The Philadelphia Phillies are in the market for front-of-the-rotation help to replace Aaron Nola, assuming they're unable to bring him back. General manager Sam Fuld will be shopping in the free agent market for a top-tier arm, and it's no secret that owner John Middleton isn't afraid to open the purse strings and spend big to acquire star players.
While adding a high-priced free agent starter is on the shopping list, the Phillies will have to think about the extra cost of signing a player who rejected a qualifying offer from their previous team.
What is a qualifying offer?
According to MLB.com, a qualifying offer is a competitive balance measure to ensure teams have a fair chance at keeping high-end free agents for a predetermined amount or receive a compensatory pick if they lose the player through free agency.
The qualifying offer is set each offseason based on the mean salary of the top 125 MLB players. The qualifying offer this winter has been set at $20.325 million. The Phillies extended a qualifying offer to only one player this year: Aaron Nola. Nola, unsurprisingly, turned down the offer and hit the free agent market for the first time in his career.
What will it cost the Phillies to sign someone that rejected a qualifying offer?
While the Phillies will receive compensation if Nola leaves and signs with another team, they'll also have to pay up if they are to sign a free agent who rejected a qualifying offer.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, the Phillies fall under the Competitive Balance Tax payor category. They had the fifth-highest payroll this past season, at over $245 million, which is well above the $233 million Competitive Balance Tax Threshold.
As a CBT payor, they'll have to forfeit their second- and fifth-highest picks in the 2024 Draft, plus $1 million from their international bonus pool for the upcoming signing period. If they sign more than one qualified free agent, they'll forfeit their third- and sixth-highest picks as well.
Which qualifying offer-rejecting free agents could the Phillies sign?
Only seven players were given qualifying offers this year. All seven turned down their offer, per MLB.com's Thomas Harrington.
- Shohei Ohtani, DH/SP (Angels)
- Matt Chapman, 3B (Blue Jays)
- Cody Bellinger, OF (Cubs)
- Blake Snell, SP (Padres)
- Josh Hader, RP (Padres)
- Aaron Nola, SP (Phillies)
- Sonny Gray, SP (Twins)
The Phillies will at least kick the tires on most of the names on this list, except for Matt Chapman and maybe Cody Bellinger ... although you never know. They've already been linked to Blake Snell, Josh Hader, and Sonny Gray, and they'd be crazy not even to throw their hat in the ring for Shohei Ohtani.
Will giving up two picks and a chunk of their international bonus money stop the Phillies from bringing any of their targets to Philadelphia? It's unlikely. They'll take the extra hit if they feel like one of these pitchers is their guy to replace Nola.
As for Nola, the Phillies can re-sign him without penalty, making him even more enticing to the front office.