One week ago, teams had to make a decision on whether to offer a $17.2 million, one-year, qualifying offer to their outgoing free agents. The Chicago Cubs made a qualifying offer to outfielder Dexter Fowler, and nine other players received an offer as well. Today, by 4pm CT, those players must decide whether to accept or reject the qualifying offer. If rejected, the players are unleashed fully into free agency, but are tied to draft pick compensation. The team that signs them will lose a 2017 draft pick (their first pick in the draft, whenever it comes, unless it is one of the first 10 picks overall in the draft – in that case, the team loses its second pick). The team that lost the free agent will be awarded a compensatory draft pick after the first round.
Fowler is expected to reject his qualifying offer today, though there is still at least some interest in retaining the outfielder. Realistically, it seems like that happens (like last year) only if circumstances conspire to limit Fowler’s market (seems very unlikely), and the Cubs decided there is simply too good of a deal to pass up, even as their outfield is rather crowded.
The full list of players making their qualifying offer decision today:
- Jeremy Hellickson
- Yoenis Cespedes
- Neil Walker
- Edwin Encarnacion
- Jose Bautista
- Ian Desmond
- Dexter Fowler
- Kenley Jansen
- Justin Turner
- Mark Trumbo
It is unlikely that any accepts the offer, as teams were more judicious this year in dolling them out, given that three players accepted the offer last year, for the first time in the history of the qualifying offer. Still, it’s always possible that a player or two (Walker? Desmond? Trumbo?) decides a large one-year payday is not a terrible outcome when weighed against the uncertainty of the market impact of being tied to draft pick compensation.
We’ll find out by the end of business today, and the free agent market will be entirely set, with teams fully apprised of the cost.