SCOTTSDALE, AZ – Pitcher Jake Odorizzi accepted a $17.8 million qualifying offer to stay with the Minnesota Twins and first baseman José Abreu took the same amount to remain with the Chicago White Sox as general managers headed home Thursday following their four-day annual meeting.
Using the threat to accept San Francisco’s offer as leverage, reliever Will Smith became the first of the 168 free agents to switch teams, agreeing to a $40 million, three-year contract with the Atlanta Braves.
Just 10 free agents received the offers on Nov. 4, and their former teams will receive draft-pick compensation if they sign elsewhere before the amateur draft in June. Players who did not accept included pitchers Gerrit Cole (Houston), Stephen Strasburg (Washington), Zack Wheeler (New York Mets) and Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco) along with third basemen Anthony Rendon (Washington) and Josh Donaldson (Atlanta) and outfielder Marcell Ozuna (St. Louis).
Qualifying offers began after the 2012 season, and only eight of 90 offers have been accepted. The others were Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters, Houston outfielder Colby Rasmus and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson after the 2015 season; New York Mets second baseman Neil Walker and Philadelphia pitcher Jeremy Hellickson following the 2016 season; and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu last offseason.
Odorizzi, a right-hander who turns 30 in March, was a career-best 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA for the AL Central champions, striking out 178 in 159 innings. He can become a free agent again after the 2020 season, when there will be no loss of draft picks attached and fewer high-level starting pitchers competing for attention.
Abreu hit .284 with 33 homers and his 123 RBIs were second to Rendon’s major league-best 126. He turns 33 in January, and the one-year deal could be a precursor to a multiyear contract with the White Sox.
Smith, a 30-year-old right-hander, was a first-time All-Star this year and went 6-0 with a 2.76 ERA and a career-best 34 saves in 38 chances for the Giants. He gets $13 million in each of the next three seasons, and Atlanta has a $13 million option for 2023 with a $1 million buyout.
Relievers have found the free-agent market less lucrative than starters. When Craig Kimbrel turned down a qualifying offer from Boston last November, he didn’t find a deal he liked until after the draft passed and wound up agreeing on June 7 to a $43 million three-year contract with the Chicago Cubs.
Rather than test the market by opting out of his contract with the Yankees and giving up $30 million over the next two years, Aroldis Chapman amended his deal this month by adding an additional season and $18 million in guaranteed money.