Important Offseason Dates

Otto Greule Jr

A primer to help you get through the offseason dates, from the final day of the regular season to pitchers and catchers reporting.

Recently, we got a request via Twitter:

So you want all the important dates in one place, do you? Well, we can do that... and even better (or worse, depending on your particular perspective,) we can put an Astros spin on things. So consider this your roadmap through the weird and wacky MLB offseason. Because we care about you, dear reader, and nobody but you.

September 29, 2013

Final Day of the Regular Season

The 2013 Houston Astros season mercifully limps to its conclusion. The hometown nine will celebrate your patience and understanding over the course of a long, often-agonizing season by honoring a player from the opposing team: Yankees legend and future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, who may not actually end up pitching in the game (though do we really think that Joe Girardi won't send Mariano out to pitch the ninth, regardless of the score?)

The Astros will present Rivera with a gift that may or may not have been made by a man wearing a purple cast on his wrist:

Also suiting up for his final game - former Astros World Series rotation-member Andy Pettitte. It does not appear as if anyone in a fedora has decoupaged anything in his honor.

Fear not, however, as the Astros have also thought of you, the Houston Astros fan. They will be holding Fan Appreciation Day at the ol' ballpark, and will be giving away free team posters to the first ten thousand fans. You can gleefully mark giant red X's through players' faces as they drop off of the 25-man roster over the six months that follow. More on that coming.

(Incidentally, this also has a very good chance of being Erik Bedard's final start as a Houston Astro, and I would personally like to wish him well and thank you for the entire season. Say what you want about Bedard, the guy was a class act, stayed healthy, and often provided a much-needed veteran presence in the rotation and/or the bullpen.)

Last Weekend Date Waivers Will Be Processed Before Spring Training

Yes, it's the last time that a player can be waived while he's at church, or out deer hunting, or whatever it is that Astros players do when other teams' players are doing some thing called the "Playoffs," which sounds awful. Bud Selig will turn the ringer off on the phone as he heads out of the office on Friday night, and won't turn it back on until the next Monday morning, as he's wildly flailing around, trying to find creamer for his coffee.

This may or may not also be the day when Bud Selig hires an assistant.

Last Date That Assignable Draft Picks Can Be Traded

Well, until the start of the 2014 season, at any rate. So if you're watching for a blockbuster deal that sends the second Competitive Balance Lottery pick to Miami in exchange for Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, make sure you don't stop clicking F5 compulsively on the Crawfish Boxes homepage.

September 30 - October 15, 2013

Article XX(D) Free Agency Period

Don't freak out at the Roman numerals. I'm here to serve as your tour guide on this all-important journey, remember? Article XX(D) in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) covers outright assignment to the Minor Leagues. Officially, the rule reads like this:

(1) Election of Free Agency—3-Year Player

Any Player who has at least 3 years of Major League service, or who qualified as a "Super Two" Player under Article VI(E)(1)(b) as of the conclusion of the prior championship season, and whose contract is assigned outright to a Minor League club may elect, in lieu of accepting such assignment, to become a free agent. In the event that such a Player with at least 3 years of Major League service does not elect free agency in lieu of accepting such assignment, he may elect free agency between the end of the then current Major League season and the next following October 15, unless such Player is returned to a Major League roster prior to making such election. Any Player who accepts an outright assignment as a "Super Two" Player will not retain a right to elect free agency following the season.

(2) Election of Free Agency—Second Outright Assignment

Any Player whose contract is assigned outright to a Minor League club for the second time or any subsequent time in his career may elect, in lieu of accepting such assignment, to become a free agent. In the event that such Player does not elect free agency in lieu of accepting such assignment, he may elect free agency between the end of the then current Major League season and the next following October 15, unless such Player is returned to a Major League roster prior to making such election.

In other words, if a player has accrued enough service time, he has the right to refuse an outright assignment to the minor leagues. If he does, he immediately becomes a free agent. If he doesn't refuse it, and the team doesn't move him back to the majors by the end of the season, he can still elect to become a free agent during this period.

Example: On September 9, the Astros outrighted RHP Hector Ambriz to Oklahoma City. Ambriz does not have enough service time to qualify for Article XX (D), but if he did - and if he had accepted the assignment to Oklahoma City - he could choose to become a free agent during this period.

October 23, 2013

Something Called the "World Series" Begins

This is where the luckiest playoff teams from each league (American and National, not Pacific Coast and International) square off in a best-of-seven series to determine who failed the most to tank and get the first-overall pick.

The Day After the World Series

Rule XX (B) Players Become Free Agents

Rule XX (B) free agents are what most of us commonly refer to as "free agents." Technically speaking, a Rule XX (B) free agent is "a player with six or more years of Major League service, who has not executed a contract for the next succeeding season."

Believe it or not, some teams have players who have been in the majors longer than six years, or approximately every Houston Astro's service time, added together.

I'm being facetious. The Astros actually will lose a player to Rule XX (B): LHP Erik Bedard. On 9:00 AM Eastern Time, the day following the conclusion of the World Series, the loud yowling of glee you hear with a French-Canadian accent will be Mr. Bedard, off to greener pastures.

Four Days After the World Series

Last Date to Request Waivers on Draft-excluded Players

A "Draft-Exluded Player" is a minor league player eligible for the Rule 5 Draft whose contract is selected, and who is added to the 40-man roster at some point before the Rule 5 Draft. 2:00 Eastern Time, on the fourth day following the conclusion of the World Series, is the last period during which these players can be outrighted to the minors until 25 days before Opening Day.

Five Days After the World Series

Last Date to Reinstate Players from 60-Day Disabled List

That means you, Alex White.

Last Date to Outright Potential Minor League Free Agent Without Major League Contract

Pretty self-explanatory.

Last Date for Former Club to Tender Qualifying Offer to XX (B) Players

The latest CBA introduced the idea of the "qualifying offer." MLB Trade Rumors has a great writeup on what it means, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I'll just link to that.

  • The value of the qualifying offer ... is determined annually by averaging the top 125 player salaries from the previous year.
  • All qualifying offers are for the same duration (one year) and the same amount.
  • Teams have until five days after the World Series to make qualifying offers. At that point the players have seven days to accept.
  • Once a team makes a qualifying offer, the player has two choices: he can accept the one-year deal or decline in search of other offers. If he declines the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team will have to surrender a top draft pick (the selection doesn't go to the player's former team).
  • Teams that sign free agents who turned down qualifying offers will surrender their first round picks. However, the forfeited picks don't go to other MLB teams. Instead, the first round simply becomes condensed.
  • The first ten selections in the draft are protected. Teams with protected picks will surrender their second-highest selections.
  • The player’s former team will receive its compensatory selection at the end of the first round. Teams now obtain one compensatory selection, instead of two.
  • If teams don’t make a qualifying offer, the player can sign uninhibited.
  • Only players who have been with their clubs for the entire season will be eligible for compensation.
Minor League Players Become Free Agents at 5:00 PM E.T.

Minor Leaguers who have not previously signed a contract with a Major or Minor League Club are given Uniform Player Contracts for a term of seven Minor League playing seasons. At the conclusion of those seven years, they become free agents. That happens on this day.

I'm looking at you, Carlos Quevedo.

Six Days After the World Series

XX (B) and Minor League Free Agents Can Sign With All Clubs

The day you've all been waiting for, when Jeff Luhnow can sweep in with his Golden Checkbook and sign some god damn middle relievers, already.

Adam Lind? Shin-Soo Choo (okay, maybe not)? Curtis Granderson?

Joel Hanrahan? J.P. Howell? Joba Chamberlain? Where you guys at?

MLB Trade Rumors has a great list of impending 2014 free agents, which they will update with regularity as this amazing time period draws nearer.

Twelve Days After the World Series

Last Date for XX(B) Players to Accept Qualifying Offer from Former Club

November 11, 2013

New Waiver Period Begins

November 20, 2013

Reserve Lists for all Major League Levels Filed

Oh, boy. In English, the Reserve List is called the 40-man roster. This will determine which players are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Read on for more about that.

December 2, 2013

Tender Deadline

The tender deadline is pretty much the end of the line for deciding who becomes free agents. Players can become free agents in one of three ways:

  1. His contract expires with at least six years of service time on a major league 25-man roster (or disabled list).
  2. His contract expires with less than six years of service time, but he first signed with a Major League team as a ten-year free agent from the Nippon Baseball League.
  3. His contract expires with less than six years of service time, and he is not tendered a contract or salary arbitration by the tender deadline (that's this day).
MLB Trade Rumors (who else?) has a great primer on the non-tender deadline, and they also put out a list earlier this year on potential non-tender candidates. That site is fantastic at everything they do, but in my opinion, they don't do anything better than they do non-tender candidates.

At any rate, this is where the final batch of free agents come from - guys whose arbitration figures could end up being higher than what their team wants to pay them. Don't be surprised if some of these guys - maybe Ivan Nova, Clayton Richard, or poor old former number one overall Luke Hochevar - find their way onto the Astros' radar.

December 9 - December 12, 2013

The Winter Meetings

Anyone who's anyone - and many who aren't - will descend upon Lake Buena Vista, Florida. A lot of things happen during this time period, including a job fair, the GIBBY Awards, the Baseball Trade Show, and a lot more. For your purposes as a Houston Astros fan, there are two primary events here:

1) A lot of free agents will get signed

and

2) The Rule 5 Draft, y'all!

The Rule 5 Draft is a special time in baseball, when players who meet certain criteria can be plucked away from their team and placed onto another team's 25-man roster. This has been covered in-depth elsewhere, but many of you still want some specifics.

Players who were signed when they were 19 or older (as of the June 5th prior to their signing) and have played in professional baseball for four years are eligible, as are players who were signed at 18 (as of June 5th prior to their signing) and have played for five years. There is an exception: If a player is on a Major League team's 40-man roster, they are ineligible.

Currently, there are 103 players in the Astros organization eligible to be drafted. That includes players currently on the 40-man roster. But at the end of the day, there will be more than 60 players unprotected in the Rule 5.

Truthfully, the Rule 5 Draft is not a very impactful event, especially since the rule changes giving teams an additional year to evaluate prospects. But it does create quite a stir, and is almost certain to result in the loss of some of our favorite prospects this year.

After that, the baseball world goes into a relative slumber until pitchers and catchers report.

So there you go. I hope you found this useful. Feel free to bookmark it and re-visit it as the offseason progresses and you wonder when something baseball-related will come around to break up the steady stream of articles about old Astros paraphernalia in dusty west-coast antiques stores.

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