BOCA RATON — A player agreed to accept a qualifying offer for the first time in the four-year history of the compensation system rather than remain a free agent, and the Braves dealt shortstop Adrelton Simmons to the Angels on Thursday as the annual general managers' meetings ended.
Outfielder Colby Rasmus agreed to accept Houston's $15.8 million qualifying offer ahead of today's deadline, the Associated Press reported.
None of the 34 qualifying offers were accepted in the first three years of baseball's current collective bargaining agreement and 20 more were made last week. The deadline is 5 p.m. today and among the players facing decisions are second baseman Daniel Murphy (Mets) and pitcher Marco Estrada (Blue Jays).
The qualifying offer salary is determined by the average of the highest 125 contracts in the majors. When a player fails to accept a qualifying offer and signs a big-league contract elsewhere before June's amateur draft, his former team gets an additional high selection as compensation. Because the signing club loses a top pick, the market has slowed for some less-than-prime free agents.
Rasmus, 29, hit .238 with a career-high 25 homers and 61 RBIs in his first season with the Astros. He had seven homers over 27 at-bats in his last nine games, including four in six postseason games.
"The fact that players say no, go out into the market and get contracts even though the signing club is giving up a draft choice kind of says to me we got it right," commissioner Rob Manfred said, defending the system.
"So I don't think that you need somebody to accept. I think that so far we have successfully identified a group of players who were significant losses for the teams they were leaving and were high enough quality that they could bear the burden of draft-choice compensation in the market and still get a good contract."
Players and owners will re-examine free agent compensation during negotiations that start early next year for a collective bargaining agreement to replace the current deal, which expires Dec. 1, 2016.
Murphy, who homered in a record six straight postseason games, would take up more than 10 percent of the Mets' 2016 payroll if he accepts. "Financially and roster-wise, he's a big part of who we were and kind of what we need going forward, so we have to see what happens there," Ricco said.
After shopping Simmons at the meetings, the Braves traded him to the Angels in exchange for shortstop/second baseman Erick Aybar, top pitching prospects Chris Ellis and Sean Newcomb, and catching prospect Jose Briceno. The Braves also will get $2.5 million to even out the 2016 salaries for Simmons and Aybar. Simmons, 26, is a two-time Gold Glove winner and widely regarded as the best defensive shortstop in the game. However, he batted .265 with four homers and 44 RBIs last season.
Rays officials headed out of the GM meetings and toward home after what baseball operations president Matt Silverman called a "productive" four days.
"We have a talented roster and that lends itself to a whole host of conversations,'' he said.
The Rays found considerable interest in their two back-end relievers, Brad Boxberger and Jake McGee, though the club will demand a high price. The Rays had talks about first baseman James Loney, who by trading they could open more at-bats and flexibility in their lineup.
Among free agent pitchers the Rays have talked to is left-hander Rich Hill, who, in turn, is talking to a number of other teams.
M'S GET BENOIT: The Mariners acquired right-handed reliever Joaquin Benoit from the Padres for a pair of minor-league prospects. Benoit, 38, was 6-5 with a 2.34 ERA in 67 appearances last season. Opponents hit just .159 against Benoit. The former Rays reliever was especially tough on right-handers, with a .144 batting average against him, the lowest of any NL pitcher who faced at least 100 batters. Former major-leaguer Scott Brosius was named hitting coach for the club's Triple-A Tacoma team.
A'S: Former outfielder Mark Kotsay was named bench coach.
D'BACKS: Matt Williams was hired as third-base coach, the job he had before he took over as Nationals manager in 2014.
Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.