Qualifying questions: Who receives 2017 offer?

Teams have until 5 p.m. ET Monday to make $17.2 million decision

November 4th, 2016

If you were a fan of the two teams in the World Series, it seems almost impossible to turn the page and move on to 2017. Imagine telling a Cubs fan who just attended the championship parade that it's time to start thinking about what the roster looks like when they begin next season in St. Louis on April 3?

But for all the attention paid to Cleveland and Chicago, you remember that there's 28 other teams that are eager to start looking ahead. The offseason has already begun, anyway, as free agents are free to negotiate with new teams on Tuesday, and for qualifying offers, the deadline for teams to extend offers to eligible players is 5 p.m. ET on Monday.

Who should get offers? Of those players, who might accept them? Let's take a tour through the wonderful world of qualifying offers.

First, some logistics. A qualifying offer is a one-year, $17.2 million contract, and players have until Monday, Nov. 14, to accept or decline it. If they accept, they're signed for 2017. If not, then they are free agents, and their new team surrenders their first-round Draft pick (unless it's a protected top-10 pick, in which case they lose their second-rounder) while their old team gains a compensation choice. In addition, players who were traded during the season, which includes some big names like , , , , and , are ineligible to receive the offer, which gives them a leg up in free agency over other players who might carry the Draft-pick tax.

Got it? Good. Let's get started.

(2017 WAR projections are via MLBAM's Tom Tango using the methodology explained here.)


Video: Encarnacion cranks three home runs in the postseason

, , , , , , , , .

These nine players (assuming that Cespedes and Fowler opt out of their contracts -- Cespedes reportedly already has) are most of the best that this free-agency crop has to offer, and it's a no-brainer in just about every case, except perhaps for Walker, though he's here since it's been reported the Mets have decided to offer him one. Think about it this way: Would their old teams be happy to have them back for one year and $17.2 million? Considering that most are in line for large long-term deals, of course they would, and they'll happily take the Draft pick if and when these players move on. (Extending a qualifying offer doesn't prevent the two sides from later agreeing to larger contracts, anyway.)


With the nine obvious and/or reportedly confirmed offers out of the way, let's turn to the more borderline cases. We'll skip cases where it's been reported no offer is coming (like) or free agents unlikely to be considered for one, like or .


2017 Projection: 1.4 WAR

Acquired in a reasonably priced trade from Arizona one year ago, Hellickson provided 189 innings of slightly above-average production, as he had a career-best strikeout percentage (20 percent) and a career-low walk rate (5.8 percent). The Phillies head into 2017 with a low payroll, a need for a veteran to eat up innings around a talented but inexperienced young rotation, and the knowledge that the rotation market is so weak that and Hill may be the best bets. That's why even if Hellickson gets an offer, he could turn it down to seek more years at a lower annual value.

Prediction: Receives offer / Declines offer.


2017 Projection: 0.6 WAR

Morales is coming off two solid years for Kansas City (.277/.344/.476, 120 wRC+, 52 homers), but he's almost strictly a designated hitter these days, and offers little defensive value. He declined his half of a mutual option and the Royals are reportedly leaning toward not extending an offer, which makes sense: After his experience three years ago, he'd probably be all too happy to take one.

Prediction: Does not receive offer.


2017 Projection: 1.0 WAR

Cleveland signed Napoli to a one-year deal worth $7 million last offseason and received a career-high 34 home runs, though his line of .239/.335/.465 (113 wRC+) was somewhat below his career average (123 wRC+). As you can see, however, his 1.0 WAR projection (where 2.0 is league average and 4 is roughly All-Star level) reflects that of a hitter who is somewhat above-average yet offers little defensive value. That makes giving Napoli $17.2 million probably too high for Cleveland, though since both sides seem to like one another, a return trip to Ohio for a lower price could still happen.

Prediction: Does not receive offer.


2017 Projection: 1.7 WAR

As the best-hitting regular catcher in baseball this year, Ramos (.307/.354/.496, 124 wRC+) would have been included in the slam-dunk category if not for the late-September knee injury (his second in five years) that kept him out of the playoffs and could limit his ability to stay behind the plate next year and into the future. Instead, the Nationals have to weigh paying him a lot for what's likely less than a full season of work, or letting him sign elsewhere for no return at all. 

Prediction: Receives offer / Declines offer. 


2017 Projection: 0.8 WAR

Toronto finds itself in an interesting situation, because Encarnacion and Bautista may each depart, and while Saunders was fantastic in an All-Star first half (.298/.372/.551, 146 wRC+), he was much less than that in the second half (.178/.282/.357, 69 wRC+). The talent is clearly there, but the track record hasn't been, as he's been inconsistent and/or injured (missing nearly all of 2015, for example), since his 2009 debut.

Prediction: Does not receive offer.


2017 Projection: 1.8 WAR

Probably the lowest-profile player on this list, Valbuena has been a useful piece since arriving in the Fowler trade prior to 2015, hitting 38 homers with a line of .238/.329/.446 (114 wRC+) in two seasons. But his season ended with hamstring surgery, and while the Astros are expected to be aggressive this offseason, the arrivals of and Yulieski Gurriel probably cost Valbuena playing time at third base. While he's an above-average hitter, he may not be a fit for the Astros' 2017 lineup, and they can spend their $17.2 million elsewhere.

Prediction: Does not receive offer.


2017 Projection: 1.1 WAR

Wieters received and accepted the offer last year, but put up only a .243/.302/.409 (88 wRC+) line for Baltimore, though with 17 homers. It's now been four seasons since Wieters' last full-season year with above-average hitting performance, though with the injury to Ramos, he'd likely lead a weak free-agent catching market ahead of , and . For that reason alone, the offer may be in the Orioles' best interest, because either they overpay for one year of a starting catcher, or they expect him to decline and they receive a Draft pick.

Prediction: Receives offer / Declines offer.