The World Series may have been just days ago, but the business of baseball never stops. The offseason is finally upon us and the Royals will have some very interesting decisions to make this winter as they attempt to put together a team that can defend their world title. As we embark up on the "Hot Stove" season, here are some key dates you need to know.
November 6, 2015 - Free Agency begins, options deadline, Qualifying Offers
Eligible players became free agents on November 1, but for the first five days there is a "quiet period" of free agency. Free agents can negotiate with their current team but cannot yet negotiate with other clubs. Beginning at 11 p.m. CT on Friday, free agents are free to sign with any club they choose. The Royals have eight players eligible for free agency - Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist, Alex Gordon, Chris Young, Ryan Madson, Alex Rios, Jeremy Guthrie, and Franklin Morales. Jonny Gomes can also join that list if the Royals decline his option.
Friday is also the deadline for clubs and players to make decisions on whether or not to exercise options on their contract for next year. The Royals have already declined club options on Rios and Guthrie, and Alex Gordon has declined his player option for next year. The Royals still have club options on Gomes, and will almost certainly exercise the options on Alcides Escobar and Wade Davis.
Teams must also decide whether to extend a Qualifying Offer to impending free agents by this Friday. Qualifying Offers must be made for a team to receive draft pick compensation for a free agent that departs. The offer must be at least a one year contract with the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball, or $15.8 million for next year. Qualifying offers can only be made to players who have spent at least one year with the club, so the Royals cannot make a Qualifying Offer to Johnny Cueto or Ben Zobrist. They could, however, offer one to Alex Gordon. Players would have until November 13 to decide whether or not to accept an offer, but of the 34 players offered a Qualifying Offer, not a single one has accepted.
November 9-12, 2015 - General Manager Meetings, Boca Raton, Florida
While you're stuck at work in what will probably be cold, lousy weather next week, Dayton Moore will be having fun in the sun down in Boca. Typically not many deals happen at these meetings, but they help lay the framework for deals later this off-season. Teams also discuss potential rule changes, and among the hot topics will be tweaks to the replay system and protecting middle infielders from hard slides.
November 10-19, 2015 - Award Season
Hardware will be handed out, although Jonny Gomes doesn't seem to think the Royals will win many awards this winter. The Gold Glove awards will be handed out on November 10 at 6pm on ESPN with Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, and Alex Gordon up for awards. Silver Slugger Awards for the top hitter at each position is handed out on November 12. Rookies of the Year are awarded on November 16, Managers of the Year on November 17, Cy Young winners on November 18, and MVPs on November 19.
November 20, 2015 - 40-man roster must be finalized for the Rule 5 draft
The Rule 5 draft serves to prevent teams from hoarding minor league talent without giving them a chance. The 40 man roster protects players from being selected in the Rule 5 draft which has given opportunities to players like Joakim Soria, Dan Uggla, and Josh Hamilton. Eligibility for the Rule 5 draft is determined as follows:
"Players who were signed when they were 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for four years are eligible, as are players who were signed at 18 and have played for five years. All players on a Major League Baseball team's 40-man roster, regardless of other eligibility factors, are "protected" and ineligible for the Rule 5 Draft."
Notable Royals minor leaguers that will be eligible to be drafted if not protected include Kyle Zimmer, Bubba Starling, Brett Eibner, Elier Hernandez, Christian Binford, Ramon Torres, and Sam Selman. The Rule 5 draft takes place on December 10.
December 2, 2015 - Tender/non-tender deadline
Players who have at least three years of service time are typically eligible for salary arbitration. To retain these players, teams must tender them a contract by December 2, which requires them to negotiate a salary or take their case to a neutral arbiter. A team can choose to "non-tender" a player, making them a free agent. The Royals have eight players eligible for arbitration. Four players will certainly be tendered a contract - Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, and Jarrod Dyson. The Royals will have to decide whether to tender or non-tender the four remaining players - Greg Holland, Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, and Drew Butera.
December 7-10, 2015 - Winter Meetings, Nashville, Tennessee
This serves as MLB's annual convention, where everyone in the business comes together to meet and greet and strike deals. This can be a very busy period for trades and free agent signings with a flurry of activity during the four day period. Here is a Dayton Moore has made a splash at the Winter Meetings before, such as when he signed Gil Meche. This guy also made a splash.
January 12-15, 2016 - Salary arbitration filing, exchange of numbers
Players eligible for arbitration that have been tendered a contract can file for arbitration on January 12. By January 15, they and the club must exchange figures. Players and clubs can agree on a contract at any time. If they fail to come to an agreement, an arbitration hearing is schedule some time in the first few weeks of February. Dayton Moore has never gone to arbitration with a player.
Mid-February, 2016 - Pitchers and catchers report to spring training
Baseball is back.
April 4, 2016 - Opening Day, New York Mets vs. Kansas City Royals
For the first time in history, a World Series champion will begin their title defense against the team they defeated when the Royals host the Mets next April. There is a good chance this game gets moved to the Sunday Night Baseball slot on ESPN for April 3. Rings will be handed out, flags will be flown, and champions will celebrate.