MLB free-agent qualifying offer value drops by $500,000 to $18.4 million

NEW YORK -- The price of a qualifying offer to Major League Baseball free agents dropped by $500,000 to $18.4 million, a sign of the slide in salaries.

The figure is determined by the average of the top 125 major league contracts this year and marks only the second time that the price has fallen. The price fell by $100,000 to $17.8 million in 2019, then rose to $18.9 million in 2020.

Among the top players eligible for free agency following the World Series are Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer and shortstop Corey Seager; Houston shortstop Carlos Correa, Colorado shortstop Trevor Story; Toronto shortstop Marcus Semien; Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo; San Francisco third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant; and New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard, outfielder Michael Conforto and shortstop Javier Baez.

A qualifying offer can be made through the fifth day after the World Series, and a player has a week after that to accept. If a team makes a qualifying offer to a player who signs a major league contract with another club before the amateur draft, his former club would receive a draft pick as compensation at the end of the first round or at the end of competitive balance round B. The placement depends on whether the new contract is worth $50 million or more, and the revenue-sharing and luxury-tax status of the team losing the player.

While the collective bargaining agreement expires Dec. 1, the rules remain in effect until a successor agreement or until implementation of new work rules following an impasse in bargaining.

A free agent can be made a qualifying offer only if he has been with the same team continuously since opening day and has never received a qualifying offer before.

Qualifying offers began after the 2012 season, and only seven of 96 offers have been accepted: Mets second baseman Neil Walker and Philadelphia pitcher Jeremy Hellickson after the 2016 season; Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu after the 2018 season; Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu after 2019; and Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman and San Francisco pitcher Kevin Gausman last season. Abreu later agreed to a three-year, $50 million contract.

Stroman and Gausman are eligible for free agency again.

The qualifying-offer price started at $13.3 million in 2012 and rose to $14.1 million in 2013, $15.3 million in 2014, $15.8 million in 2015, $17.2 million in 2016 and $17.4 million in 2017.