Off Season Dates and Decisions

Just the facts, man, just the facts. This post is not intended to be an editorial piece on what the Tigers should or should not do over the off season to improve the team. Rather, this is just a look at the process and a breakdown of the events that will take place and how it might impact the decisions that have to be made.

1. Contract options: The Tigers have to decide whether to exercise the option for 2012 on closer Jose Valverde. The option is for $ 9 million, which represents a $ 2 million increase over his 2011 salary. This is a club option, so Valverde has no say in the matter, although the two sides are free to negotiate a different deal for a different salary or term. The Tigers also have a club option on Rick Porcello which will surely be exercised (although Cot's contracts at one point had referred to an option that Rick had to elect arbitration). The decision on player options must be made usually within ten days after the last game of the World Series is played, but could be sooner

2. Free Agent filings: The Tigers have several players on their major league roster whose contracts expire at the end of this season. Those with at least six years of major league service time may declare themselves to be free agents. The club is free to negotiate with them on an extension, and only the current team can sign them prior to the filing date. Some potential free agents could potentially bring compensation if they were to be offered arbitration and sign elsewhere- as explained later. Tiger free agents this off season may include Valverde (if his option is declined), Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, Brad Penny, Ramon Santiago, Wilson Betemit, and Joel Zumaya.

Math note: The total annual salary paid to these players during the 2011 season was $ 36.8 million, including Valverde, plus an undisclosed amount of incentive bonuses to Penny. More on the free agent process to follow. This is not all to be tallied as payroll savings, however. There is almost $ 10 million in scheduled salary increases (mainly Verlander) and another estimated $ 12 million in arbitration increases (principally for Delmon, Coke, and Scherzer). Pick up Valverde's option, and the savings is down to about $ 6 million with some vacancies to fill due to departing free agents.

3. Setting the 40 man roster: By November 18th, clubs must set their 40 man rosters, deciding which players are to be protected in the Rule 5 draft which is held at the end of the Winter meetings. Players on the 60 day disabled list must be reactivated, players that file for free agency are removed from the roster. Players in the minor leagues that were drafted out of college in the June, 2008 draft, or were first signed during that year, must either be protected by being added to the 40 man roster, or be left exposed in the Rule 5 draft. High school players that were drafted a year earlier are also Rule 5 eligible for the first time this December. A partial list of Rule 5 eligibles this year would include infielder Brandon Douglas, pitchers Tyler Stohr, Casey Crosby, Cody Satterwhite, Jared Gayhart and Thad Weber. Any player taken by another club would have to remain on that club's 25 man roster for the entire season or be offered back to the Tigers before being sent to the minors. In order to select a player from another club in the Rule 5 draft, a club must have a vacancy on their 40 man roster. Players currently on the 40 man roster will be outrighted, released, or traded in order to clear roster space for new players, including those to be protected for the first time, free agents, and potential other new arrivals.

4. Arbitration offer/ acceptance deadlines: The date by which clubs must offer arbitration to their potential free agent players, which is required if they are to receive compensation for them should they sign with another club, is November 23, 2011. The date for free agent players to accept or decline has traditionally been December 7th. In a nutshell, the Tigers are not expected to offer arbitration to veterans such as Penny, Ordonez or Guillen because they would get far above their market value in arbitration. Penny, Guillen, and Santiago are "unranked" free agents, meaning that the Tigers would receive no compensation even if they were to be offered and decline arbitration. There is no benefit to offering arby to these guys. Ordonez, Wilson Betemit and Joel Zumaya are all Type B free agents, and the Tigers would receive a draft pick between the first and second rounds if they were to decline arbitration and sign with another club. They probably will not offer arbitration to Zumaya, who is more likely to sign an incentive laden minor league contract with some club, but might offer arby to Betemit, who made $ 1 million for one year this past season. It's very possible that the Tigers will not offer arbitration to any of their potential free agent players this winter.

Also at this deadline, some clubs will be keeping an eye on the list of Type A free agents to see if their clubs offer them arbitration or not. If they don't, a new club can sign them without giving up a draft pick. The Tigers might be interested in a Nick Swisher (who also has a club option with New York), Josh Willingham, Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Beltran, CJ Wilson, Brandon Phillips, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Roy Oswalt, and maybe a few more Type A free agents. It would be wise to wait and see if these players are offered arbitration before signing them, rather than to just give up a first round pick in the deal. I'm sure that there will be much speculation here about whom the Tigers might sign as Thanksgiving approaches. The Winter Meetings this year are scheduled for December 5- 8, 2011 in Dallas, TX, with the Rule 5 draft scheduled for the last day of the meetings.

5. (Non)Tender deadline: By December 12th, clubs must either offer a contract to the players that are not under a multi- year contract and not eligible for free agency, or those players become free agents. Players that are not under contract and not yet eligible for arbitration can be automatically renewed at the previous year's salary- or at least 80% of that salary, and the player has no say in the matter. The renewal deadline for those players is March 2nd. Most clubs give a nominal raise to such players, but they still make close to the major league minimum salary. Players that are arbitration eligible must be offered a contract that is at least 80% of the amount of their previous salary, or they will become free agents. The one player that stands out that may not be tendered a contract on the Tigers is Brad Thomas, who had a $ 1 million salary in each of the past two seasons. There was much speculation that the Twins were not going to tender a contract to Delmon Young because of his likely increase in arbitration, but the Tigers are expected to retain Delmon's services for at least 2012. The Tigers that are arbitration eligible include Thomas, Delmon, Max Scherzer, and Phil Coke.

6. Arbitration deadlines: When a club offers arbitration to a player, whether it's a pending free agent or a player that is under "club control", they follow a process as the arbitration deadlines approach. Very few cases, only one to three per season in all of MLB, ever get to a contested hearing. The Tigers have never held an actual contested arbitration hearing during Dave Dombrowski's tenure with the club. The deadlines (based on 2011 dates) are as follows: January 5- 15, filing period; January 18- salary figures are exchanged (an arbitration panel would choose one or the other, not some figure in the middle); February 1- 18, hearings scheduled, with pitchers and catchers typically going first because they are typically scheduled to report to spring training earlier. An arbitrated contract is always for a one year term. A free agent eligible player that accepts arbitration can not be traded until at least June 15th of the following season (and may have no trade rights).

7. Play Ball: Pitchers and catchers will be scheduled to report on or about Valentine's day, February 14th. Other position players will report about a week later.

There is also a schedule for announcing the award winners for the 2011 season, and Tiger fans will be very interested in some of these announcements. Here is the schedule:

Oct. 19-27, 2011 World Series

Nov. 14, 2011 AL, NL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Awards announced

Nov. 15, 2011 AL Cy Young Award announced

Nov. 16, 2011 AL, NL Manager of the Year Awards announced

Nov. 17, 2011 NL Cy Young Award announced

Nov. 21, 2011 AL Most Valuable Player Award announced

Nov. 22, 2011 NL Most Valuable Player Award announced

Nov. 23, 2011 Begin the free agent schedule with arbitration offers as indicated above.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.