USA TODAY Sports' Mackenzie Salmon sits down with baseball writers Bob Nightengale, Steve Gardner, and Gabe Lacques to recap the 2020 MLB season.
Six free agents have received qualifying offers from their MLB teams this offseason, giving them the opportunity to accept a one-year deal to return or take their services to the open market.
The six represent some of the top names in this year's free-agent class — including Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer, Houston Astros outfielder George Springer and Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Also on the list: New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu, New York Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman and San Francisco Giants pitcher Kevin Gausman.
Players who receive the qualifying offer have 10 days to either accept and play next season on a one-year, $18.9 million contract or decline and opt for free agency. If they do sign with another team, their former team receives a draft pick as compensation.
After going 5-4 with a league-leading 1.73 ERA, Reds starting pitcher Trevor Bauer is one of the top free agents this winter. (Photo: David Kohl, USA TODAY Sports)
For players in the prime of their careers, it's an easy decision to seek a multiyear contract. Bauer, in particular, seems to be set up to cash in as the top starting pitcher available this winter. One of thee front-runners for the National League Cy Young award, he led the NL with a 1.74 ERA and finished second to the Mets' Jacob deGrom in strikeouts — despite a record of just 5-4.
Coming off strong 2020 seasons, Springer, Realmuto and AL batting champ LeMahieu also figure to garner significant interest from multiple teams, making it unlikely they would accept the one-year qualifying offer.
Stroman is an interesting case study. He was traded from Toronto to the Mets in 2019, then injured his calf during summer camp and opted out of the rest of the season due to COVID-19 concerns. He's made only 11 starts for the Mets, going 4-2 with a 3.77 ERA.
Gausman had a solid season after signing a one-year free agent deal with the San Francisco Giants. He posted a 3-3 record and 3.62 ERA, with a career-best strikeout rate of 11.9 K/9. The Giants have expressed interest in re-signing him, but other teams are likely to be interested as well.
Last season, 10 players received a qualifying offers and two — Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox and Jake Odorizzi of the Minnesota Twins — accepted. Abreu later worked out a three-year, $50 million extension.