Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon, to no one’s surprise, turned down qualifying offers from the Nationals before today’s deadline, leaving both free agents open to sign with any of Major League Baseball’s 30 clubs while ensuring the Nats would receive draft pick compensation if either of them plays elsewhere in 2020.
The one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer was extended to 10 major league free agents, including Strasburg and Rendon, on Nov. 4. The players could have accepted the offer and returned to their original clubs for one season, and a pair did: the Twins’ Jake Odorizzi and the White Sox’s José Abreu. In Strasburg and Rendon’s cases, that offer wouldn’t come close to the long-term deals they’re likely to get on the open market this winter.
Today’s decisions don’t preclude Strasburg or Rendon from re-signing with the Nationals, and sources say there remains interest on both sides. Strasburg, who opted out of the final four years on his seven-year, $175 million contract with the Nats, will be seeking more than the $100 million that was remaining on his previous deal. Rendon, a free agent for the first time in his career, could be seeking a deal for as many as eight years and as much as $280 million.
The Nationals never expected either player to accept the qualifying offer, but in extending the offers last week, they ensured they’d get draft pick compensation if either signs elsewhere. Those picks would come after the second round of next summer’s draft, significantly higher than the compensatory pick after the fourth round they received after losing Bryce Harper last winter.
Why the difference? Compensatory picks are tied to a club’s luxury tax standing. Because the Nationals exceeded the luxury tax threshold in 2018, they were entitled only to the post-fourth-round pick after losing Harper. Because they stayed under the threshold in 2019, they would be entitled to the post-second-round picks if they lose Strasburg and/or Rendon.