The qualifying offer has impacted the free agent market for the last 10 offseasons, but it wasn’t clear if there would be an eleventh as Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association engaged in labor talks last winter.  When the lockout was over and the new collective bargaining agreement was finally settled, one sticking point remained — the implementation of an international player draft.  If the union agreed to this draft, the league would have agreed to scrap the qualifying offer system altogether.

However, July’s deadline for a decision on an international draft came and went without any new agreement, and thus the status quo of the QO will remain for the 2022-23 free agent class.  As such, we can now look ahead and predict which players will or could receive qualifying offers from their teams at the end of the season.

A quick refresher on the QO rules.  The qualifying offer is a one-year contract with a salary figure determined by averaging the top 125 salaries of all MLB players.  Last year’s figure was $18.4MM, and it’s safe to estimate that this winter’s QO will be worth somewhere in the range of $18-19MM.  Any free agent is eligible to be issued a qualifying offer unless a) they have received one in past trips to free agency, or b) they haven’t spent the entire 2022 season with their current organization.  For instance, the Padres can’t issue Josh Bell a qualifying offer because Bell was only acquired at the trade deadline.

If a player accepts the qualifying offer, he returns to his current team on that one-year deal in the $18MM-$19MM range.  (The player can also negotiate a longer-term extension with his team after accepting that QO, as Jose Abreu did with the White Sox in November 2019.)  While some free agents have indeed taken the qualifying offer, the large majority reject the deal in search of a richer and lengthier contract.  If a player rejects a QO and signs elsewhere, their new team must give up at least one draft pick and possibly some international draft pool money, while their former team will get a compensatory draft pick in return.

With several prominent names in this year’s free agent market eligible for the QO, let’s look at some of the candidates, starting with position players.

Easy Calls: Nolan Arenado (Cardinals), Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox), Willson Contreras (Cubs), Aaron Judge (Yankees), Brandon Nimmo (Mets), Dansby Swanson (Braves), Trea Turner (Dodgers)