There are a number of events following the end of the World Series, leading up to and through Baseball's winter meetings in early December, that can significantly impact how teams' rosters begin to take shape for the following season.
This year, MLB and the MLB Players' Association have agreed to advance several deadline dates which together have the impact of shortening the waiting period following the end of the World Series before teams begin to change their rosters, and of lengthening the off season by ten more days. Some events to watch in November, 2010:
Although each player contract is unique, most player options and club options to extend player contracts for another season must be exercised within a few days after the end of the World Series. The Tigers have already announced that they have declined the $ 15 million option for 2011 on Magglio Ordonez, and he will become a free agent. They hold a $ 7 million club option on Jhonny Peralta, which can be either picked up or bought out for $ 250,000. The Tigers are expected to buy out Peralta's option and try to work out a contract for Jhonny to be their starting shortstop in 2011. Speculation is that he will get a two year contract for slightly less than Brandon Inge's two year, $ 11 million contract, which adds a third year with a $ 500K buyout. The Tigers also hold a $ 1.5 million option on Rick Porcello, who actually made almost $ 2 million in 2010, so it's a no brainer that option will be picked up.
THE WALKING WOUNDED;
Clubs have until the end of the World Series to activate all players from the 60 day disabled list. Clubs have until November 20 to file their lists of up to 40 players that will be protected in the Rule 5 draft. This often results in the team having to release another player to make room for the returning wounded. Last year, the Tigers released Marcus Thames, who was on the active roster, and Matt Treanor, who was activated from the 60 day DL. Zach Miner, Joel Zumaya, and Bobby Seay are on the 60 day DL this season. Bobby will become a free agent, and the Tigers will have to remove a player from the roster if they wish to activate Miner or Zoomer.
Every player that is not signed for the 2011 season will declare free agency within five days following the end of the World Series. For the Tigers, this list includes Jeremy Bonderman, Gerald Laird, Magglio Ordonez, Jhonny Peralta, Johnny Damon, and Bobby Seay. Brandon Inge has been signed to a two year extension and will not file, while Adam Everett, Dontrelle Willis, and Nate Robertson are already free agents, but the contractual obligations that the Tigers have for these players will come off the spreadsheet. The Tigers may offer Bobby Seay a minor league contract when he is able to pitch, and that would allow him to rehab and try to work his way back to the major leagues. However, he is not expected to be able to pitch until well after the 2011 season starts.
At the beginning of the free agency period, teams can begin to negotiate general terms with agents regarding players coming to play for their clubs. During this period, agents will get a sense of the interest that the market holds for their clients, and this may determine whether or not they will later try to work out extensions with their existing clubs, or whether they'll accept offers of arbitration.
Clubs have until November 23 to offer arbitration to their existing players who are scheduled to become free agents, if they want to retain the right to receive compensation for them should they sign with another club. In order to receive compensation, the player must be a Type A or a Type B free agent, the former club must offer arbitration, the offer must be declined, and the player must sign a contract with another club. Potential compensation for losing a Type A player is a supplemental "sandwich" draft pick between the first and second rounds in next June's Amateur player draft, plus either a first or second round pick from the team that signs the player. Potential compensation for losing a Type B player is just one sandwich pick.
In the case of the Tigers, Jhonny Peralta is a Type B free agent, and the Tigers may offer him arbitration should they not be able to work out a contract with him. Magglio is a Type A free agent, but I do not expect the Tigers to offer arbitration because he would surely accept and receive much more in arbitration than he would get on the free agent market because of his salary history and years of experience. Gerald Laird is a Type B free agent, but I don't expect the Tigers to offer arbitration, even though Laird will try to find a starting job which he would not have in Detroit. Jeremy Bonderman is an unranked free agent, so there is no reason to offer him arbitration. Like Magglio, I would not expect the Tigers to offer arbitration to Damon, a Type B free agent, who would surely accept and return for more money than they care to pay him. I don't expect the Tigers to offer arbitration to any of their pending free agents.
Players then have until November 30 to accept or decline their former clubs' offers of arbitration. There are about 85 players each season that are Type A or Type B free agents. About 25 or so will be offered arbitration, and very few of those (maybe two or three) will accept. From the player's standpoint, accepting arbitration means that they can only sign with one club, at a rate that will be decided by an arbitratior if they do not come to terms, and the deal will be for one year. Players coming off a good season will almost always want to cash in by landing a multi year contract. Clubs rarely offer arbitration just to receive the compensation, unless they are certain that the player will decline. Clubs can still sign their own free agent players if arbitration is not offered.
THE RULE 5 DRAFT:
The collective bargaining agreement requires clubs to put players on their 40 man roster within four or five years of the day that they sign their first pro contract, depending on their age when they sign. This year, the eligible players for the Rule 5 draft will be those drafted out of college in the 2007 draft or prior, and those drafted out of high school in the 2006 draft or prior. Players signed as international free agents are also eligible. If a player is not on the 40 man roster within this time frame, he is eligible to be selected in the "Rule 5 draft" by another club. Some players that are eligible in the Tiger organization include Cale Iorg, Gustavo Nunez, Zach Simons, LJ Gagnier, Lester Olivares, Charlie Furbush, Luke Putkonen, Ben Guez, Deik Scram, Brendan Wise, Jeff Kunkel, Duane Below, and Luis Marte. Mark Anderson at Tigstown.com (whose opinion I trust on such matters more than my own) says that "In the end, I think you'll see Iorg, Nunez, Oliveros, and one of Villarreal or Below protected....but this is an inexact science for sure." (See the thread "Rule 5 draft" on Tigstown for a discussion. Yep, that's me that started that thread). I am truly puzzled as to why Zach Simons would not be protected.
For each player added to the 40 man roster, there must be another player that is taken off the roster. While a club can use the space vacated by a departing free agent, they will not use roster spots that they intend to fill by adding free agents. A club will not put a player on the roster just to protect him from the Rule 5 draft if there's a good chance that they have to take him off later. It's easier to escape the Rule 5 draft than it is to clear waivers later on, because Rule 5 draftees must remain on the 25 man roster all season long, while waiver claims must only remain on the 40 man roster. A club must also keep a vacancy on their roster if they wish to be eligible to select a player in the Rule 5 draft.
TENDERS AND NON TENDERS:
Candidates to be taken off the roster to make room for others would include Brent Dlugach, Jeff Frazier, Audy Ciriaco, Jay Sborz, Fu Te Ni, and Max St. Pierre. It would be no surprise to see any of these players removed from the roster to make room for others on the rise. These players could also be removed if and when a free agent player is signed, or a trade acquisition is made. Clubs have until December 2nd to offer a contract, at minimum 80% of last year's salary, to players who are not eligible for free agency. In many cases, these players will be retained for the major league minimum or slightly above. Other players are eligible for arbitration, if they have more than three, but less than six years of service time in the major leagues. If a player is not tendered a contract, he is then a free agent. The Tigers may choose to non tender Brad Thomas, who made $ 1 million in 2010, or Zach Miner, who spent the season on the disabled list, but is eligible for arbitration after making $ 950K last season.
THE WINTER MEETINGS
The General Managers hold an annual meeting where some trade discussions and discussions with agents often begin, and this year's meetings are scheduled to take place on November 16- 17 in Orlando, Fla. This year's Winter Meetings will take place in Lake Buena Vista, near Orlando, Fla, from December 6- 9, 2010. The Rule 5 draft is traditionally held on the last day of the Winter Meetings, but there was some chatter about moving that date forward this year, as all the other deadlines have been moved forward by ten days. The Winter Meetings are swarming with GM's, agents, players, and media. There is much talk of wheeling and dealing, and the hot stove never gets hotter than it does during this three day period. Trades are made, free agents are signed, and rumors rule the roost.