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Jeremy Hellickson, Neil Walker accept qualifying offers, pass on MLB free agency

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The other eight players who received qualifying offers earlier this month declined and will hit the open market.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and New York Mets second baseman Neil Walker accepted qualifying offers from their respective teams before MLB’s deadline Monday, per reports. The players will receive one-year, $17.2 million contracts for the 2017 season instead of hitting the open market.

The following eight players declined their qualifying offers and will become free agents: Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, Chicago’s Dexter Fowler, New York’s Yoenis Cespedes, Texas’ Ian Desmond, Baltimore’s Mark Trumbo, and Los Angeles’ Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen.

Each of those teams will receive supplemental first-round picks in the 2017 MLB Draft if the players listed above sign elsewhere. Additionally, any team that signs one of those players will be required to give up its highest unprotected pick in the upcoming draft, with the top 10 picks in the first round being automatically protected.

Walker and Hellickson took the $17.2 million payday, so the Mets and Phillies lose the chance at picks as their players stay. New York will potentially get another selection with the departure of Cespedes, however.

Hellickson’s decision takes a talented pitcher off an already underwhelming free agent market. It’s a little surprising that he’d pass on the chance to field offers in favor of a one-year deal and its relative lack of security, but as SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee pointed out, Hellickson is gambling that he’ll be able to turn this one-year deal into a monster contract the following offseason.

The downside is pretty good — $17.2 million for one year is some nice coin — but Hellickson is gambling on himself to rise to another level. He’ll be a much, much wealthier man in the 2017-18 offseason if he can do it. Last year, he posted a 3.71 ERA in a career-high 32 starts.

As for Walker, he was dealing with a back issue at the end of last season. That probably ruined any chance he had at landing a big, long-term deal in free agency, so he’s opted to take the massive payout for one year and hope he can continue playing well in New York.

Walker played in only 113 games last season, down from averaging 142 games per year the previous five seasons, but he continued to be an above-average hitter with 23 home runs and a .347 on-base percentage. The Mets will surely welcome back that production, even if they’re writing some big checks to do it.

Last season, three players accepted the qualifying offer — the first time any player had done so since the system was implemented in 2014. Matt Wieters, Colby Rasmus, and Brett Anderson each took the one-year, $15.8 million deal over free agency. Now Hellickson and Walker join the list a year later, with a nice bump in payment for their services.