Not all free agents are created equal
A player with six or more years of major-league service who is not under contract for the following season becomes a free agent, and free agency begins right after the World Series.
Teams get an exclusive window to negotiate with their own free agents and submit “qualifying offers” before they hit the open market. A qualifying offer is a guaranteed contract for the next season. The deadline has passed for teams to submit qualifying offers to impending free agents on their roster.
Team make qualifying offers to players they believe are valuable enough to want back, but also to ensure they get something back (an extra draft pick) if that player decides to sign elsewhere.
The $14.1 million salary for qualifying offers was determined by averaging the top 125 player salaries from the 2013 season – the amount is the same regardless of the free agent. Each player has one week – until 5 p.m. on Nov. 11 – to accept the offer. Under the rules of baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, if the player accepts the offer, the one-year deal is complete. If he rejects it, the team making the offer will receive a compensatory draft pick between the first and second round (assuming the player signs elsewhere).
The Red Sox made qualifying offers to Mike Napoli, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Stephen Drew. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was not extended an offer, nor was pitcher Joel Hanrahan. So their cases, they are free to sign with any team and no draft picks come into play.
"In a vacuum, we'd like to have all of [our free agents] back," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. "We'll just have to see how it goes, and we'll continue to talk to all of them and see how the market shapes out."
Last offseason, nine MLB players were extended qualifying offers and none accepted, including David Ortiz, who rejected a qualifying offer from the Red Sox before signing a two-year, $26 million deal with the club.