The players who received offers have 10 days to accept a $17.9 million salary for 2019 — the mean salary of MLB’s 125 highest-paid players — or become a free agent.
Other players to receive qualifying offers Friday include Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, Arizona Diamondbacks lefty Patrick Corbin and outfielder A.J. Pollock, and Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu and catcher Yasmani Grandal.
In six seasons, only five players have accepted the qualifying offers out of the 73 issued by major league teams.
Keuchel, who was 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA in 34 starts in 2018, made $13.2 million last season.
The Astros, however, chose not to make offers to right-hander Charlie Morton or utilityman Marwin Gonzalez. Morton should be sought after in a pitching-hungry market. The right-hander was 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA in 30 starts for the Astros in the regular season.
“I’ve put everything into the Astros, so I fully expected to get one,” Keuchel said, according to MLB.com. “I’m a little shocked Marwin and Charlie didn’t get one. That’s what they felt like, so we’ll see within the next 10 days. I would assume we’ll turn it down and look at other offers and figure out what’s best.”
Harper, who hit .249 with 34 home runs and 100 RBIs for the Nationals last season, made more money last season ($21.625 million) than the current qualifying offer.
Players rarely take the qualifying offer, but a team that makes a claim is entitled to a compensatory pick in the draft.
Before 2017, teams got a supplementary first-round pick, but the rules now take into account market size and payroll. If Keuchel signs with another team, the Astros will be awarded a supplementary pick after the second round. And because the Nationals are over the luxury tax, they would only get a pick after the fourth round in compensation for Harper.