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MLB offseason key dates: Free agency start, awards, Winter Meetings, Hall of Fame, spring training and more

The Texas Rangers are the 2023 World Series champions. They defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks in five games to clinch the franchise’s first ever championship. Two years ago, the Rangers and D-backs both lost 100-plus games. Kudos to them for the quick turnaround and being the last two teams standing this season.

With the World Series now complete, the 2023-24 offseason has officially begun, and several significant events are right around the corner. Here are the important dates and deadlines for the coming weeks and months.

Nov. 2: As of 9 a.m. ET on Thursday, all eligible players (i.e. those with six-plus years of service time) are free agents. It is important to note free agents cannot sign with new teams just yet. They have to wait five days for that. The first five days of the offseason are an exclusive negotiating period in which the player can only talk money with his previous team. Here are our top 25 free agents.

Nov. 5: Gold Glove winners announced during a live ESPN broadcast at 7:30 p.m. ET. Here are this year’s Gold Glove finalists.

Nov. 6: Finalists for 2023’s major awards will be announced during a live MLB Network broadcast at 6 p.m. ET. Those awards are Manager of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and Most Valuable Player. Three finalists are announced for each award in each league. As a reminder, voting for these awards was completed before the postseason. These are regular-season awards.  

Nov. 6: Most contract option decisions are due on this date. Some contracts specify a different date (the Yankees had to make a decision on Zack Britton’s 2022 club option in November 2020, for example), but the vast majority have to be made within five days of the end of the World Series. Club options are controlled by the team, player options and opt-outs are controlled by the player, and mutual options are kind of pointless. They are essentially a way to move money to next year’s payroll.    

Some option decisions are no-brainers, like the Giants picking up their $10 million club option for Alex Cobb (even after his recent hip surgery). Among this offseason’s notable contract option decisions are Tim Anderson ($14 million club option), Josh Bell (can opt out of one year and $16.5 million), Kyle Hendricks ($16 million club option), and Eduardo Rodriguez (can opt out of three years and $49 million).

Nov. 6: Deadline for teams to tender their eligible free agents the qualifying offer. Specifically, the deadline is 5 p.m. ET. The qualifying offer is a one-year contract worth the average of the top 125 salaries, or $20.5 million this offseason, according to the New York Post. To be eligible for the qualifying offer a player must have spent the entire 2023 season with his team and have never received the qualifying offer previously. For example, the Angels can make Shohei Ohtani the qualifying offer, but the Rangers cannot make Jordan Montgomery the qualifying offer because he was traded at midseason. Marcus Stroman, on the other hand, cannot be offered a qualifying offer because he accepted one from the Mets after the 2020 season.

Nov. 6: Free agency begins. The five-day exclusive negotiating period ends and free agents are truly free. They can negotiate and sign with any team as of this date. That said, much like the regular season, MLB free agency is a marathon, not a sprint. We (probably) won’t see a rash of signings on Day 1 because MLB is not a salary-capped league, and free agents aren’t worried about getting left out in the cold when cap space runs out. Here again are our top 25 free agents.

Nov. 7-9: GM Meetings in Scottsdale. Generally speaking, the GM Meetings cover off-the-field matters, such as rule changes. But, when you put all 30 GMs in one place, inevitably deals get discussed and sometimes completed. Last year, the Braves traded Jake Odorizzi to the Rangers for Kolby Allard at the GM Meetings, for example. Also, the groundwork is often laid for trades that are completed at a later date at the GM Meetings.  

Nov. 9: Silver Sluggers announced during a live MLB Network broadcast at 6 p.m. ET. If Silver Sluggers are your thing, this is the date for you. Last year, a utility player Silver Slugger was added, and this year there’s a new team Silver Slugger. So that’s the nine usual positions plus the super utility player award plus the team award in each league, bringing us to 22 Silver Sluggers total.

Nov. 13: Rookies of the Year announced during a live MLB Network broadcast at 6 p.m. ET. In our unofficial September voting, Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll and Orioles infielder Gunnar Henderson won the award.

Nov. 14: Managers of the Year announced during a live MLB Network broadcast at 6 p.m. ET. In our unofficial September voting, Brewers manager Craig Counsell and Orioles manager Brandon Hyde were victorious.

Nov. 14: The deadline for free agents to accept or reject the qualifying offer is 4 p.m. ET.  Players who accept the qualifying offer sign that one-year, $20.5 million contract and remain with their team (players who accept the qualifying offer cannot be traded until June 15 without their consent). Free agents who reject the qualifying offer are attached to draft pick compensation. Their former team receives a draft pick if they sign elsewhere, and their new team has to forfeit a draft pick and international bonus money. Ohtani, Cody Bellinger, and Blake Snell are among the free agents who will surely reject the qualifying offer and instead sign a lucrative multi-year contract this offseason.

Nov. 14: The deadline for teams to add eligible minor leaguers to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft is 6 p.m. ET. Generally speaking, college players drafted no later than 2020 and high school players drafted no later than 2019 are Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter, as are players signed internationally no later than 2019. Among the notable Rule 5 Draft eligible prospects this offseason are Brewers catcher Jeferson Quero and Twins outfielder Emmanuel Rodriguez. Expect both (and many others) to be added to the 40-man roster on this date. 

It should be noted there are usually several minor trades on this date as teams get their 40-man roster in order. Last year the Rays traded JT Chargois and Xavier Edwards to the Marlins at the Rule 5 Draft protection deadline to clear 40-man roster space.  

Nov. 14-16: Owners meetings in Arlington, Tex. The quarterly owners meetings cover big picture business matters and are rarely a source of hot stove news or rumors, though November’s meetings are notable because the owners are set to vote on the Athletics’ proposed relocation to Las Vegas. The A’s need 22 votes from the other 29 owners to approve relocation.

Nov. 15: Cy Youngs announced during a live MLB Network broadcast at 6 p.m. ET. In our unofficial September voting, Snell and Yankees ace Gerrit Cole won the award.

Nov. 16: MVPs announced during a live MLB Network broadcast at 6 p.m. ET. In our unofficial September voting, Ohtani and Braves star Ronald Acuña Jr. took home gold.

Nov. 17: Non-tender deadline. This is the deadline for teams to offer their pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players a contract for 2024. Contracts do not have to be signed yet. An offer just has to be tendered. Players who do not receive a contract offer are considered “non-tendered” and become free agents. Notable players are non-tendered every offseason as teams determine their salary outweighs their performance, and the trade market turns up nothing worthwhile. Bellinger and Jeimer Candelario were among the biggest names non-tendered last offseason.

Nov. 20: The 2024 Hall of Fame ballot will be released. Just the ballot will be announced, to be clear. The voting results and 2024 Hall of Fame class will be revealed at a later date. Here are the players eligible for this year’s ballot. Most notably, this is Gary Sheffield’s tenth and final year of eligibility. This is also Year 3 on the ballot for Alex Rodriguez, Year 9 for Billy Wagner, and Year 6 for Todd Helton. Adrián Beltré, Joe Mauer, and Chase Utley are among the first-timers set to join the Hall of Fame ballot this year.

Dec. 1: Competitive balance draft picks are assigned. These are extra draft picks given to teams that fall in the bottom 10 in revenue and/or market size. There is overlap between the two groups, so there are usually 14 competitive balance picks awarded each year, not 20. Competitive balance picks are MLB’s only tradeable draft picks.

Dec. 3: The Hall of Fame’s Contemporary Baseball Era Non-Players Committee voting results will be announced during a live MLB Network broadcast. The Hall of Fame announced several changes to their Era Committee voting structure last year and the Contemporary Baseball Era Non-Players Committee considers “retired managers, umpires and executives whose greatest contributions to the game were realized from the 1980-present era.” Here is this year’s eight-person ballot.

Dec. 3-6: Winter Meetings in Nashville. This is typically when all hot stove hell breaks loose. The Winter Meetings are the busiest days of the offseason and feature plenty of trades, free agent signings, and rumors. It is four days of non-stop hot stove action. Historically, the biggest moves of the offseason are completed at the Winter Meetings. GMs can talk face-to-face with agents and other GMs to get things done.

Dec. 5: Draft lottery during a live MLB Network broadcast. In an effort to curb tanking, MLB and the MLBPA agreed to a lottery to determine the top six picks in the annual amateur draft. The 18 non-postseason teams each have a shot at the No. 1 pick, though the worst teams have the highest odds. Here are this year’s odds for the No. 1 selection in the 2024 draft (via MLB.com):

Team No. 1 pick odds Team No. 1 pick odds

Athletics

18.3%

Tigers

1.6%

Royals

18.3%

Red Sox

1.2%

Rockies

18.3%

Giants

1.0%

White Sox

14.7%

Reds

0.9%

Cardinals

8.3%

Padres

0.7%

Angels

6.1%

Yankees

0.6%

Mets

4.3%

Cubs

0.4%

Pirates

3.0%

Mariners

0.2%

Guardians

2.0%

Nationals

0.0%

Teams that pay into revenue sharing can not select in the lottery in back-to-back years, so the Nationals, who had the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, are out of the lottery despite finishing with baseball’s fifth-worst record. Teams in Washington’s situation can not pick higher than No. 10 overall. The lottery determines the top six picks, then the next 12 picks are in reverse order of the standings. The 12 postseason teams are then ordered by their finish.

Dec. 6: Rule 5 Draft. By rule, players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on their new team’s MLB roster all season in 2024, otherwise they must go through waivers and be offered back to their original team. Teams don’t expect to get difference-makers in the Rule 5 Draft (Jose Bautista was the exception, not the rule). They often look for middle relievers, platoon bats, and lottery tickets, and most players wind up back with their original team. Last offseason’s notable Rule 5 Draft selections were Kevin Kelly (Rays), Ryan Noda (Athletics), and Blake Sabol (Giants).

Jan. 12: Deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to submit salary figures for 2024. The player files what he believes he should be paid while the team files with what they believe the player should be paid. This is only the filing deadline and the two sides can still agree to a contract of any size even after filing salary figures. The vast majority of arbitration-eligible players agree to a contract before the filing deadline. Matt Swartz and MLB Trade Rumors released their salary arbitration projections in October. Their model has proven to be quite accurate over the years.

Jan. 15: The 2024 international signing period opens at 9 a.m. ET. The annual signing period used to run from July 2nd to June 25th, though MLB and the MLBPA agreed to push the start of the 2020-21 and 2021-22 signing periods back to January because of the pandemic, and now the new January start is permanent. Here is MLB.com’s list of 2024’s top 50 international prospects. Last year, the Padres landed catcher Ethan Salas on the first day of the international signing period. He made it all the way to Double-A as a 17-year-old this summer.

Jan. 23: The 2024 Hall of Fame class will be announced during a live MLB Network broadcast at 6 p.m. ET. The ballot is revealed in November, votes are compiled in the following weeks, then the results are announced in the dog days of the offseason. Among holdovers on the ballot, Helton was the closest to getting in without actually getting in last year. He received 72.2% of the vote and 75% is needed for induction. Beltré, Helton, and Wagner appear to have the best chance at getting into the Hall of Fame this voting cycle.

Jan. 29 to Feb. 16: Arbitration hearings. Inevitably a few arbitration-eligible players and their teams will be unable to come to terms on a contract, and they wind up in front of an arbitration panel. Each side states their case — hearings can be contentious because the team essentially outlines the player’s shortcomings and explains why he deserves a lower salary than he believes — and the three-person panel picks either the salary the player filed or the salary the team filed, nothing in-between. Again, teams and players can work out a contract of any size prior to a hearing, even after filing salary figures. Luis Arraez, Corbin Burnes, Max Fried, and Kyle Tucker were among the players to go to an arbitration hearing last offseason.

Mid-February: Spring training camps open across Florida and Arizona. Each team sets their own reporting dates for pitchers and catchers and then position players, though they’ll all be up and running by the second full week of February. Cactus League and Grapefruit League play begins Feb. 22 and all 30 teams will be action by Feb. 24.

March 20-21: Seoul Series. The NL West rival Dodgers and Padres will open the 2024 season with two games in Seoul, South Korea. They will be MLB’s first ever regular-season games in Korea. Following these two games, the Dodgers and Padres will return to Arizona and play their last few spring training games before resuming their regular seasons.

March 28: Opening Day 2024. All 30 clubs will be in action on Opening Day, with six of the 15 games featuring intradivision matchups. Next year will be Year 2 with the league’s new, more balanced schedule. Once again, every team will play at least one series against every other team in 2024. No more rotating divisions for interleague play.    

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