The MLB qualifying offer deadline passed Wednesday and nearly every player opted to test the market. Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa and Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager are among the biggest names willing to talk to all 30 teams.
The rejections were expected, as those players are among the best available this offseason.
Players who receive qualifying offers from their teams have two options: They can either accept, which means they'll receive a one-year deal from their old team at a high salary, or they can decline, which usually means they anticipate they will sign a better deal on the market. If a player declines a qualifying offer, their old team receives a draft pick if the player signs with another club in the offseason.
Correa, Freeman and Seager are in line for mega-contracts, so there was no way they were taking a one-year deal to stick around. They weren't the only players who felt that way. Nick Castellanos, Michael Conforto, Raisel Iglesias, Robbie Ray, Eduardo Rodriguez, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story, Noah Syndergaard, Chris Taylor and Justin Verlander all rejected qualifying offers from their teams.
Qualifying offer (1year/$18.4 million):
Rejected: Nick Castellanos, Michael Conforto, Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, Raisel Iglesias, Robbie Ray, Eduardo Rodriguez, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story, Noah Syndergaard, Chris Taylor, Justin Verlander
— Hannah Keyser (@HannahRKeyser) November 17, 2021
Rodriguez and Syndergaard made their intentions clear prior to the qualifying offer deadline, as both players already signed with new teams. Rodriguez inked a five-year, $77 million deal with the Detroit Tigers on Monday and Syndergaard signed a one-year, $21 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.
Rejecting a qualifying offer doesn't guarantee a player will leave in free agency. The Braves, as an example, could still bring Freeman back on a multi-year deal. Verlander reportedly did that exact thing, re-signing with the Astros on Wednesday moments after rejecting a qualifying offer from the team.
Brandon Belt opts to remain with Giants
The one player who accepted a qualifying offer was San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt. He will return to the Giants in 2022 on a one-year, $18.4 million deal. Players who accept qualifying offers receive the mean salary of the top 125 players in the game. That figure was $18.4 million this offseason.
Belt, 33, is coming off an excellent year, in which he hit .274/.378/.597, with 29 home runs, in 97 games. Belt performed slightly better in 51 games in 2020, the 60-game pandemic-shortened season.
Those performances may have earned Belt a multi-year deal with a higher salary this winter, but Belt felt comfortable staying in San Francisco. Belt has spent his entire career with the franchise, and may have no interest in leaving now. It's possible Belt accepted the deal hoping he can perform better in 2022 and secure an even bigger contract next offseason, but that seems unlikely considering Belt performed well the past two years.