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Offseason decisions loom large for Tigers

Deadlines, decisions, qualifying offers, awards, and winter meetings headline the offseason calendar.

Patrick Smith

With the conclusion of the World Series comes the offseason. With the offseason comes free agency for many players. With free agency comes decisions, and deadlines. The first decision deadline falls just two days after the conclusion of the World Series, when teams have to decide whether to exercise club options contained in players’ contracts.

For the Tigers, there are two decisions to be made on team options:

1. Whether to pick up the $7 million option on Joakim Soria, or buy him out for $500,000 and let him become a free agent.

2. Whether to exercise the $5.4 million option on Alex Avila, or buy out his option for $200,000. Since Avila still has one season left before being eligible for free agency, the club could tender him a contract and head to arbitration, release him and let him become a free agent, or negotiate a different contract.

The second decision deadline falls five days after the end of the World Series. That is the deadline to make qualifying offers to potential free agents. The qualifying offer this season is around $15.3 million for a one-year contract. If the player declines the qualifying offer and signs with another club, his former team receives a supplemental first round draft pick as compensation.

The Tigers are expected to make qualifying offers to Max Scherzer and Victor Martinez, and both players are expected to decline the offers. The Tigers should not be making offers to Torii Hunter, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke, Jim Johnson, or Joel Hanrahan. Players then have seven days to accept or decline the offer.

Free agent season begins in earnest once the decisions on qualifying offers are announced, setting the parameters for the free agent market. The Tigers will be looking for a center fielder to replace Austin Jackson, a corner outfielder to replace Torii Hunter, and a few good men for the bullpen. Dave Dombrowski has utilized free agency, trades, and the Rule 5 draft in the past to plug holes.

The Baseball Writers Association of America will announce the winners of the prestigious awards for the 2014 season about two weeks after the end of the World Series. Ballots were submitted at the end of the regular season, before the playoffs began. Here is the announcement schedule:

Monday, Nov. 10 Rookies of the Year
Tuesday, Nov. 11 Managers of the Year
Wednesday, Nov. 12 Cy Young awards
Thursday, Nov. 13 Most Valuable Player awards

This year, Major League Baseball’s general manager’s meeting will be held November 10–12 in Phoenix, Arizona.

November 20 is the date for teams to add prospects to their 40-man rosters to protect them from being taken in the Rule 5 draft. Shortstop Dixon Machado heads the Tigers latest crop of prospects who are expected to be added to the roster.

A player is eligible for the Rule 5 draft four or five years after he is drafted, depending on his age at the time, if he hasn’t made the 40-man roster by that time. Space is at least temporarily created on the roster by the departure of free agent players, but there are often others who are released or outrighted to the minor leagues to make room.

December 2 is the deadline for clubs to tender a contract to their own arbitration eligible players, or allow them to walk away as free agents. The offer must be at least 80 percent of the previous season’s salary, but the contract — if accepted or agreed to prior to, or through arbitration — is not fully guaranteed. The Tigers have two players, Andy Dirks and Don Kelly, who are possible non-tender candidates.

Baseball’s winter meetings will be held in San Diego December 8–11 this year. This is where most of the wheeling and dealing is done between clubs on the trade front. The meetings conclude with the Rule 5 draft on the last day of the meetings.

Arbitration filings are formally submitted on January 13, 2015, and salary figures are exchanged by both sides on January 16. If no settlement is reached, hearings are scheduled during the first three weeks of February.

Then, finally, pitchers and catchers will report to Lakeland in February, with position players soon to follow, and spring training for 2015 will begin.