Here's another one for the MLBTR Glossary...
Once a player has six years of service time, he can become a free agent as long as he isn't under contract for the next season. This gives him the right to negotiate a contract with any team. Players don't typically become free agents until they've served six years in the majors, but some hit free agency earlier if they're released or if their teams choose not to offer them contracts. Here's the timeline for players who hit free agency after collecting six years service time.
- Eligible players become free agents at 8am central time on the day following the day that the last game of the World Series had started.
- From that point up until 10:59pm central time on the fifth day following the World Series, known as the Quiet Period, teams and free agents or their representatives may discuss interest, potential role, the advantages and disadvantages of playing for that team, the length of the contract, guarantee provisions, and no-trade provisions. During this period, players may not negotiate terms or contract with new teams, but they may negotiate with their former team.
- The last day of the Quiet Period at 4pm central time is the deadline for teams to make Qualifying Offers to free agents. A Qualifying Offer is a one-year contract equal to the average salary of the 125 highest-paid players for the prior season. For 2014, that amount is $14.1MM. One loophole: any player traded during the season is not eligible for a Qualifying Offer. Therefore, it is greatly to a player's advantage to be traded during his contract year.
- A qualified free agent has until 4pm central time on the seventh day following the conclusion of the Quiet Period to accept a Qualifying Offer, which no response counted as a rejection. Should a player accept, he is a signed player for the upcoming season. No player has yet to accept in the two years the Qualifying Offer system has been in place. There is no limit to the number of Qualifying Offers a player may receive in his career.
- For any player who declined a Qualifying Offer and signed a Major League contract with another club prior to the next Rule 4 draft, the former clubs receive an amateur draft choice in the reverse order of their won-lost percentage in the recently completed season, with the selections beginning immediately following the last regular selection in the first round of Rule 4 Draft. If a Club is entitled to more than one Special Draft Choice, its selections will be slotted in succession. If two or more Clubs are tied, the Clubs shall select in the reverse order of their winning percentages in the season prior to the recently completed season, with any remaining ties to be resolved based on preceding season winning percentages.
- Any team that signs a Qualified free agent from another team must forfeit its highest available pick in the next Rule 4 draft, with the first ten picks protected as well as those acquired for the failure to sign a player the previous year. If a team signs more than one Qualified free agent, it must forfeit its highest remaining pick each time. Forfeiting a pick requires giving up the associated draft pool money as well. Picks obtained through assignments and in the competitive balance and forfeited draft pick lotteries are subject to forfeiture.
- Teams and players may not enter into any agreement, understanding, or contract, or make any kind of promise not to make or accept a Qualifying Offer.
- Any player who signed a free agent contract may not be traded until June 15th without his consent.
Tim Dierkes contributed to this post, which draws heavily upon the Collective Bargaining Agreement.