Shohei Ohtani, Cody Bellinger among 7 to get qualifying offers as 168 free agents hit the market

by Michael Nguyen
MLB free agency 2023

Shohei Ohtani, the dual-threat phenom, and Cody Bellinger are among seven distinguished players who were extended qualifying offers of $20,325,000 by their respective teams as a new class of 168 free agents stepped into the market on Monday.

These athletes, given the market dynamics, are projected to forgo these initial offers by the November 14 deadline, seeking more lucrative, multi-year deals.

Ohtani, from the Los Angeles Angels, leads the pack, with Bellinger (now with the Chicago Cubs), and a quintet of pitchers — Josh Hader and Blake Snell from San Diego, Aaron Nola of Philadelphia, Minnesota’s Sonny Gray, and Matt Chapman, the third baseman from Toronto — also receiving qualifying bids.

The strategic issuance of a qualifying offer, calculated as the median of the top 125 salaries in the sport, positions a player’s original team to acquire an extra pick in the following July’s amateur draft, should the player sign with a different team before then. Conversely, the new team may face the loss of one or more draft picks.

In an indicator of this year’s free agent pool depth, the number of qualifying offers has dropped by 50% from the previous year. Since the inception of this system in 2012, only 10 out of 124 qualifying offers have been accepted.

Leading the free agent cohort alongside Ohtani are noteworthy starting pitchers like Eduardo Rodriguez and Jordan Montgomery, with Nola, Snell, Gray, and the acclaimed Yoshinobu Yamamoto from Japan, who is exempt from draft pick compensation, completing the list.

During the exclusive five-day negotiation window, Milwaukee’s Colin Rea was the lone player to re-sign, agreeing to a $4.5 million contract for one year.

Contract option resolutions saw varied outcomes. The Atlanta Braves exercised a $20 million option for veteran Charlie Morton, while deciding against retaining Eddie Rosario, Collin McHugh, and Kirby Yates, who will receive buyouts. Meanwhile, Detroit confirmed Mark Canha’s $11.5 million option after acquiring him from Milwaukee, who had the alternative to enact a $2 million buyout.

The Toronto Blue Jays secured their bullpen by picking up Chad Green’s option, ensuring him $21 million across 2024 and 2025. Green had previously undergone Tommy John surgery and returned to pitch with a 5.25 ERA over 12 games.

Michael Wacha entered free agency as San Diego declined their option on him, and he declined his own player options for the subsequent years.

Johnny Cueto and Matt Barnes were released into free agency by Miami, receiving buyouts of $2.5 million and $2.75 million, respectively.

Other players with options exercised include Alex Cobb by San Francisco, Brooks Raley by the Mets, and Blake Treinen by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In decisions to stay, Tigers’ Javier Báez, Giants’ Michael Conforto, and Ross Stripling from Miami, along with Josh Bell and Drew Smyly from the Cubs, chose not to opt out of their current contracts.

Báez, despite a dip in performance, will maintain salaries of $25 million annually for two seasons, followed by $24 million in the subsequent years. Conforto and Bell decided to remain with their current salaries after their respective performances last season. Stripling chose to stay on his $12.5 million salary despite a challenging season.

Smyly also remained on his $10.5 million salary, following a season with mixed results in his starting and relieving roles.

Adam Ottavino, the Mets right-hander, declined his $6.75 million option after a season with a solid ERA across 66 relief appearances.

For more detailed coverage and updates on MLB free agency, visit AP MLB.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about MLB free agency 2023

What is a qualifying offer in MLB free agency?

A qualifying offer is a one-year contract proposal made by an MLB team to their eligible departing free agents with the value set at the average of the top 125 MLB player salaries. If a player rejects the offer and signs with another team, the original team receives draft pick compensation.

Which players received qualifying offers at the start of the 2023 MLB free agency?

Shohei Ohtani, Cody Bellinger, Josh Hader, Blake Snell, Aaron Nola, Sonny Gray, and Matt Chapman received qualifying offers from their respective teams as the 2023 MLB free agency period began.

How many players opted to re-sign with their teams during the exclusive negotiation period?

Only one player, Colin Rea from Milwaukee, re-signed with his team during the exclusive negotiation period, with a one-year contract worth $4.5 million.

What were the notable contract option decisions made by teams?

Notable contract option decisions included the Atlanta Braves exercising a $20 million option for Charlie Morton and declining options for Eddie Rosario, Collin McHugh, and Kirby Yates. Detroit exercised Mark Canha’s option, while Toronto picked up Chad Green’s option, guaranteeing him $21 million for two years.

Did any players choose not to opt out of their contracts?

Yes, players including Javier Báez, Michael Conforto, Ross Stripling, Josh Bell, and Drew Smyly chose not to opt out of their contracts, instead continuing with their current teams under their existing terms.

More about MLB free agency 2023

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Jennyfromtheblock November 7, 2023 - 1:53 pm

qualifying offers seem kinda low this year, market’s def changing huh

TimRogers November 7, 2023 - 5:29 pm

so we’re just not gonna talk about how Morton is still killin it at nearly 40? guys a beast.

Joe Smith November 7, 2023 - 9:06 pm

gotta say Ohtani is the one to watch here, his stats are just insane. can’t wait to see where he ends up

KarenP November 7, 2023 - 10:59 pm

are the angels really gonna let ohtani walk? feels like a big mistake to me.

BaseballFanatic November 8, 2023 - 12:18 am

Milwaukee’s gotta be happy keeping Rea for just 4.5 million thats a steal for sure


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