Rogers Hornsby’s most famous quote goes like this: “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
Rogers Hornsby, of course, died in 1963 and back then they didn’t have much of a hot stove season, so it’s understandable that he just stared out of a window. We, however, have all kinds of things to pay attention to in the baseball offseason. Awards season, new uniform unveilings, free agency — assuming teams actually try to sign free agents this year – arbitration stuff, the Hall of Fame election, and then, before you know it, pitchers and catchers are reporting.
Here’s a handy calendar for you to keep track of all of that stuff:
- November 3: Gold Glove Award Winners Announced
These don’t matter, right? I mean I hope we’re all beyond thinking that they matter. Especially given that, even though they changed the voting a bit on this to allow the Society for American Baseball Research to weigh in, players and managers still comprise the bulk of the electorate and they don’t see some guys at all and see others play far less than, say, the media or independent analysts or what have you. Still: pretty trophy and it’s fun to say “So-and-so was a Gold Glover!”
- November 4: Day for options to be picked up or declined and the day for qualifying offers to extended;
Almost all free agent deals these days contain team options. If they’re bargains they’re picked up. If they’re not, they’re declined and the player becomes a free agent. If the option is a fair assessment of the player’s value, well, who are kidding: they’re usually declined and the player becomes a free agent. It’s a rough market.
We talked about qualifying offers at length here. This year the free agent market-suppressing qualifying offer stands at $17.8 million. Which is $100,000 less than it was last year. Great economic system you got there, baseball.
- November 4: BBWAA Award Finalists Announced
This is advertising/BS really. The vote on the big awards has already been taken and there is no “final round” for which there are, properly, “finalists.” They’re just going to release, in no particular order, the names of the top three or five vote-getters. I have no idea whey they do this, but the BBWAA has never been good at turning their awards into an event kind of thing. Frankly, they should do it during the postseason.
- November 7: Silver Sluggers Announced
It’s fun to say “Silver Slugger Award Winner” too, but I don’t think there is anyone on the planet who can name past winners without looking.
- November 11-November 14: General Manager Meetings
A lot of people think that the slow free agent market of the past few years is the product of collusion. I understand the impulse — we always want to find a straightforward explanation for things, even when the true causes of any complex circumstance are, in fact, complex — but I must stress that there has been no credible evidence yet produced that establishes teams are colluding against free agents in order to suppress the market. We have some anecdotal stuff about offers all coming in at the same amount at the same time and we can certainly make inferences based on how things have played out, but no one has yet to establish that front offices are entering into explicit or even tacit agreements to violate the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
But if they are, they’re totally doing it at the General Manager Meetings. I mean, duh.
- November 11-November 14: BBWAA Awards — MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year — announced
We haven’t had any truly good fights about awards in several years and for that you can thank the BBWAA electorate which has gotten pretty darn good at picking these things.
Damn them. I have a website to run here. A little help with come controversy-based content would be nice.
- November 14: Deadline for players to accept or decline qualifying offers
It used to be that everyone rejected these because there was more money to be made on the free market. That’s not the case anymore.
- November 19-November 21: owners meetings
I suppose they could collude here too, but they have more important things to discuss here. Such as sharing best practices about leveraging their mild dissatisfaction over their stadium situation into massive grants of real estate development right adjacent to ballparks. Remember: baseball is, increasingly, becoming just one increasingly minor part of these plutocrats’ portfolios.
- November 20: Deadline for teams to designate who is protected and who isn’t for the Rule 5 draft;
You won’t know most of these guys until they become stars on some other team.
- December 2: Deadline to tender or non-tender a contract to arbitration-eligible players
Actual substantive contracts with actual amounts won’t be offered here. This is a formal exercise in which a team’s intention to keep players or let them become free agents is made. Think of it like Michael Scott “declaring bankruptcy” in that episode of “The Office.” Except, in this case, it has to be done. The real paperwork is handled later.
- December 7-December 12: Winter Meetings, San Diego, California
I’ll be there! And so too will be the latest installment of Baseball’s Most Handsome Managers. With Brad Ausmus and, at the moment anyway, Gabe Kapler gone, who knows how it’ll all shake out.
- December 12: Rule 5 Draft
The first time I went to the Winter Meetings, in 2009, I was super stoked that my press pass got me into this thing. I prepared. I researched. I got my notepad and my computer ready to cover the hell out of this thing, on-location! Then I went into the room where it happened, realized that it’s just dudes yelling names too quickly to write down, most teams yelling back “pass!” and only a small handful of media members — prospect writer/Baseball America types — paying close attention. Literally 2/3 of the press was already at the airport heading home and those who weren’t were drinking coffee and talking to their friends with their packed suitcases beside them ready to leave.
I learned a lot that day. Mostly I learned that, whenever I encounter a writer who is covering his or her first Winter Meetings, I am sure to tell them to TOTALLY GET STOKED for the Rule 5 draft and to make DAMN SURE they are prepared before it goes down. By the time they figure it out, I’m at the airport.
- January 10: Deadline by which teams, players must exchanging of arbitration figures
This is when the team commits to $X and the player commits to $Y. In the past a negotiation would then ensue and most cases would settle on a contract at the midpoint or thereabouts. Now every single team has adopted a “file-and-trial” approach under which they refuse to negotiate unless that negotiation is for a long-term extension as opposed to a single-year, arbitration-avoiding deal. This, BTW, is a big driver behind those team-friendly extensions a lot of arbitration-eligible players agree to which buy out free agency years. The teams would have you believe they all, magically, independently arrived at this strategy as opposed to agreeing that they should all do so in order to keep salaries down. That’s absolutely adorable.
- January 21: Hall of Fame voting results announced
I am already tired of the “How Great Was Derek Jeter . . . REALLY?” thinkpieces and they haven’t even been written yet.
Lol, who am I kidding. We’ve all written ten of ’em in the past 15 years. Anyway, here’s a look at the main candidates. It’s gonna be Jeter’s party and, I don’t suspect anyway, anyone else will be invited.
- February 3: Arbitration hearings begin
You won’t hear anything about how these go until they’re over. If you want some insight into the process, this is helpful.
- February 10-February 12: Pitchers and catchers report
They will all have been at their spring training facilities for days and even weeks by this point, of course. There isn’t much of an actual offseason these days.
See, Rogers, the offseason is full of fun things. Stop staring out your window and get your head back in the game, OK?