The 5 o'clock deadline has come and gone for baseball's free agents to accept or decline qualifying offers. It's now official: Chris Davis and Wei-Yin Chen have declined theirs. Matt Wieters has accepted his, so he'll be back on a one-year, $15.8 million contract for 2016. If either Chen or Davis signs elsewhere, and it seems likely they will, the Orioles will get a compensation draft pick at the end of the first round for each.
Now that we know who has taken a qualifying offer and who hasn't, we can start to sketch out where those draft picks will land. As in the regular draft order, the qualifying offer-created draft picks are in the reverse order of the regular season standings. The majority of players who received the offers were on playoff teams, which puts the O's ahead of all of those players.
What's left is that three teams representing four free agents will be ahead of the Orioles in this order. Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy of the Padres, Jeff Samardzija of the White Sox, and Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners will generate picks ahead of what the O's get for Davis. That's assuming that those players sign with different teams prior to next June's draft, of course. All four have rejected qualifying offers.
Picks will still be removed from the first round as teams sign players, so the O's compensation picks will slide up in the draft order accordingly. There were 20 players with qualifying offers extended to them. Wieters was among three players to accept an offer, while Toronto's Marco Estrada negotiated a new contract with the Jays already. That leaves 16 QO-attached free agents.
Ten teams have protected first round picks, meaning if they sign a QO player, they'll only lose their next-highest pick. Some teams could potentially sign multiple QO-attached free agents. Some other players could return to their original teams. Just as one example, if five teams give up a first round pick to sign a player, the Orioles would then be selecting at #30 and #31 with their compensation picks.
This is also an assumption, one that's based on the Orioles not signing multiple QO free agents themselves, in addition to losing their own free agents. That seems like the most likely outcome in the wake of Wieters accepting his QO, but they are always capable of surprising me.
One way or another, one of the O's first three picks - #15 overall, and our hypothetical #30/31 picks - could end up being a goner. They could re-sign Davis and lose out on one of the compensation picks, or sign a QO-attached free agent and give up the #15 pick. Add in their regular second round pick and an extra pick for failing to sign their second rounder in this year's draft and it won't be a boring draft next year, even if they won't be picking in the top 5 like in the bad old days.
At least the picks will be something to hang your hat on. The O's minor league system is in definite need of a talent infusion. Still, a bunch of picks won't be much consolation if the sum total of the various departures and additions is that the Orioles field another .500 or worse team in 2016.
The offseason can begin in earnest now.