The Qualifying Offer and the next CBA

Seems pretty clear that the current Qualifying Offer (QO) system is working to the detriment of the players; and it is not clear that it provide any significant benefits to the teams. The way QOs will work (if they even exist) under the CBA to be negotiated and presumably put in place on December 1, 2016 will almost certainly be different.

The current QO process is both pretty simple and confusing. A team can make a QO to any of their free agent players they want to unless the player was acquired via a trade during the season. The value of the QO is equal to the average of the top 125 player salaries in the current season – for 2015, the value was $15.8M. If a player accepts (which happened for the first time this year), he stays with his current team on a one year deal for $15.8M. If he rejects, he becomes a Free Agent, but any team that picks him must sacrifice their highest draft pick (with one exception – the 10 teams with the worst record sacrifice their second highest draft pick). And the team that lost the player gets a sandwich pick between the first and second round as long as the play signs with another team before the draft in June.

This year (just as in prior years), the loss of a pick seems to have suppressed the market for players who rejected the QO from their former team.

Here is one suggestion for a new/different QO system. Two levels of a QO:

  • Level 1 is for the very elite. The QO would be the average salary for the top 50 players. As mentioned above currently the QO value is determined from the top 125 salaries. So the idea is to make the QO more expensive to the team and valuable to the player. A team that signs such a player loses their highest draft pick. And maybe you eliminate the top 10 protection. Teams that lose such a player gets a sandwich pick between the first and second round. Based on data downloaded from spotrac, the QO for 2015 based on the top 50 players would be around $19.8M.
  • Level 2 is for guys who are very good but not elite. Again, based on the spotrac data, perhaps the average value of the next 75 players would be a good value to use. That number turns out to be $11.1.M So perhaps it needs to be tweaked a bit and a QO for a player would be the higher of this value and their current year salary bumped up by say 10%. For these players, no lost pick for a team that signs such a player; the team that loses such a player gets a sandwich pick – after the level 1 sandwich picks – or probably later, perhaps a pick between the 2nd/3rd round.
  • The team would decide which level of a QO to make to a given player.

Perhaps the only players in 2015 who would have gotten a (level 1) QO under this system would have been Grienke, Price and Heyward – all of whom signed relatively early.

A few other possible wrinkles to throw into this:

  • Can a player who is traded during the season get a QO? If so, can the rights to the QO be part of the trade? For example:
    • Could the Tigers have traded Price to the Blue Jays but kept the rights to make a QO?
    • Or traded the QO rights to the Blue Jays, perhaps with the provision that the Tigers gets the sandwich pick if the Blue Jays make a QO that Price rejects?
    • Or, if the Blue Jays don’t make a QO, can the Tigers make a QO?
    • and so on, and so on, . . . .
  • How about two year QO?
  • And if a team really wants to keep a player (e.g. Harper) are they allowed one exception along the lines of the NBA Bird rule, where some part of that player’s salary is not counted towards the luxury tax?

Clearly some of these ideas are off-the-wall and would likely not be feasible or not something that the MLBPA and the Owners would agree to. But sometimes bad ideas thrown out in a brain-storming session can lead to workable ideas.

Consider the above as food for thought and comment on your ideas.

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