The 2024 qualifying offer, the average of the top 125 MLB salaries, is up to $20.325 million after being set at $19.65 million last year. That marks the second consecutive season with an increase following a half-million drop following the 2020 season. Only seven players were tabbed with a QO this winter, half of what we’ve seen in each of the past two winters. Barring a huge surprise, none will accept.
Depending on what you think they’re going to do over the next few months, the Cubs could be directly involved with as many as six of those seven free agents. Cody Bellinger is the only certainty in that group, as the Cubs have extended him a QO in order to benefit should he sign elsewhere. Because they neither received revenue sharing nor paid competitive balance tax penalties, the Cubs would net a pick after competitive balance round B (somewhere in the 70s).
That will come in very handy should they end up signing a QO player, as doing so will cost them their second-highest pick in next summer’s draft. The relative value of that selection varies based on the player in question, but this smaller class is pretty loaded. In addition to Bellinger, Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, Josh Hader, Matt Chapman, and Sonny Gray have all received offers.
Gray is the only member of that group who hasn’t been connected to the Cubs in any speculation, which makes sense because, as good as he’s been, he doesn’t really fit the profile they’re looking for. Some rival execs believe Jed Hoyer and Co. are the “sleeper pick” to sign Ohtani, the only move here bigger than the one they just made to poach Craig Counsell.
Though I don’t really think they’ll be in the market for the three pitcher-only members of this group, there’s been a lot of buzz about Chapman taking over at third base. That would have to come at the right price, however, as anything approaching the six-year, $150 million prediction by MLB Trade Rumors is probably a non-starter. Nola is projected for the exact same deal and Snell is at $200 million over seven years. The prediction of six years and $110 million would make Hader the highest-paid reliever in history, something I don’t see the Cubs doing.
For the record, Ohtani is at $528 million over 12 years and Bellinger is at $264 for the same duration. Wild stuff.
Players have until 4pm ET on November 14 to accept or reject the QO, but we can go ahead and assume they’ll all take a pass. As such, there’s really nothing about these decisions that will color the free agency market in a meaningful way. But with the GM Meetings getting underway in Phoenix, maybe we’ll get a little action here soon on other fronts.