Although the Cubs didn’t have any decisions of the kind, seven players throughout Major League Baseball received the $17.9M, one-year qualifying offer this winter, and their decisions were due to today. If you’re wondering, seven players is a record-low, which I think the union would consider a good thing, seeing as how being attached to draft pick compensation has severely hurt some middle-tier free agents in the past (hence why the value of extending the offer, and the circumstances under which you can make it, were somewhat curtailed in the last CBA).
If you recall, players who receive and decline a qualifying offer will carry with them a penalty paid by whichever team decides to sign them in free agency. The rules for those penalties changed last season and you can read about them here, but in short, the penalty can come in as low as a loss of the team’s third highest pick in the next MLB draft or as high as the second-highest *and* fifth-highest pick, as well as $1M in international bonus pool money in the next signing period.
In any case, the qualifying offer this season was valued at $17.9M, and here are the results of the seven players who received such an offer (remember, if a player was traded mid-season (like Manny Machado), he is not eligible for a qualifying offer):
- Patrick Corbin (D-Backs): Declined
- A.J. Pollock (D-Backs): Declined
- Yasmani Grandal (Dodgers): Declined
- Bryce Harper (Nationals): Declined
- Dallas Keuchel (Astros): Declined
- Craig Kimbrel (Red Sox): Declined
- Hyun-Jin Ryu (Dodgers): Accepted
As you can see, everybody except Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Dodgers declined their qualifying offer this winter, which isn’t much of a surprise.
I will say, however, that tacking on additional $18 or so million for Ryu is not going to help the Dodgers keep their promise to prospective investors that they’ll remain under the luxury tax threshold this season. Just a really quick peek at their luxury tax payroll indicates that they were at $177,725,000 for next season before Ryu accepted, which means they should be right around $195,725,000. That gives them just barely over $10M space beneath the luxury tax, which they suggested they’d respect. And considering the common practice of earmarking $8-10M for additional in-season pickups and bonuses, you’d be hard-pressed to find space for the Dodgers to do much of anything else this winter if they’re being serious (not unlike the Cubs!).
Which is another way of saying … I really, really, really doubt the Dodgers will actually stay under the luxury tax this year. I’ll believe it when I see it.
As for everyone else, frankly, there’s not much of a surprise. Kimbrel, Corbin, Harper, and Keuchel will have absolutely no problem getting an acceptable offer, and Pollock (30, 2.5 WAR in 2018) and Grandal (30, 3.6 WAR) should be just fine, as well. Indeed, most teams would take either guy on a multi-year deal. I think they made the right choice.
The Cubs, because they contribute to revenue sharing but did *not* exceed the luxury tax threshold last season, would have to give up their second-highest draft pick and $500K of international bonus pool money for signing one of these guys who declined a qualifying offer this winter. If they signed more than one, they would also lose their third-highest pick for the second signing and so on. We can discuss how unlikely that is given their current financial picture, but I was having a good day. Why spoil it?
And that’s that! This was the last big step before full and open free agency, and the offseason can really kick off, so you are officially warned: between now and Thanksgiving, legitimate stuff could very easily happen. Things!
… that is, so long as this offseason is nothing like the last one.