Red Sox free agency: Qualifying offers must be extended Monday

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

The Red Sox have until late this afternoon to determine which of their free agents will receive the qualifying offer.

Monday marks five days since the conclusion of the World Series, meaning it's the deadline for clubs to submit qualifying offers to their free agents, in order to receive draft pick compensation should said players depart. For the Red Sox, this means we'll learn about the next step in the off-season fates of Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia by 5 pm.

The qualifying offer was introduced with the most recent collective bargaining agreement, and used initially last off-season. The figure is derived from the average of the 125 richest contracts in the game, and has jumped from $13.3 million to $14.1 million since last winter. It's a one-year deal that replaced both the Elias free agent compensation system, as well as the arbitration offer to outgoing free agents -- it can be offered to any free agent, but with the amount of money attached, it's only handed to the players who would be considered worth the money on a one-year deal, essentially cutting all non-elite relievers and non-starting position players from receiving one.

It has already been reported that the Red Sox expect to submit a qualifying offer to center fielder Ellsbury, first baseman Napoli, and shortstop Drew. For Ellsbury, attaching draft pick compensation to his free agency should not hinder his market, given the kind of talent he is, but for Napoli and Drew, it could take a few teams out of the running. Napoli has been open about his desire to return to Boston as well as for a multi-year deal, so it's unlikely he would accept the one-year, $14.1 million contract, and Drew, as a quality shortstop, is similarly likely to test the market rather than take the qualifier.

The most significant question is with Saltalamacchia. The $14.1 million that the qualifying offer pays out is a one-year overpay for Salty's services, but as one of the few catchers on the market worth signing for more than a year, he's a potential source of a first-round draft pick for the Red Sox. At the least, giving Saltalamacchia the qualifier could limit his market and make it easier to re-sign him. It also wouldn't be the worst thing if he received a one-year overpay in the form of the qualifier, either, as it would give Red Sox catching prospects Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart an extra year in the high minors to develop, or at least to give the Sox a little more time to see them and their potential futures.

Any free agents who receive the qualifying offer have until November 11 to accept or decline it. If a player declines the offer, and enters free agency, the Red Sox will receive a compensatory first-round draft pick -- and the added draft budget that comes with it -- once that player signs with another team. If Boston were to hand out the qualifying offer to all four of these free agents, and all four declined and signed elsewhere, the Red Sox would have five first-round picks in what is considered to be a deep draft class in 2014.

The chances are very good that at least one of the four re-signs with the Red Sox, however, and possibly even before the deadline to accept the offer. Last winter, David Ortiz received the qualifying offer and, rather than accept it, signed a two-year deal. There is also the chance that Saltalamacchia doesn't even receive the qualifying offer, limiting the draft pick take home further. We'll know for sure just how many potential draft picks Boston could collect as of 5 pm on Monday.

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