The price of qualifying offers for Major League Baseball free agents dropped for the first time, falling by $100,000 to $17.8 million.
Determined by the average of the top 125 major league contracts this year, the figure announced Friday reflects a flat market last offseason.
In addition, large signing bonuses in the contracts of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Mike Trout impacted on the drop, because the signing bonuses are prorated over the length of the contract rather than the year they were received. The trio had relatively low 2019 salaries and if their 2020 salaries had been included instead, the qualifying offer figure would have risen to $18.3 million.
Harper's salary increases from $10 million this year to $26 million in 2020, Machado's from $10 million to $30 million and Trout's from $16 million to $36 million.
Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Didi Gregorius and Jake Odorizzi are among the players eligible for free agency. They could be joined by Stephen Strasburg, Aroldis Chapman and J.D. Martinez, who have the right to opt out of their deals.
A qualifying offer can be made through the fifth day after the World Series, and a player has a week after that to accept. If a team makes a qualifying offer to a player who signs a major league contract with another club before the June amateur draft, his former club would receive a draft pick as compensation at the end of the first round.
A free agent can be made a qualifying offer only if he has been with the same team continuously since opening day and has never received a qualifying offer before.
Qualifying offers began after the 2012 season, and only three of 80 offers have been accepted: New York Mets second baseman Neil Walker and Philadelphia pitcher Jeremy Hellickson after the 2016 season and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu last offseason.
The qualifying offer price started at $13.3 million in 2012, rose to $14.1 million in 2013, $15.3 million in 2014, $15.8 million in 2015, $17.2 million in 2016 and $17.4 million in 2017.