Will this be year a free agent finally accepts qualifying offer?

Will this be it, the year in which a free agent finally accepts a qualifying offer?

The first three offseasons under the current system produced 34 offers and 34 rejections. So, teams grew bolder this time, making a record 20 offers.

ESPN’s Buster Olney suggests in his most recent blog that second-tier starting pitchers such as Ian Kennedy and Brett Anderson might be tempted to accept their $15.8 million offers, reasoning that they might find a more welcoming multi-year climate next offseason, when the free-agent class of pitchers is thin beyond Stephen Strasburg.

Could be. But other dynamics also are in play.

The large number of qualifying offers actually could make some teams less reluctant to sacrifice draft picks; those teams would recoup picks if they lose free agents of their own.

HOT STOVE LEAGUE

The Royals, for example, would forfeit the 27th overall selection by signing a free agent who receives a qualifying offer, but gain a compensation pick between the second and first rounds if they lost free-agent outfielder Alex Gordon. 

The exchange would push the Royals down in the draft, but only by a few places. The end result would be little more than a reshuffling of the draft order.

The track record shows that agents are loath to accept qualifying offers, and in most cases for good reason. Even second-tier starters likely will command a significantly higher guarantee than $15.8 million on multi-year deals, considering the never-ending shortage of quality starting pitching.

If all 20 free agents turn down qualifying offers, the total number of rejections would increase to 54 out of 54, strengthening the argument that the system should be changed.

Players who received the offer must decide whether to accept by Friday.

The collective-bargaining agreement expires on Dec. 1, 2016.