With the World Series coming to an end last night, the 2015/2016 off-season officially begins today. Here is a quick primer of all of the off-season topics.
Teams must reinstate players from the 60-day disabled list no later than five days after the end of the World Series, getting their rosters down to 40-men. The deadline this year is on Friday. The Pittsburgh Pirates have five players on the 60-day disabled list (Brandon Cumpton, Andrew Lambo, Casey Sadler, Corey Hart, and Jung-ho Kang), and only two open spots. They will need to clear three spots on the 40-man roster this week to get the number down to 40.
Those decisions should be easy. For example, they can just release Hart. Brandon Cumpton is also out for the 2016 season, and probably won’t last on the 40-man roster, so they could put him through waivers and outright him to Triple-A without risking losing him. And they’ve got several free agents who they could let go of a few days early.
Teams must also make decisions on option years no later than 11:59 PM EST on Wednesday night. The Pirates don’t have any decisions to make with options this year.
November 20th marks the deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters for the 2015 Rule 5 draft. I looked at Rule 5 options earlier in the year, and updated that at the start of the off-season. Teams can make changes to the 40-man roster after November 20th, although they can’t add any new internal players to the roster between November 20th and the 2015 Rule 5 draft, held on December 10th.
My prediction of the 2016 40-man roster can be found here, minus the Rule 5 additions.
Arbitration Eligible Players
Teams have until December 2nd to tender offers to their arbitration eligible players for the 2016 season. The Pirates have nine players who are eligible for salary arbitration this year. Here are the players, and their projected arbitration prices, according to MLBTR:
Neil Walker, 4th Year – $10,700,000
Mark Melancon, 3rd Year – $10,000,000
Pedro Alvarez, 3rd Year – $8,100,000
Tony Watson, 2nd Year – $4,600,000
Jeff Locke, 1st Year – $3,500,000
Francisco Cervelli, 3rd Year – $2,500,000
Jared Hughes, 2nd Year – $2,200,000
Jordy Mercer, 1st Year – $1,800,000
Chris Stewart, 3rd Year – $1,600,000
Once offers are tendered, the two sides (the team and the player) will work to reach an agreement. If no agreement can be reached, the two sides file for arbitration, during the first two weeks of January. Once they file for arbitration, the two sides exchange salary figures around the third week of January, and have their salary arbitration hearing during the first three weeks of February. The sides can reach a deal outside of the arbitration process at any time before the actual hearing, even immediately before the scheduled hearing.
If the negotiations do reach the hearing, both sides will argue their case for the salary they submitted, and the three person arbitration panel will determine which salary is more appropriate for the player. All decisions made by the panel are final, although the club and the player are free to re-negotiate the deal.
The Pirates are a file and trial team, which means if a deal isn’t worked out before players officially file for arbitration, then they will go to a hearing. This is a growing trend among teams to strengthen negotiations pre-filing. Last year the Pirates went to arbitration hearings with three different players.
November 2nd at 12:01 AM EST marks the beginning of a five day period in which teams retain exclusive negotiating rights with their players who qualify for free agency. The Pirates have eight players who qualify for free agency: Joakim Soria, J.A. Happ, Antonio Bastardo, Corey Hart, Sean Rodriguez, Joe Blanton, Aramis Ramirez, and A.J. Burnett. The last two guys are retiring. Pending free agents can have general discussions with other clubs during this five day period, but can’t discuss contract details or sign with a new team until 12:01 AM EST, November 7th.
The big topic during this period will be the qualifying offers for these players. Teams have five days to decide if they will make a qualifying offer to departing free agents. This year the offer is $15.8 M for one year. If the player accepts that offer, the team gets him for the 2016 season on that deal. If the player declines and signs with another team, the former team gets a draft pick in the 2016 draft.
The Pirates don’t have a player who could demand a qualifying offer, or who could receive one (guys like J.A. Happ who were acquired mid-season aren’t eligible). There are a few departing free agents who could be re-signed, with Happ being the big one, although usually those guys hit the open market before making a deal.
The two notable meetings that take place in the off-season are the GM/Owners meetings, and the more popular Winter Meetings. The first two meetings provides an opportunity for the General Managers to meet face to face, and possibly start discussions on potential trades. This year those meetings could lead to some rule changes, especially following the injuries to middle infielders.
The Winter Meetings take place on December 7-10. The Winter Meetings usually mark the time when free agency starts to heat up.