After a flat year from 2018 to 2019, the qualifying offer for outgoing free agents is going to increase this year, according to Evan Drellich.
Sources: the qualifying offer for MLB players in 2020 is $18.9 million. Last year’s was $17.8.
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) October 8, 2020
The qualifying offer is a one-year offer to an outgoing free agent that, if rejected, means his previous team gets draft pick compensation if and when he signs elsewhere (and his new team loses a little bit (each of the getting and the losing depend on the market size of the team and their luxury tax status)).
The size of the offer is made up of the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball, which means that higher-end salaries actually climbed a good bit this past season (a fact obscured by the fighting that took place after the offseason, and the pandemic).
As for which free agents will actually be in line to get a qualifying offer this year, well, I’m of the opinion that teams will be MUCH less inclined to offer to any player they think has a small chance of accepting – that’s how tight the financial conditions are going to be.
Among the top free agents hitting the market this year who are plausible qualifying offer candidates: catcher JT Realmuto, shortstop Marcus Semien, outfielders George Springer, Joc Pederson, and Michael Brantley (Marcell Ozuna has already received a qualifying offer, and players may receive only one in their career), starters Trevor Bauer, Marcus Stroman, Masahiro Tanaka, and Mike Minor, and infielder D.J. LeMahieu. Of that group, it’s entirely possible that only Realmuto, Springer, and Bauer get the offers. I would guess a couple more get it, but I’d be shocked if it’s more than about five or six of these players.
As for the Cubs, none of their outgoing free agents is a realistic qualifying offer target. In a world where Jose Quintana hadn’t gotten hurt and declined the last two years, or a world where Tyler Chatwood broke out, or this or that. But, as we sit here today, there’ll be none of that.
Also, since the Cubs still project to have been over the luxury tax this past year, they would face the steepest draft pick penalties (large market, over the luxury tax) for signing a qualified free agent. I already wouldn’t have expected them to do so based on finances, but you can all the more rule it out.