The Astros are World Series champions, officially bringing the 2022 baseball season to a close. As the party continues in Houston, the rest of the baseball world has already gotten started on winter business, as (knock on wood) the league prepares for its first “regular” offseason in three years. The 2019-20 offseason was interrupted by the pandemic, with that uncertainty continuing to cloud MLB’s preparations heading into 2021. Last winter, the offseason was shut down by a 99-day lockout, until the league and the players’ union finally agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement.
Fortunately, it looks like we might be in store for nothing but hot stove talk during this offseason, in a welcome return to normalcy. We at MLB Trade Rumors are already in the swing of things, with Matt Swartz’s annual arbitration projections posted and our annual Offseason Outlook series well underway. In addition, the annual Top 50 Free Agents list and Free Agent Prediction contest are both coming soon, so stay tuned.
Here is the rundown of the offseason’s key dates on the baseball calendar…
NOVEMBER 6: All eligible players can officially file for free agency, though even though this technically marks the start of free agency, players still aren’t allowed to negotiate with anyone but their current team. During the five days until the full opening of the free agent market, teams and players must make their contractual decisions about any club options, player options, opt-outs, and mutual options. The trade market also fully re-opens today, and it is rare but not totally uncommon to see a prominent swap take place as soon as the market opens.
NOVEMBER 7-10: The annual GM meetings, this year taking place in Las Vegas.
NOVEMBER 10: The free agent market officially opens, and free agents are now free to negotiate and sign with other teams. This is also the deadline for option decisions, as well as the deadline for teams to issue qualifying offers to eligible free agents. MLBTR’s Anthony Franco recently examined which players are most likely to receive the one-year, $19.65MM offers from their current teams, and which players represent trickier decisions for the clubs.
NOVEMBER 14-17: Awards week begins, as the league announces the results of one major award on each of these four days. The Rookie Of The Year winners are revealed on the 14th, the Manager Of The Year winners on the 15th, the Cy Young Award winners on the 16th, and finally the league MVPs on the 17th. Many players can earn extra contract bonus money based on high finishes in these awards races, but there is an extra hot-stove element this year. Due to the Prospect Promotion Incentive plan included in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the top two finishers in AL and NL ROY voting will receive a full year of Major League service time, regardless of how much time they actually spent on their clubs’ active rosters.
NOVEMBER 15: The deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters in advance of the Rule 5 draft. This usually involves adding some prominent minor leaguers onto the 40-man to prevent their selection in the R5, and several clubs might be looking to swing trades to free up 40-man space and ease any possible roster crunch.
NOVEMBER 15: The deadline for the free agents issued qualifying offers to decide whether or not to accept the QO.
NOVEMBER 18: The non-tender deadline, as teams must decide by this date whether or not to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. This date represents a notable difference to the regular offseason calendar, as the non-tender deadline is usually in late November or early December. Given the closer proximity to the 40-man roster decision date, it seems quite possible we could see some earlier non-tender decisions than usual, so teams can free up more roster spots.
DECEMBER 4-7: The annual Winter Meetings, this year taking place in San Diego.
DECEMBER 7: The Rule 5 Draft, returning to its usual date on the final day of the Winter Meetings. Last year’s Rule 5 Draft was canceled due to the lockout, marking the first time since 1891 that some form of the R5 didn’t take place.
JANUARY 13: The filing deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to submit 2023 salary numbers. Arbitration hearings will begin to take place in March, though teams and players can agree to a salary at any point (even minutes before) a hearing takes place. However, many teams adopt the “file and trial” tactic, meaning that they’ll automatically opt to go to a hearing with any player who doesn’t agree to a salary by January 13, with no further discussion about an arbitration-avoiding deal.
JANUARY 15: The international signing window officially opens, and closes 11 months later on December 15, 2023. Many of the top names of the 2023 int’l class will sign on the first day the market opens, as several of these prospects have already agreed to unofficial deals with teams years in advance. Because Major League Baseball and the MLBPA didn’t reach an agreement on the league’s desire to implement a draft for international prospects, the current int’l signing system and the qualifying-offer system will both remain in place for the length of the CBA (though the 2026 season).
FEBRUARY 24: Spring Training games officially begin.
MARCH 8: The World Baseball Classic begins, with games played in Taichung, Tokyo, Phoenix and Miami over the course of the 14-day, 20-team event. The WBC returns for the first time since 2017, as the 2021 tournament was canceled due to the pandemic.
MARCH 30: Opening Day