Thirty-four players have been extended qualifying offers in the past three offseasons, and all 34 have declined, sometimes to their detriment -- Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales and Kyle Lohse, for example. Now 20 more players have been given one-year qualifying offers -- this year, for $15.8 million -- and for some, like Zack Greinke, it's an easy decision to say no.
This week, some player agents mused over whether there's something taboo about being the first player (and the first agent) to accept a qualifying offer, and whether it would be regarded -- within the culture of the union -- like being the first runner to quit in a marathon, or the first candidate to ring the bell to drop out of special forces training.
The answers from everyone I spoke with: No, not at all, because this is a system designed by the players' union in order to protect their financial interests, and a one-year salary at $15.8 million for Marco Estrada, Ian Kennedy or Daniel Murphy -- who've never received anything close to that level of compensation -- is hardly embarrassing.
And there's a tangible reason for the second-tier pitchers below Greinke and Jordan Zimmermann to consider accepting a qualifying offer: Unlike this fall's free-agent class of starting pitchers, the group next year will be incredibly thin outside of Stephen Strasburg. Right now, Andrew Cashner, C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver would be the best alternatives to Strasburg.
So if you are Jeff Samardzija and you just had a subpar season, it might make sense to accept the qualifying offer from the White Sox and head back into free agency next fall, when you're not competing against Greinke, Johnny Cueto and many others for offers. Accepting a qualifying offer this year would be akin to making a one-year bet on yourself to pitch well in 2016.
The view of some evaluators about who should accept or reject:
Ian Kennedy, SP: "He's the most obvious in the group, right?" one evaluator said. "Take a one-year deal, make a lot more money than he should make for 2016 and then test the market again."