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8 of 90 took qualifying offers. How'd it work out?

@AndrewSimonMLB
November 22, 2019

Ten players received qualifying offers in 2019 for the '20 season, and two of them -- White Sox first baseman José Abreu and Twins right-hander Jake Odorizzi -- accepted the one-year, $17.8 million deal. That makes them just the seventh and eighth players to accept the QO out of the

Ten players received qualifying offers in 2019 for the '20 season, and two of them -- White Sox first baseman José Abreu and Twins right-hander Jake Odorizzi -- accepted the one-year, $17.8 million deal. That makes them just the seventh and eighth players to accept the QO out of the 90 who have received it dating back to the system's introduction in 2012. The rest rejected the offer and entered the free-agent market to seek a multiyear deal.

Here is a look back at each of those eight players who accepted, and how that decision worked out for both sides.

José Abreu, 1B, White Sox, 2019
Accepted $17.8 million qualifying offer for '20

Background: Abreu is a consistent rock for the right side of the White Sox infield, and he was an All-Star for the third time in 2019, hitting .284 with 33 home runs and an AL-leading 123 RBIs. Despite those big numbers, Abreu might have struggled in the free-agent market because of he is entering his age-33 season, he's rated as a poor defender and he's a righty-righty first baseman. Abreu has stated repeatedly how much he enjoyed playing in Chicago, and he initially committed to the White Sox for one more season. The two sides extended that relationship further on Nov. 22, when they replaced the qualifying offer with a three-year, $50 million contract that runs through 2022.

Result: TBD.

Jake Odorizzi, P, Twins, 2019
Accepted $17.8 million qualifying offer for '20

Background: Odorizzi has been a consistent pitcher throughout his career, and he was arguably the Twins' most consistent starter in 2019 as he pitched to a 3.51 ERA -- his lowest mark since '15 -- and a 3.36 FIP, the best of his career. His 27.1 percent strikeout rate was also a career high. In the past, it might have been an easier decision for Odorizzi to reject the qualifying offer and test the market for a multi-year contract after posting such numbers. But Odorizzi's 4.3 WAR in 2019, per FanGraphs, would have been the fifth highest among available free-agent starters behind splashy names like Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Wheeler.

Result: TBD.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, P, Dodgers, 2018
Accepted $17.9 million qualifying offer for '19

Background: This was a situation where a high-value, one-year deal made perfect sense for both sides. Ever since joining the Dodgers from South Korea in 2013, Ryu had been highly effective -- when he was able to take the mound. His career ERA in the Majors was 3.20 through 2018, but that was in fewer than 100 starts and 600 innings spread over six seasons. Various injuries had gotten in the way, including shoulder surgery and elbow tendinitis that cost him all but one game from 2015-16, and a severe groin strain that limited him to 15 starts in '18. Ryu’s health record would have scared many teams, but the Dodgers had the depth to withstand some missed time.

Result: It could not have worked out much better. Ryu had two brief stints on the injured list but still made 29 starts and pitched 182 2/3 innings, both his most since his rookie year in 2013. The lefty earned a start in his first All-Star Game, led the Majors with a 2.32 ERA, and put himself into NL Cy Young Award contention. He will be a free agent again this offseason and should score a significantly larger contract this time around.

Jeremy Hellickson, P, Phillies, 2016
Accepted $17.2 million qualifying offer for '17

Background: The 2011 American League Rookie of the Year with the Rays had seen his numbers slip since then, including a 4.62 ERA with the 2015 D-backs after a trade from Tampa Bay. Hellickson was traded again after the '15 season, this time to Philadelphia, and resurrected his value by posting a 3.71 ERA over 32 starts and 189 innings. That made him arguably the Phillies’ top pitcher. According to Hellickson, other teams’ reticence to part with a Draft pick influenced his decision to accept.

Result: The reunion wasn’t quite as sweet. Hellickson started fast in 2017 but ultimately had a 4.73 ERA when the last-place Phillies traded him to Baltimore, where his struggles escalated. That left him languishing on the market until March 2018, when he settled for a Minor League contract with the Nationals.

Neil Walker, 2B, Mets, 2016
Accepted $17.2 million qualifying offer for '17

Background: Walker was a model of consistency in Pittsburgh, where he had an OPS+ between 106 and 126 in six straight seasons. That sort of production continued in 2016 after a trade to the Mets. Walker hit .282/.347/.476 (121 OPS+) with 23 homers in 113 games, but a herniated disk in his back required surgery and ended his season in late August, throwing his free agency into some doubt and helping keep him in Queens.

Result: Walker returned for Opening Day 2017 and was having another typical season when he sustained a hamstring tear in mid-June and missed about six weeks. The Mets, scuffling well below .500, traded him to the Brewers soon after his return, during the August waiver period. In the following offseason, Walker didn’t land a contract until March, signing a modest one-year deal with the Yankees.

Brett Anderson, P, Dodgers, 2015
Accepted $15.8 million qualifying offer for '16

Background: Anderson’s situation was similar to the one the Dodgers faced with Ryu a few years later. Like his fellow lefty, Anderson had been effective but not especially durable throughout his career. When L.A. signed him to a one-year deal before 2015, Anderson had pitched barely more than 200 innings over the previous four seasons. He then managed a career-high 31 starts and 180 1/3 innings for the Dodgers, posting a 3.69 ERA, but still would have faced some skepticism on the open market.

Result: The Dodgers gambled on a second straight healthy season and didn’t get one. Anderson made his 2016 debut on Aug. 14 and ultimately pitched just 11 1/3 innings due to a back injury and blister issues. He settled for an incentive-laden one-year deal with the Cubs for '17.

Colby Rasmus, OF, Astros, 2015
Accepted $15.8 million qualifying offer for '16

Background: Rasmus signed a one-year deal with the Astros ahead of the 2015 season, after six up-and-down campaigns in St. Louis and Toronto. He proceeded to have a solid if not spectacular year in Houston, batting .238/.314/.475 (116 OPS+) with 25 homers in 137 games for an Astros club that made and won the AL Wild Card Game.

Result: Rasmus’ second go-round in Houston was a dud. After a strong April, he batted a meager .191/.252/.297 over the rest of the season and finished with a career-low .641 OPS in more than 400 plate appearances. Strong defensive numbers according to advanced metrics still gave him positive WAR value, but Rasmus took a significant pay cut ($5 million guaranteed) when he signed a one-year deal with the Rays for 2017.

Matt Wieters, C, Orioles, 2015
Accepted $15.8 million qualifying offer for '16

Background: Wieters had a longer history with his club than anyone else on this list, but a larger factor in his acceptance of the qualifying offer may have been health. Baltimore’s first-round pick (No. 5 overall) in the 2007 Draft -- who had been in the Majors since '09 -- underwent Tommy John surgery in '14 and didn’t return until June of the following season. That gave him all of 75 games, including 55 behind the plate, to state his case as a free agent. Wieters was solid in that time (.267/.319/.422, 101 OPS+) but perhaps wanted a full season to demonstrate his value.

Result: On the plus side, Wieters was healthy (124 games), made the All-Star team, and helped the Orioles grab a Wild Card berth. On the other hand, his .243/.302/.409 line with 17 homers didn’t stand out. The following January, Wieters took a deal with the Nationals that ultimately was worth $21 million over two years with his exercising of a 2018 player option.

Conclusion
Four of the six players to accept a QO had some sort of significant injury issue in their recent past that probably pushed them toward not taking their chances in free agency. The other two (Hellickson and Rasmus) were coming off good seasons but had not necessarily been consistent performers.

Ryu’s 2019 gives clubs a best-case scenario for an accepted QO -- a player who takes advantage of the one-year platform by putting up a career season. Of the five who accepted prior to Ryu, however, only Wieters produced a higher WAR in the season after accepting the offer. Wieters also was the only one of the five to land a multiyear deal in the following offseason, and that was for two years. Those five players had an average salary of only about $5 million in that next season, so Ryu likely will be the first to accept a QO, and then increase his salary afterward.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.