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!


Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.