One of the items that will be most hotly debated during the upcoming negotiations over the next collective bargaining agreement is the draft pick compensation tied to prospective free agents via the qualifying offer.
Under the current CBA, teams can make a qualifying offer to prospective free agents, a one-year deal at a predetermined number every year. This year, that number is $17.8 million. Players can either accept that QO and play under that contract, or decline it and test free agency.
The kicker is that any team that signs a free agent who has declined a qualifying offer must forfeit a second round draft pick as compensation. If they sign a second QO free agent, they must also forfeit a third.
Last year, the Phils lost their 2020 second round pick because they signed Bryce Harper. The year before they lost their second and third round picks for signing Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta.
That brings us to general manager Matt Klentak’s interview on the WIP Midday Show on Thursday in which co-host Jon Ritchie asked him a question about the farm system. His answer was interesting.
Jon Ritchie: “How do you plan to improve the farm system?”
Matt Klentak: “I’m more bullish on the farm system than some. One of the things we gotta try not to do, if we can, is to not forfeit draft picks, and that’s hard when you’re fishing in the deep end of the free agent pond. But we’ve lost our second round pick last year and our second and third round picks the year before, and that may not sound like a lot, but that’s where Scott Kingery comes from, that’s where Spencer Howard and Connor Seabold come from. That’s where some good players come from... we gotta try to hang onto that as much as we can.”
This year, 10 free agents were made qualifying offers.
- Gerrit Cole
- Stephen Strasburg
- Zack Wheeler
- Madison Bumgarner
- Jake Odorizzi
- Anthony Rendon
- Josh Donaldson
- Jose Abreu
- Marcell Ozuna
- Will Smith
The Phillies would have to forfeit a second round pick, for the third year in a row, if they were to sign one of those players, and they would also have to give up a third round pick if they signed two of them.
In other words, Phils fans who want the team to aggressively go after Cole, Strasburg, Wheeler, and Rendon cannot also complain that the Phillies have not drafted well or have a weak farm system. There is a cost for playing in the deep waters of free agency.
So which free agents were not offered qualifying offers? Well, the rest of them, obviously, but here are some names of note:
- Hyun-Jin Ryu
- Dallas Keuchel
- Cole Hamels
- Mike Moustakas
- Didi Gregorius
- Yasmani Grandal
- Nicholas Castellanos
- Yasiel Puig
Obviously, the Phillies are pot committed to putting a winner on the field in 2020, but how do they best improve the team? Do they spend big on a top tier pitching free agent or a player like Rendon or Donaldson? Or do they spread the money around and save draft picks by addressing multiple positions at once by restricting themselves to the list of players above?
While Klentak says the team wants to avoid losing draft picks, that doesn’t mean they’re out on the likes of Cole, Strasburg et al. Those guys are special talents and worth losing a second rounder for, but it could also mean the team will look at other ways of acquiring a top notch starting pitcher. Remember, the Phillies filled two of their biggest holes last off-season, shortstop and catcher, via trades. No team signs five Top 50 free agents. In an interview with 97.5 The Fanatic’s Morning Show, he indicated pitching is a top priority this off-season.
“We don’t want to make that mistake again, we’re gonna be in the market for pitching again this year, either trade or free agency.” - Matt Klentak— 975TheFanatic (@975TheFanatic) November 8, 2019
Time will tell whether Klentak’s wish to hold onto draft picks was the truth, or lip service ahead of what should be another busy off-season.
On Episode 334 of Hittin’ Season, I also broke down, in detail, the Phils’ salary situation for 2020, including how much space the Phillies would have under the luxury tax if they declined arbitration on Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco and how much they’d have left to spend after signing J.T. Realmuto to an extension.
Check it out!