On Monday, it was announced the Los Angeles Dodgers would not present the qualifying offer to Clayton Kershaw or JD Martinez. The hefty one-year contract ($20.325 million) is a generous one, but it also attaches draft pick compensation to that player, which could create complications in free agency.
For some players, it's obvious they won't even look at the offer. You think Shohei Ohtani wants to do one more year in Anaheim, inexplicably waiting another year to cash out in free agency? Then there are the players who have little reason to reject the offer, like Joc Pederson when the Giants gave it to him last year. How could the slugger turn down almost $20 million for one year after making $23 million over his seven seasons with the Dodgers?
Then there's the gray area bunch. That would be fringe star players whose willingness to accept is unclear, which makes it a gamble for teams that are perhaps uncomfortable wanting to invest that much money, but are also intrigued by getting a draft pick in return. There are also the established veteran star players who are probably going to reject, but would then be disadvantaged in free agency by having the compensation as a stipulation of a future deal elsewhere.
For JD Martinez ... which was he? Were the Dodgers legitimately concerned he might take the $20 million and clog up the roster with another aging player who is regressing (or can't play) defensively, or did they respect his wishes (with the help of Scott Boras) not to hurt his free agency value?
It seems like maybe a little of both?
Did Dodgers really think JD Martinez would accept the qualifying offer?
Jack Harris of the LA Times mentioned the Dodgers' need to clear the DH spot for a run at Shohei Ohtani, which, yes, needed to happen, but the presentation of the qualifying offer doesn't mean the player is going to accept. Someone like Martinez, who just put forth his best season since 2019 and established himself as a valuable DH for at least 20 other teams, is getting one last shot at a big payday. There's little chance he would've let the qualifying offer get in his way.
But then there's the Boras of it all. He's the best agent in the sport and was likely smart enough to look ahead last offseason when approaching the Dodgers in negotiations. LA got a discounted year for one of the best right-handed hitters in the sport in exchange for housing him on a contender and helping rebuild his free agency value without the QO interruption.
Teams have used the qualifying offer to their advantage, but over time it's had too great a negative effect on the market, with both the player and rival team getting the short end of the stick. The player would be in a position to receive less money because the rival team had to justify spending money and surrendering draft capital for one move.
The Dodgers history here aligns with benevolence. They've never presented Kershaw with the QO because they don't want to rush his decision (there's a deadline to accept or reject the deal) since he asked for flexibility in future offseasons. They helped Martinez and thanked him for his service, but didn't give him any trouble on the way out.
Probably the way it should be.