Major League Baseball Players Association chief Tony Clark, who visited Orioles camp to meet with players before Saturday's workout, said the union will look to discuss changes to the qualifying offer process during the upcoming collective bargaining process.
"The qualifying offer is one of the things that we are going to look to have a conversation on in bargaining," Clark said after the meeting. "Anytime you're sitting down even with the industry doing well, there are always things that are worth having more dialogue on. I'm certain baseball has their list. We have our list as well. The qualifying offer is one of them."
For certain free agents who declined the offer in order to pursue multiyear deals, they have remained unsigned throughout the offseason because teams were hesitant to give up their first unprotected draft pick.
The Orioles have utilized the qualifying offer process – which tied those players who decline the offer to draft-pick compensation – to acquire key talent during two of the past three spring trainings. Before the 2014 season, the Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million deal and then inked outfielder/designated hitter Nelson Cruz to a one-year, $8 million contract. The Orioles forfeited their first- and second-round picks that year.
This month, the Orioles signed right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who declined a $15.8 million qualifying offer, to a restructured two-year, $22 million deal and also pursued outfielder Dexter Fowler before Fowler ultimately returned to his previous team, the Chicago Cubs, on a one-year deal.
"As it relates to the qualifying offer, I think it's disappointing when some of the best players in our game and some of the teams who have an interest in those best players, have hurdles to overcome in the effort to secure their services," Clark said. "As a result, I don't see how it is necessarily beneficial on either side of the equation, and again it's what it makes it worthy of more dialogue."
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters was among three players who accepted the qualifying offer this offseason, the first players to do so in the fourth year of the process. So, the qualifying offer has given a few players the opportunity to receive a robust one-year deal as opposed to testing free agency. But Clark said that the compensation system needs to change.
"Hindsight is 20/20 in any one particular situation, and a player and his individual representation is going to make whatever decision they want to make against whatever information they have to make it," Clark said. "Compensation system has been around for a long time. Compensation system had been a topic in bargaining – a very significant topic in bargaining – going back to the '70s.
"It is something that had been there; it is something that arguably doesn't need to be there. It is something that in a world where considerations are being made by clubs as they relate to draft picks and free agents and whether they want to improve their club now or improve their club later. The club having the way to do that without being hamstrung in some way is worthy of looking at."