Here's a couple of things I noticed when reading the Sqoop documentation about the freeform queries (using the --query):
1) When importing a free-form query, you must specify a destination directory with --target-dir
2) You must also select a splitting column with --split-by
Also these docs mention that if you want to run this type of query in parallel (as in using more than one mapper) you must include the token $CONDITIONS (these conditions are inferred by sqoop and if you double quoter the query, as you did, you must escape the token like this \$CONDITIONS.
So from this it looks like when using the --query format these specific parameters are required by the sqoop language definition. It's not an issue, it is just the way sqoop was written.