley Jr to pair with Ona or a RHP bat like Pillar or Taylor (passable
.250/.301/.420 against lefties).
Thatd be my plan instead of Springer or Ozuna. Be a lot cheaper too. Id rather invest in rotation depth.
First and foremost they need a better pitching coach. Bring in Robbie Ray and Kevin Gausman. let Richards walk, and roll with Davies, Lamet, Clevinger, Gausman, and Ray. Paddack needs to work on developing a 3rd and possibly 4th pitch. Maybe a sinker or cutter and a curve.
@Marvels MagaMan they are going to have to extend Tatis a lot sooner than that if they want to keep him. But in the end, I honestly don’t see them extending him.
“First and foremost they need a better pitching coach.”
You mean like Darren Balsley?
Could see them possibly doing that with Milwaukee Brewers too
Mets sign: Springer, Realmuto and Stroman (QO?). Not sold on Bauer. Package Nimmo and Rosario+ for a #2 or 3 starter.
Nimmo and Rosario is not going to get you a #2 or #3 starter in a trade.
Tanaka? I think the Yankees will extend one. $18.9M for one year of a quality starter seems likely, especially as it would represent a pay cut. Plus, the starting pitching market is not that strong.
QO for Tanaka is not needed, he is not going anywhere, both sides will work out a 3 or 4 year year deal that works for both sides. Yankees might want 4 to get some AAV relief if not then a 3 year deal will get done.
If all the following are true:
1. Castellanos opts out
2. Bauer and Castellanos are both offered a QO
3. Bauer and Castellanos both reject the QO
4. Bauer and Castellanos both sign with new teams for a guarantee of at least $50 million
Then the Reds would have 4 picks out of the first 37 in next year’s draft.
I hope for their sake they’ve been able to scout the available amateurs during the pandemic.
Castellanos won’t opt out. Not after having a down year and with the uncertainty of the Covid market. I doubt anyone is going to give Castellanos a deal close to what he is signed to now.
Only way I can see Castellano considering opting out is he knows for a fact the Reds extend the qualifying offer and he accepts and bets on himself in 2021. I doubt that happens.