A look at the qualifying offer system

There has been some discussion about baseball’s qualifying offer system. It is a system that can be a drag on player salaries and the players union is obviously not a fan of that. We could see changes in the system when the new collective bargaining agreement is announced.

But for now, the current system is in place, and 10 players, including the Orioles’ Mark Trumbo, got qualifying offers Monday. A player getting the qualifying offer can accept it and play this upcoming year for his current team for $17.2 million. Or they can reject the offer. If they do that and wind up switching teams, the team losing that player gets a draft pick at the end of the first round next June as compensation. The signing team will lose a draft pick - its highest unprotected pick. The first 10 picks of the draft are protected and a team that holds one cannot lose that pick for signing a player. The club would forfeit its next highest pick.

mark-trumbo-back-gray-swing.jpgAfter the 2015 season, 20 players got qualifying offers. Three players - the O’s Matt Wieters, the Dodgers’ Brett Anderson and the Astros’ Colby Rasmus - accepted the offers and played the 2016 season for $15.8 million. One player - Toronto pitcher Marco Estrada - agreed to a new contract before accepting or rejecting the qualifying offer. He signed a two-year deal for $26 million.

Here is how the other 16 players who turned down qualifying offers did last year:

* O’s Wei-Yin Chen signed with Miami for five years and $80 million
* O’s Chris Davis re-signed for seven years and $161 million
* Nats’ Ian Desmond signed with Texas for one year and $8 million
* Cubs’ Dexter Fowler re-signed for one year and $13 million
* Rangers’ Yovani Gallardo signed with the Orioles for two years and $22 million
* Royals’ Alex Gordon re-signed for four years and $72 million
* Dodgers’ Zach Greinke signed with Arizona for six years and $206.5 million
* Cardinals’ Jason Heyward signed with the Cubs for eight years and $184 million
* Mariners’ Hisashi Iwakuma re-signed for one year and $12 million
* Dodgers’ Howie Kendrick re-signedfor two years and $20 million
* Padres’ Ian Kennedy signed with Kansas City for five years and $70 million
* Cardinals’ John Lackey signed with the Cubs for two years and $32 million
* Mets’ Daniel Murphy signed with the Nationals for three years and 37.5 million
* White Sox’s hurler Jeff Samardzija signed with San Francisco for five years and $90 million
* Padres’ Justin Upton signed with the Tigers for six years and $132.75 million
* Nats’ Jordan Zimmermann signed with the Tigers for five years and $110 million

Clearly, some teams here had no issue with handing out big dollars and losing a draft pick. Clearly, the qualifying offer hurt the bargaining value of other players. So the system is not perfect.

But some of the best free agent players are still getting huge contracts even when saddled with a qualifying offer. Of course, it is hard to say “saddled” when that offer will pay $17.2 million this year. Not exactly a real hardship here.

There is some discussion that in the next CBA, teams losing players will still get draft picks, but the teams signing those players will not have to give up a pick. That might be the change the players union seeks here.

Of course, there are plenty of factors at work in free agent negotiations going beyond qualifying offer, including a player’s track record, his age and health, the supply and demand in the market at his position, and how soon or late he signs, to name a few.

Even more Britton: Don’t worry, I’ll move on from this soon. Probably. But here are some stats from the nine relievers that have won a Cy Young Award and Zach Britton’s 2016 numbers. The 1981 winner, Rollie Fingers, pitched during a strike-shortened season. The 1984 winner, Willie Hernandez, was also named the American League MVP for that season.

* Mike Marshall (1974 Dodgers): 2.42 ERA, 208.1 innings, 1.186 WHIP, 2.55 K/BB ratio
* Sparky Lyle (1977 Yankees): 2.17 ERA, 137 innings, 1.197 WHIP, 2.06 K/BB ratio
* Bruce Sutter (1979 Cubs): 2.22 ERA, 101.1 innings, 0.977 WHIP, 3.44 K/BB ratio
* Rollie Fingers (1981 Brewers): 1.04 ERA, 78 innings, 0.872 WHIP, 4.69 K/BB ratio
* Willie Hernandez (1984 Tigers): 1.92 ERA, 140.1 innings, 0.941 WHIP, 3.11 K/BB ratio
* Steve Bedrosian (1987 Phillies): 2.83 ERA, 89 innings, 1.202 WHIP, 2.64 K/BB ratio
* Mark Davis (1989 Padres): 1.85 ERA, 92.2 innings, 1.047 WHIP, 2.97 K/BB ratio
* Dennis Eckersley (1992 A’s): 1.91 ERA, 80 innings, 0.913 WHIP, 8.45 K/BB ratio
* Eric Gagne (2003 Dodgers): 1.20 ERA, 82.1 innings, 0.692 WHIP, 6.85 K/BB ratio
* Zach Britton (2016 Orioles): 0.54 ERA, 67 innings, 0.836 WHIP, 4.11 K/BB ratio

Besides Britton, only Gagne saved 100 percent of his save chances, while Hernandez suffered one blown save in 1984.

While Britton ranked 10th among the 10 on this list in innings pitched, four of the other winners pitched 89 or fewer innings when they won. Of the 10 listed above, Britton’s 2016 season ranked first in ERA, second in WHIP and fourth in strikeout/walk ratio. Britton’s 47 saves would be third-most. Only Gagne with 55 and Eckersley with 51 had more than Britton’s 47 saves when they won the award.

None of this was good enough for Britton to even finish in the top three in the AL Cy Young vote among the voters from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

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