A majority of the changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (negotiated and agreed upon last winter) will take effect this coming offseason.
And among the more meaningful changes was the softening of compensation following the loss of qualified free agents.
Now, depending on market size and payroll, teams will rarely get post-first round compensation like they did in the past. Instead, the only situation where a post-first round pick will accrue is when a team that receives revenue sharing dollars (i.e., small market clubs) loses a qualified free agent who signs a deal worth at least $50 million. Teams paying the luxury tax will get a comp pick after the fourth round. All other teams – i.e., the Cubs, if they stay under the luxury tax cap – will receive a pick after the second round.
The goal of the reduced benefit is to even the odds a bit more for smaller market teams while reducing the desirability to attach draft pick compensation to every free agent who leaves.
But that’s not the only thing that’ll discourage teams from lobbing qualifying offers all over the place – the ever-climbing price will do that, too. It figures to reach $18.1 million for a one-year deal this offseason.
Per Buster Olney, teams have been told the post-2017 qualifying offer will exceed $18 million, and might be about $18.1 million – up $900k from last year’s $17.2M value. Teams will have to think twice before offering this sort of contract to borderline free agents (a sudden $18 million hit is quite a lot to a fair number of teams).
Moreover, the pain associated with signing a qualified free agent has changed significantly, and arguably gone up for the biggest spenders. Although small market clubs will be able to sign qualified free agents while now only losing their third highest pick, teams that are over the luxury tax cap will lose their second and fifth highest picks, and will lose $1 million from their next IFA pool (which, remember, is now hard-capped – so that really stings). Big market teams that are not over the luxury tax cap will lose their second highest pick and $500,000 from their IFA bonus pool.
That all means a team extending a qualifying offer to a borderline player will have to remember that some prospective signing teams out there might be less willing to sign a qualified free agent than they were in the past. (All of this is also why a team like the Cubs might be extra sensitive about not going over the luxury tax cap right now.)
Because of the combination of these three CBA changes (reduced compensation, changed penalties for signing, and a high price tag for each offer), you can probably expect fewer qualifying offers to be extended this winter, which should be a good thing for the players, all things considered.
In case you forgot who those players will be, MLB Trade Rumors has your list of 2017-2018 free agents right here. In terms of exiting Cubs, Wade Davis and Jake Arrieta are the most likely to get qualifying offers, as they both figure to get far more on the free agent market anyway. Guys like John Lackey, Koji Uehara, and Brett Anderson, on the other hand, will not.
Michael Cerami contributed to this post.