Hot Stove season begins

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It has been less than 12 hours since the World Series ended, but the Hot Stove waits for no one and nothing.

As we’ve already noted, one big potential free agent is already on the clock and dozens more are gearing up to make some pretty big decisions about their future, possibly as soon as this week. Indeed, given how horrible the free agent market was last year for guys who waited, expect a lot more activity earlier this offseason than we’ve seen in some time.

In the coming days we will do detailed breakdowns of the top free agents, the teams with the biggest holes to fill and all of the ins-and-outs of the Hot Stove Season, but for now, keep these dates and deadlines in mind and adjust your baseball news consumption accordingly:

  • As of 9AM this morning, all players whose contracts ran out with the 2018 season are, technically, free agents. People will still call them members of their last team, but that’s not true in a technical sense;
  • Players with contract options or with opt-outs have to make those decisions by Wednesday. If it’s a team option, the  team has to make that decision by then too;
  • The deadline for teams to extend qualifying offers to free agents who last played for them is 5PM on Friday. Players have until November 12 to accept or reject the qualifying offer. Here is everything you need to know about qualifying offers. For the 2019 season, the qualifying offer is $17.9 million;
  • Teams have an exclusive window to negotiate with the free agents who last played for them between now and Saturday. Beginning on Saturday, players can negotiate and sign with any team.

Awards season begins next week! Here are the relevant dates for that:

  • November 4: Gold Glove winners announced;
  • November 5: BBWAA Awards Finalists announced;
  • November 12: Rookie of the Year Awards announced;
  • November 13: Manager of the Year Awards announced;
  • November 14: Cy Young Awards announced;
  • November 15: MVP Awards announced

After that we get deep into the offseason with all of the fun wintry things that accompany it:

  • November 20: The deadline for clubs to turn in their 40-man rosters with protected players for purposes of the Rule 5 draft. Players who were drafted out of college in the 2015 draft, or those drafted out of high school or signed as international free agents under the age of 19 in 2014, are eligible. Players signed or drafted more recently than that are not.
  • November 30: The deadline by which teams must tender contract offers to players on their rosters who are not under contract for the 2019 season, or they will become free agents. This will not determine their salaries yet, it’s more of a formal gesture aimed at signaling the intent to keep a player, be they arbitration-eligible or pre-arbitration players. If a player is non-tendered, they can leave and sign anyplace.
  • December 9-13: The Winter Meetings. They’re in Las Vegas this year. I’ll be there. And yeah, I’m gonna do the Most Handsome Managers list again because, apparently, The Fates have decided that is my most lasting legacy as a writer. I’m fine with that. The Rule 5 Draft takes place on the 13th. It’s nowhere near as exciting as you may think it is;
  • January 11, 2019: Teams and arbitration-eligible players who were tendered a contract back on November 30 must exchange salary figures;
  • February 1- 20, 2019: Arbitration hearings will be held. Arbitrators will either award the player the salary he asked for or the figure the team submitted. There is no in-between here. Teams and players can, and usually do, agree to meet someplace in the middle before their hearings, however.

With that, the business of the offseason is over and,  in mid-February pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

Only about 105 days, give or take a day or three, and baseball is back, baby!