Sports agent Scott Boras, center, speaks to reporters at the...

Sports agent Scott Boras, center, speaks to reporters at the baseball general managers' meetings, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Boca Raton, Fla. Credit: AP / Wilfredo Lee

As expected, Daniel Murphy rejected the Mets' qualifying offer, a one-year deal at $15.8 million that represented a 98 percent raise from the $8-million salary he earned this season.

Qualifying offers were rejected by 17 players Friday, making them all free agents.

The most interesting number, however, is three, as in the trio of MLB pioneers who chose to accept the qualifying offer and remain with their current teams -- the first time that has happened since the system was implemented before the 2013 season.

The Dodgers' Brett Anderson, the Astros' Colby Rasmus and the Orioles' Matt Wieters -- a Scott Boras client, no less -- took the money rather than test the market. This had to be considered a victory for baseball's owners and their point man, commissioner Rob Manfred, who have argued that this means of compensation for departing free agents is a fair way to do business.

As the rule dictates, if a qualifying offer is made, the player declines it and then signs with another team, the former team receives a draft pick at the end of the first round and the new team loses its first-rounder, unless it's among the protected top 10 slots.

In the first three years of the system, none of the 34 players accepted a qualifying offer, which is determined each year by the average of the top 125 salaries from the previous season. Manfred, however, still was undeterred in defending it at the GM meetings this past week.

"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," Manfred said. "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."

With so many free-agent starting pitchers available, it wasn't surprising to see Anderson accept a raise of 58 percent, up from $10 million this year, to remain with the defending NL West champs. There are much worse places to be, for that cash, than Los Angeles.

As for Rasmus, he nearly doubled his 2015 salary, which makes him the highest-paid member of the Astros. They were happy to have him return after he slugged 25 homers.

Wieters is the one who sticks out here because of Boras, who famously held out two of his clients -- Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales -- before the 2014 season rather than have them accept that year's $14.1-million qualifying offer.

Boras has been an outspoken critic of the system, but that strategy backfired for those two, who were forced to sign during the season for only a prorated amount of the original qualifying offer. Drew signed with the Red Sox -- the team he initially turned down -- on May 20 for $10.09 million. Morales didn't sign until June 8 with the Mariners for $7.4 million. Morales later dropped Boras as his agent.

With Wieters, Boras wasn't about to make the same mistake. Coming off Tommy John surgery, Wieters played only 75 games last season, batting .267 with eight homers and a .742 OPS. Returning to hitter-friendly Camden Yards will help him pad his stats for next year's shot at free agency, when he'll be 30 and still in a decent position to cash in longer term after pocketing $15.8 million for the 2016 season.

Earlier in the week, Boras still railed against the qualifying offer as a concept. Based on the relative shrinkage of that number, he has a point. This year's $15.8 million is a much smaller raise from the $15.3 million in 2014 compared to $14.1 million in 2013 and $13.3 million in 2012. Plus, a player's earning potential can be hurt by teams unwilling to surrender a draft pick, limiting the market. "I think the qualifying offer represents something that's really wrong with baseball," Boras said.

The qualifying offer system will be a source of contentious debate between MLB and the Players Association when negotiations for the next CBA begin in February. The current CBA is set to expire on Dec. 1, 2016.

The Utley Rule?

During the Mets-Dodgers NLDS, Joe Torre did what he could to keep the peace by suspending Chase Utley for two games for what he determined was a "rolling block" that fractured the leg of Ruben Tejada. Utley immediately appealed the decision -- the appeal still is waiting to be heard -- and a rule change to protect middle infielders also appears to be in limbo at the moment.

It took Buster Posey's broken ankle, and some lobbying from former catchers Bruce Bochy and Mike Matheny, to get plate-collision legislation passed, known as Rule 7.13. Now Utley's high-profile case is being used to put pressure on the sport's decision-makers. Torre, MLB's chief baseball officer, expects more serious discussions to resume during the winter meetings in Nashville, which get underway on Dec. 7.

Passing this rule, however, hardly seems like a slam dunk. MLB certainly remembers the early confusion that came with Rule 7.13 and how difficult it still can be to enforce. Plays around second base might be even tougher, with more attention being paid to infielders touching the bag -- rather than relying on the "neighborhood play" for double plays -- and the umpire's judgment of whether a runner is primarily targeting the infielder.

Torre didn't have a feel for what eventually will happen with the prospective rule change. "I don't know," he said. "The one thing we don't want is to have guys carried off the field. Even though we had a lot of criticism on the collision play at the plate, we haven't had anybody carried off the field in a couple years, and to me that's great.

" . . . You don't want somebody just not trying to get to second base and not trying to keep the inning going. It's a thin line that you have to walk. And that's why it's really tough to put pen to paper on something like this."