Friday, 4 November 2011

The Eye's guide to the Offseason

Update for 2012-2013 Offseason

MLBTR has added some dates for this year's offseason, now that we have some sort of idea of when the actual baseball action will be over.

  • End of world Series: contracts end, free agents are free agents.
  • Three days after World Series: Contract options must be decided upon.  The Jays, for example, have options on Rajai Davis and Darren Oliver.  This obviously includes player options and mutual options as well.
  • Five days after World Series: Qualifying offers must be made.  Any team looking to get compensation picks for the loss of a free agent must offer the player a contract of at least 1 year, $13.3MM and have the player sign with another team.
  • Six days after the World Series: Free agents can negotiate with other teams.  A team has exclusive negotiation rights with their own free agents for the first five days following the world series.
  • 12 days after World Series: Players must decide on whether or not to accept their qualifying offers.
  • Nov 7-9: GM Meetings.  You might see a trade or two here
  • Nov 20: Teams must set their 40-man rosters.  Any player with 5 years of minor league experience who is not placed on the 40-man roster by their big-league club will be available to the other 29 teams in the rule-5 draft.  There is also a minor league rule-5 draft, but who cares?
  • Nov. 30: Non-tender deadline.  Teams must decide whether or not a player is worth offering arbitration to or not.  Most player who eventually get non-tendered will be released in the days leading up to this date as a favor to the player to give him a chance to find another contract.
  • Dec 3-6: Winter meeting.  Think Pujols, Wilson, Buerhle.  Coupla trades, all kinds of rumors, and action action action!  Rule-5 draft takes place here as well.
Arbitration figures typically get exchanged during January, and any hearings happen throughout February, though teams can and do negotiate contracts, typically meeting around the mid-point of the arbitration figures that get exchanged.



I really enjoy this offseason.  I don't really know why, because so far, the biggest piece of news has been... well...  I guess you can take your pick between Henry Blanco, Juan Rivera, or John McDonald finding contracts, but I'm sure I'll be reminded when the real meat of the offseason starts happening. [Note-- CC Sabathia extending in NYY was no surprise at all, so yeah...]

The end of the world series began the 5-day exclusivity period for teams to offer contracts to their own free agents, and that has now come and gone.  After those 5 days, which happened to be Wednesday at 12:01AM ET, free agents could begin negotiations and sign with any team.  That's what we've seen to this point, but what happens next?

Well that's what I'm here for.  Thanks to help from Cots Baseball Contracts, we're going to go over what to expect in the next couple of months, but I'm going to try and dumb down the language a bit and go over just what all of that jumbo'ed mumbo really means.

November 10 and 11-- The end of one waiver period, and the beginning of another.  Waivers are essentially the permission from the commissioner's office to move a player's contract from the current MLB-team, whether it be to another team, to another level (AAA, AA, etc.), or simply to release the player.  Different waiver periods determine different waiver priorities if multiple teams claim a waived player.The very bottom of this link will explain that in more detail.

November 14-16-- GM and Owner meetings.  Look for there to be some trades during this period, or at least some rumors that could possibly lead to trades soon after.

November 19-- Deadline to set 40-man rosters and minor league reserve lists.  Each team must set their 40-man rosters to include any player that they would like to protect from the Rule 5 draft.  More on that in a second.  For teams to participate in the rule-5 draft, they must leave an open spot on their 40-man roster.  Teams may add Major League free agents/traded players to the 40-man roster after this date, but not players from the minor league system.

November 23-- Last date to offer arbitration to ranked (i.e. Type-A and Type-B) free agents with the intention of obtaining draft pick compensation.  If a Type-A or -B free agent signs with another team before this date, there is no need to offer arbitration, the picks become automatic.  Teams will typically wait until this date to sign any major free agents, because it allows them to see whether or not they will be giving up a draft pick, though there are obviously exceptions (Billy Wagner, Jonathan Papelbon).

December 5-8-- Winter Meetings.  Expect more trades and trade rumors.  The Rule 5 draft also occurs during these meetings.  Type-A and -B free agents may accept their arbitration offers before Dec. 7.

Per Cots (same link as Nov. 10/11 from above), players who sign their first professional baseball contract at the age of 18 or younger must be on their organization's 40-man roster within 5 years, while players who were 19+ must be on the 40-man within 4 years.  If these conditions are not applied, the player is eligible in the Rule 5 draft.

Teams will draft in reverse order of W-L record, and any team drafting a player must pay $50k to the player's original team.  The player must remain on the MLB-roster of the drafting team, or waive him.  If selected, that club must keep him on their MLB-roster all season.  If the player clears waivers, the original team can take him back for $25k, or the two teams can work out a trade to allow the drafting team to keep the player and send him to the minors.

There is also a AAA and AA version that works similarly, though dollar amounts are slashed.  The Rule-5 draft is designed to keep players from being stuck in the minor league system of one team when he could be useful to another organization at a higher level.

December 11-- The MLB and MLBPA collective bargaining agreement expires.  I expect a new one to be hammered out by then, and expect it to include some kind of stipulation about Super-2 status, free agent compensation, and draft slotting.

December 12-- Non-tender deadline.  Players who have not been tendered contracts from their clubs will become free agents on this date.  Most clubs will release anybody they plan on non-tendering before this date as a favor to the player, which allows them to explore contract options before this date.  Lyle Overbay and Brian Tallet are two Blue Jays who were non-tendered last offseason.

Typically, the guys who get non-tendered are league-average-ish, arbitration eligible players who don't really deserve a raise, but would likely get one in arbitration anyway, since it's rarely a mistake to take a chance on someone who's terrible but making the league minimum.  We can look at the LA Dodgers for a good example of non-tender candidates: James Loney is about as meh as can be, and is set to make $6.5MM in arbitration. For a team trying to save some money, Loney is the exact kind of player and pricetag that a team might look to shed.

January 5-18-- Players file for salary arbitration. Players and clubs will exchange figures with the MLBPA.  Hearings will take place between Feb. 1-21, but teams and players can still negotiate.

Feb. 15/16-- Waiver period ends/begins.

Feb 19/24-- Spring training begins for pitchers and catchers, and position players, respectively.  This is an optional date, however.  March 2 is the mandatory report date.

March 2-- Players with less than 3 years of service time may have their contracts renewed until March 21.

So those are the main things we can look forward to.  The meetings are always real fun, and there are always a couple of fun signings in the days following the non-tender deadline, but the real fun is going to be in the signings among the current crop of free agents, which usually start towards the end of November, and any random trades that happen intermittently.

It typically takes a couple of weeks, but teams will soon have more information regarding what they want to do in terms of the direction that they want to take their team in.  This information includes, but is not limited to,  whether they can attract free agents, whether they can make trades, and what other teams within their division do regarding trades and signings.

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