An all-important number that could define the Phillies’ offseason is set.
Major League Baseball’s qualifying offer for this season is $18.9 million, according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic. The number is up from $17.8 million in 2019. The qualifying offer is the mean salary of the 125 highest-paid players in MLB.
The Phillies are expected to extend the offer to catcher J.T. Realmuto, who will almost certainly reject it. If the Phillies attach the qualifying offer to Realmuto and lose him in free agency, they will gain an additional 2021 draft pick after the Competitive Balance Round B, which follows the second round.
The team that signs Realmuto will forfeit at least one draft pick. The penalty is much higher for a team that exceeded the luxury tax the previous season. If, for example, the New York Yankees or Houston Astros signed Realmuto, they would forfeit their second and fifth-highest selections in 2021 as well as $1,000,000 in international bonus pool money.
Last season, the Phillies had to forfeit $500,000 in international bonus pool money as well as their second-round selection for signing Zack Wheeler, who had a qualifying offer attached. In return, the New York Mets received the 69th pick of the 2020 MLB Draft.
It’s unclear whether or not the Phillies would extend the qualifying offer to shortstop Didi Gregorius. In a normal season, the decision to extend the QO might have been a no-brainer considering just how productive Gregorius was in 2020.
Gregorius will mostly likely command an average annual value below $18.9 million in free agency. If the Phillies offer the QO and he accepts, it’ll probably be a slight overpay.
Gregorius subsequently accepting the qualifying offer is not a certainty, however. Only eight players out of 90 who were offered have accepted since the qualifying offer was introduced in 2012. Like Realmuto, the Phillies will gain a second-round compensatory pick if Gregorius signs with another team after declining the qualifying offer.Embed from Getty Images
If Gregorius accepts and becomes a free agent after the 2021 season, he’ll be apart of a loaded class of shortstops that includes Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Javier Baez, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager. That could hurt his ability to secure a lucrative multi-year deal. Andrelton Simmons, Marcus Semien, Jonathan Villar and Gregorius highlight this year’s 2020 class of free agent shortstops. A possible work stoppage as well as another season of revenues being down could also hurt Gregorius in 2021.
The Phillies will have some tough decisions to make. Do they overpay to retain Gregorius and go after a highly coveted shortstop in 2021? Or do they decline to extend the offer and try to sign him or another free agent shortstop to a multi-year deal? The Phillies also have a top prospect in shortstop Bryson Stott who could be ready to contribute within the next two years.
Gregorius and his camp will also have to make some equally tough decisions. He’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of accepting a qualifying offer if received as well as reckon with how baseball’s financial landscape affects his free agency. He’ll have 10 days to survey his market before deciding to accept a QO if offered.
Nevertheless, he enjoyed his time in Philadelphia.
“I loved playing with these guys,” Gregorius said on the final day of the regular season. “It’s a great group of guys. I had fun and played the game the right way with these guys. We’ll see what’s going to happen.”
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