Qualifying offers will reshape 2016 Draft
Rasmus, Wieters, Anderson accept; Estrada gets two-year contract
There were 20 players headed toward free agency who were given a qualifying offer to stay with their old club, a record number. As Friday's 5 p.m. ET deadline passed, three players accepted the offer for the first time in history, and another signed a two-year deal with his team.
Each of these free agents was offered a one-year deal for $15.8 million. Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus had accepted the offer, as did Orioles catcher Matt Wieters and Dodgers left-hander Brett Anderson. Marco Estrada signed a two-year deal with the Blue Jays for $26 million.
That $15.8 million salary was determined by averaging the top 125 player salaries from the 2015 season. Any team making such an offer receives a compensatory Draft pick at the end of the first round if the player rejects the offer and signs with another team. Compensation picks will be made in reverse order of teams' winning percentage from the 2015 season.
It had been tradition for players to turn down qualifying offers. In the four years since the system was put in place, Rasmus, Wieters and Anderson are the only three of 54 players to accept a qualifying offer thus far. Thanks to the record number of qualifying offers made this year, the first round of the 2016 Draft will be a long one.
For now, the compensation picks will take place at Nos. 31-46. There are currently 30 picks in the first round, but there is a good chance that will change. When a team signs a free agent who received a qualifying offer (unless that team has a pick in the top 10), it will forfeit its first-round pick. Teams picking in the top 10 will forfeit their next-highest selection.
If every remaining free agent who received a qualifying offer signs with another team, the San Diego Padres would get the first two compensation picks, for Ian Kennedy and Justin Upton. The Padres will be followed by the White Sox (Jeff Samardzija), the Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma) and the Orioles for two (Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Davis). The Nationals would follow with two (Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond), with the Rangers (Yovani Gallardo) and Mets (Daniel Murphy) next up. Then comes the Dodgers for two (Zack Greinke, Howie Kendrick), the Royals (Alex Gordon) and Cubs (Dexter Fowler). The Cardinals would finish off the round with a pair of compensation picks (Jason Heyward and John Lackey).
Teams don't keep the compensation pick if they re-sign their free agent. It's also possible they would have to forfeit the pick should they sign another qualifying free agent and not have a first-round pick to give up (either because they pick in the top 10, or because they sign more than one qualifying free agent and have previously surrendered their first-round selection).
A year ago, a dozen players were offered a one-year deal for $15.3 million. All 12 turned down the offer, with two players -- Francisco Liriano (Pirates) and Victor Martinez (Tigers) -- re-signing with their previous team. As a result, there were 10 compensation selections made in the 2015 Draft. All were considered first-round picks, and they were picks Nos. 27-36 because of forfeited first-round selections. The Mets gave up their top pick for signing Michael Cuddyer, the Blue Jays gave up their first selection for Russell Martin, while the Padres (James Shields), the Nationals (Max Scherzer) and the Mariners (Nelson Cruz) also forfeited first-round picks. The first-round picks are not reassigned, as they were under the old rules, but rather vanish, shrinking the first round.
The Twins surrendered their second-round pick for signing Ervin Santana, because they had a top-10 selection in the first round. The White Sox also picked in the top 10, so they had to forfeit picks in the second and third rounds for David Robertson and Melky Cabrera. The Red Sox gave up picks in the second and Competitive Balance B rounds for Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.
Here is a list of this year's free agents who received qualifying offers (excluding Rasmus, Wieters, Anderson and Estrada), listed in order of how compensation picks would be awarded:
31. Ian Kennedy, Padres
32. Justin Upton, Padres
33. Jeff Samardzija, White Sox
34. Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners
35. Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles
36. Chris Davis, Orioles
37. Ian Desmond, Nationals
38. Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals
39. Yovani Gallardo, Rangers
40. Daniel Murphy, Mets
41. Zack Greinke, Dodgers
42. Howie Kendrick, Dodgers
43. Alex Gordon, Royals
44. Dexter Fowler, Cubs
45. Jason Heyward, Cardinals
46. John Lackey, Cardinals