If the offseason has seemed slow so far, it is about to pick up. Earlier this fall, the owners and the players agreed to move up several of the offseason deadlines. After the holiday weekend, the next two weeks might be the busiest of the entire offseason. The following are the upcoming key dates, with a brief summary of what they mean (and what they mean for the Royals).
November 30: Deadline for free agents to accept or decline arbitration offers from old team.
What it means: This deadline applies to the 35 major league free agents who were offered arbitration this week. Type A free agent will cost a draft pick. Most years, at least a couple of free agents accept arbitration, thereby removing themselves from the market and returning to their teams.
What it means for the Royals: In short, it means very little because the Royals had no free agents eligible for compensation. (As a side note, the Dodgers did not offer former Royal Scott Podsednik arbitration). At most, the Royals might lose a potential free agent target if a player in whom the team was interested accepts arbitration.
December 2: Deadline for teams to tender or non-tender players.
What it means: This deadline applies to arbitration-eligible players who are still under club control. As in most years, a good number of these players will become free agents when their teams do not offer them arbitration and significantly increase the pool of free agents. In many cases, the non-tenders will be decent players, but who were expected to make more in arbitration than their team wanted to pay. In addition, there are usually a flurry of trades leading up to this deadline, as teams find takers for players they would otherwise non-tender (for example, the Red Sox recently traded for Andrew Miller). Some non-tenders, such as Zach Duke, Jeff Francoeur, and Brian Bannister, were released early in order to clear room on their old teams’ 40-man roster. Here is a list of possible non-tenders (some more possible than others).
What it means for the Royals: This is the day the Royals will decide the fate of their remaining arbitration eligible players (Wilson Betemit, Billy Butler, Kyle Davies, Josh Fields, Alex Gordon, Luke Hochevar, Brayan Pena, and Robinson Tejeda). Fields is probably the only one who needs to worry, especially since news reports earlier this offseason indicated that he was on the bubble at the 40-man roster deadline. Of the others, Davies, Pena, Betemit, and Tejeda will still want to call their agents at the deadline just to make sure. To the extent that the Royals pursue free agents this offseason, the non-tender group probably contains a large percentage of their targets.
December 6-9: Baseball Winter Meetings.
What it means: All of baseball convenes in Orlando, Florida to talk business, so this is the time when most of the hot stove heavy lifting takes place. While a few free agents will have signed already, the Winter Meetings are traditionally the time when negotiations with the elite free agents become serious. They may not sign then, but at the very least, the number of suitors will shrink to the most serious bidders, and teams on the outside may start to act on Plan B. In recent years, many of the big trades also happen during or just after the meetings.
What it means for the Royals: Zack Greinke will get mentioned more times in three days than his entire Cy Young season. Also, Jeff Francoeur will fulfill the prophecy.