Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Qualifying Offer Wrap-up for 2017


Cespedes was the only major QO winner this off-season.  Photo via Business Insider

Cespedes was the only major QO winner this off-season. Photo via Business Insider

While we bide our time for the opening of Spring Training, I thought I’d wrap up some off-season posts in draft mode…

Every year since its inception i’ve done a “Qualifying Offer” wrap-up post (henceforth referred to as QO), as a way to provide some analysis of this salary-limiting vehicle that was such a major point of negotiations in the latest CBA.  It has been markedly changed for the coming years, changed in a way that favors the players and penalizes the smaller market teams “less” than the larger market teams.

This off-season just 10 players took the Qualifying Offer, as compared to 20 the year before.  Here’s a summary table of those players:

YearPlayerOld TeamPrevious Contract AAVNew TeamNew contract AAV
2016Yoenis CespedesNew York Mets27.5MNew York Mets$27.5M
2016Dexter FowlerChicago Cubs13MSt. Louis$16.4M
2016Justin TurnerLos Angeles Dodgers5.1MLos Angeles Dodgers$16M
2016Edwin EncarnacioToronto9.75MCleveland$20M
2016Neil WalkerNew York Mets10.55MNew York Mets$17.2M
2016Kenley JansenLos Angeles Dodgers10.65Los Angeles Dodgers$16M
2016Ian DesmondTexas8mColorado$14M
2016Jeremy HellicksonPhiladelphia7mPhiladelphia$17.2M
2016Jose BautistaToronto13.16MToronto$18M
2016Mark TrumboBaltimore9.15MBaltimore$12.5M

Here’s a link to my full QO worksheet, with more fields, more contract details and a history of all QO players dating to 2012.

High-level Summary of the QOs:

  • 5 of the 10 players ended up re-signing with their old team.
  • 2 of the 10 players took the QO that was offered and will play on a one-year, $17.2M deal in 2017.
  • Just 3 of the 10 signed with other teams and cost those teams a draft pick.

Compare those results to 2015’s crop of 20 QO offered players:

  • 6 of the 20 re-signed
  • 3 of the 20 took the QO; the first three to do so in the history of the system
  • 11 of the 20 cost teams draft picks.

Here’s some other observations of this past year’s crop of players:

  • 5 of the 10 ended up taking a lesser AAV on their next contract than the $17.2M one-year deal on the table when they were offered the QO.
  • However, only 2 of the 10 I’d say were “screwed” by the QO: Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo.  Bautista kind of mis-read the FA landscape and declined multi year deals before scurrying back to Toronto on a one-year $18M deal that probably was a “saving face” contract from Toronto to one of its best stars.  Trumbo was the last man standing and took nearly $5M less in AAV to sign a 3 year extension; the modern game just does not rate aging sluggers with 30% whiff rates who are defensively limited.
  • Ian Desmond, as has been frequently reported, took the most inexplicable contract of the past few years, but despite taking more than $3M/year less in AAV than the QO you cannot say that his new contract is anything but a win for him and his family.  $70M guaranteed drastically shortchanges what he allegedly turned down from the Nats (and, boy did the Nats dodge a bullet by not committing to Desmond for 7 years).
  • I kinda couldn’t believe that Philly extended the QO to Jeremy Hellickson.  Maybe they’ll flip him at the deadline for prospects.
  • The teams who offered QOs to players this year reads like a list of the major market teams: Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Texas, Philadelphia and Baltimore.  Among those teams only Baltimore is not immediately considered a major market team … but they should be (they were the #1 payroll team in the majors in the 1990s; the were the Yankees before the  Yankees became the  Yankees).
  • The 3 teams who forfeited 1st round picks: Colorado, Cleveland and St. Louis.  All three smaller market teams.
  • The 3 teams who gained add’l picks: Chicago Cubs, Toronto and Texas.  All three major market teams.

The last two statements together perfectly encapsulate why this system no longer worked.  I’m glad to see its impact lessened, and I’m sure the players are too.  They gave up way too much in the CBA negotiations to secure it, but that’s a problem for the next CBA.


Written by Todd Boss

February 8th, 2017 at 2:48 pm

11 Responses to 'Qualifying Offer Wrap-up for 2017'

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  1. As a tag to this post, here is MLBTR’s list of players who have been QO’d and are therefore exempt, under the new CBA, from being tagged again:

    Murphy is on this list since the Mets had tagged him before he signed here. Makes you wonder whether the CBA should have said that players can’t be tagged again by the same team, but can by another team that has signed them.


    9 Feb 17 at 11:47 am

  2. Yeha, basically that list could have been cut and pasted from my XLS :-)

    I’m not sure the QO system will matter going forward; 1st round picks have grown in value so much that players were getting screwed. I don’t think anyone will care if they give up a 2nd or 3rd rounder as long as they maintain the 1st rounder.

    Todd Boss

    9 Feb 17 at 12:17 pm

  3. I think think this last CBA makes the QO mostly a non event but I think we’ll still see vets getting less $ than they expect and a wider spread between stars and scrubs.

    Fangraphs just put out an article calling out Felipe Rivero as the best reliever on PIT.


    9 Feb 17 at 6:32 pm

  4. Yeah, there will be significantly less pause by teams — or no pause at all — to give up 2d or 3d rounders. The qualifying offer number will continue to go up, but teams will be less inclined to tag more marginal guys for fear they will take it. And teams losing top-tier players (think Harper and Rendon) will now be left with even fewer crumbs than they were before. I would think that teams now will have even more incentive to try to extend players two or three years before they reach free agency, but players may have less reason to take the extensions since the QO tag would be less likely to hurt them on the FA market.


    10 Feb 17 at 9:31 am

  5. As for this offseason, there were certainly some questionable deals, the Desi one chief among them. The Rox gave up the NUMBER ELEVEN pick in addition to giving Ian a truckload of money without having a true position for him. Maybe he blasts 40 through the light air, but more likely, NL teams still remember how to strike him out at an alarming rate.

    I get giving up a late first-rounder for Encarnacion. The Tribe was painfully close last season and is going for it.

    We’ll have to see how Fowler works out for STL. A lot has to do with whether the Cards can continue to contend. If they are contenders, they got a quality CF without having to give up the huge package that the Nats did for theirs. If they find that they’re on the verge of a little rebuilding, Fowler may be past his prime in two or three years when they get back in contention.

    The Phils got what they deserved for tagging Hellickson: a huge bill for a marginal starter. They bet that the starter market was so depleted that he’d see what he could get, but since they gave him about two seasons worth of salary for just one year, why not take it?

    The Mets also took a risk in tagging Walker, particularly with his injuries, but considering the offensive hole they would have had if he left, they probably weren’t too disappointed that he took the QO. They do have to be haunted a bit, however, after paying Walker nearly 2/$28, if it might have been better spent on Murph. Thanks guys, we appreciate it!

    I was really surprised that the Dodgers found the money for both Turner and Jansen. I know that I should never be surprised that the Dodgers can come up with mega-bucks, but I wanted to believe the stories that they were at their limit. Both contracts are somewhat risky, considering Turner’s age and Jansen’s heavy use, but no team likes paying dead money nearly as much as the Dodgers! (At least until the Nats have to start paying their mega-millions of deferred money . . .)

    I think the number of big mashers with question marks on the market at the same time repressed the market for them. Why pay big money for Bautista when Trumbo and Carter were still out there for less? More teams also now understand how to read stats beyond the HR line.


    10 Feb 17 at 9:51 am

  6. On the FA market, I’m very surprised that Blanton is still available. Is his agent asking too much? Are teams not convinced by his turnaround in a pitcher-friendly park? Age concerns? Visions of playoff taters disappearing over ivy? I’m still interested in Blanton for the Nats, although they may think they’ve got the RH arms covered. I’m interested in Travis Wood as well, although it seems that he’s still angling for a starting gig (and salary).


    10 Feb 17 at 10:06 am

  7. I agree that the Desi deal was puzzling and an overpay BUT I think his offensive numbers in COL are going to be superb. Desi’s problem is offspeed stuff that he can’t lay off, which just doesn’t break as well in COL. he punishes FBs and hanging curves and I think he’ll see a lot of them. It’s the position that’s most puzzling and I can only guess that they bet on being able to trade one of their OFs.

    I also like Blanton but don’t see it happening. Too much $. Maybe Lind and/or Pagan if they drop to $1-2m plus incentives (which has to be possible soon). FWIW, Law was very complementary of how Rizzo played the relief market this offseason. Thinks virtually all the contracts will be regretted.

    I’d like Wood but he was thought to be getting 2-3 years which won’t happen here. But Ross could be an interesting Andrew miller type on the pen. I read an article, FGs maybe, that showed him like an ace the 1-2 times through the order, and an AAAA guy after that. Maybe Wood slides in as Ann sP?


    10 Feb 17 at 2:50 pm

  8. Oh, I wanted Joe Ross’s bro as a closer. With that slider, he’d be Da Man. Joe is actually very good the first time through the order (.182 Avg against), not good the second time (.328), then weirdly better the third (.250). But really, he’s much, much more valuable as a starter. It’s usually the failing starters who get a look in the ‘pen

    I thought Desi was said to be slowing down against the fastball as well, even his last couple of years here. He seems like a good guy, and I wish him well, but that deal was nuts for the Rockies to make.

    By and large I agree with KLaw. I thought going into the winter that the price would be too high on both Chapman (who seems like a loose cannon anyway) and Jansen and that Melancon would want too many years. Even the Cubs didn’t want to commit to $15-18M/per in the closer market. The price for Wade Davis seemed too high for just one year and potential arm issues. Robertson seems to be slipping and the Chisox wanted too much. Plus I think the Nats feel like they’ve got a homegrown stud in Glover, if he’s healthy and whenever he’s ready.


    10 Feb 17 at 5:19 pm

  9. KW, it’s pretty much a given the Desmond contract was the dumbest move of the offseason. Giving up a #11 on top of the dumb money.

    As for the Dodgers, it looks like they really didn’t have the money; they’re now looking for another investor to give them some money.

    Mark L

    10 Feb 17 at 8:44 pm

  10. . . . and yet the Dodgers signed two more free agents yesterday!

    I’m still not sure what to think about the Dodgers. PECOTA apparently LOVES them this year, even more than the Cubs, and much more than the Nats. Whatever. The Dodgers really don’t have much above average in their everyday lineup except Seager and Turner. Pederson and Gonzalez can hurt you if you let them, but they can also disappear for long stretches. Puig has really fallen off a cliff. They have one exceptional starter and a top-tier reliever. I don’t think it’s a championship-level team, though. We’ll see.


    11 Feb 17 at 8:45 am

  11. Final NRIs announced today, i’ll take the new additions and post some analysis so we can have ap laceholder to argue.

    Todd Boss

    11 Feb 17 at 4:04 pm

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