2016-17 MLB Offseason: Free agency, Winter Meetings, other important dates

Wednesday night, the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series championship since 1908 with an 8-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians. The Indians took a 3-1 series lead before the Cubs rallied to tie things up and force the decisive Game 7.

With the World Series now complete, the 2016-17 offseason is officially upon us. Here are the important dates and deadlines for the coming weeks and months. Make sure you bookmark this page for future reference.

Nov. 3: As of 9 a.m. ET Thursday, all eligible players become free agents. MLB used to make players file for free agency, which was a total waste of time, but now players automatically become free agents once eligible.

Nov. 5: Most contract option decisions due. (Some contracts specify a different date. Usually earlier, not later.) Here is our preview of this winter's club options from September. We already know Yoenis Cespedes is planning to use his opt-out clause and James Shields will not.

Nov. 7: Deadline for teams to make eligible free agents the qualifying offer. Here is our QO market preview. The QO has been set at $17.2 million this winter. That's the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball. Only players who have been with their team the entire season can receive the QO, so big name free agents like Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Beltran and Mark Melancon are not eligible.

usatsi9591626.jpg
The Blue Jays will surely make Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion qualifying offers. USATSI

Nov. 7: Also on this date, finalists for baseball's major awards will be announced during a live MLB Network broadcast. That is the Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards.

Nov. 7-10: General manager meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona. These are intended to cover various off-the-field matters around the league, though in recent years we've seen more and more transactions take place at the GM meetings. Last year the Andrelton Simmons trade went down at the GM meetings, for example. Deals are inevitable when you stick all 30 GMs in one place.

Nov. 8: The start of free agency. The five-day exclusive negotiating period ends at 12:01 a.m. ET next Tuesday. Free agents are only allowed to talk to their former team prior to this date.

Nov. 8: Gold Glove award winners are announced during a live ESPN broadcast. Here are this year's finalists.

Nov. 10: Silver Slugger award winners are announced, if you care about such things.

Nov. 14: Deadline for free agents to accept or reject the QO. Last year Matt Wieters, Brett Anderson and Colby Rasmus became the first players ever to accept the QO. Players who reject the QO are attached to draft-pick compensation. Teams will have to forfeit their highest draft pick to sign the player while his former team receives a supplemental first-round pick.

Nov. 14-17: Major award winners will be announced this week. First come the Rookies of the Year on Monday, then Managers of the Year on Tuesday, Cy Youngs on Wednesday and MVPs on Thursday. Each is announced during a live MLB Network broadcast.

usatsi9599889.jpg
Corey Seager will inevitably be named NL Rookie of the Year on Nov. 14. USATSI

Nov. 18: This is the deadline for teams to add eligible prospects to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. Generally speaking, college players drafted in 2013 and high school players drafted in 2012 are Rule 5 Draft eligible this offseason. Also international free agents signed in 2012. Any eligible players not on the 40-man roster can be selected in the Rule 5 Draft.

Dec. 1: The most important date of the offseason. This is the date baseball's current collective bargaining agreement expires. MLB and the MLBPA have been hard at work behind the scenes hammering out a new CBA, thought there are still some details to be ironed out. Both sides have way too much to lose with a work stoppage and they know it. It might go down to the last minute, but expect a deal to get done before the deadline.

Dec. 2: The deadline for teams to tender their pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players contracts for the 2017 season, otherwise known as the non-tender deadline. Any players without multiyear contracts and fewer than six years of service time become free agents if they do not recent a contract offer. A whole new batch of free agents will hit the market on this date.

Dec. 5-8: The 2016 winter meetings at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C. These will be the four -- three, really, because everyone leaves early the final day -- busiest days of the offseason. Blockbuster trades, big free-agent signings, tons of rumors ... they all happen during the winter meetings. It's total chaos. Nonstop 24-hour hot stove action.

Dec. 8: The Rule 5 Draft, which unofficially marks the end of the winter meetings. As a reminder, players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on their new team's active 25-man roster for the entire 2017 season, or be put on waivers and offered back to their former team. It seems clubs have gotten better at finding hidden gems in the Rule 5 Draft in recent years. Hector Rondon and Odubel Herrera have been the biggest Rule 5 Draft success stories over the past five years. Joe Biagini and Matt Bowman were nice pickups last year.

Jan. 18: The 2017 Hall of Fame class will be announced. Last year Jeff Bagwell (71.6 percent), Tim Raines (69.8 percent) and Trevor Hoffman (67.3 percent) all fell just short of the 75 percent needed for election and have a good chance to get in this year. Raines is in his final year on the ballot.

usatsi9223525.jpg
Vladimir Guerrero and Tim Raines are both Hall of Fame eligible this year. USATSI

Newcomers to the Hall of Fame ballot this year include Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero, Jorge Posada and Magglio Ordonez. It's entirely possible the 2017 Hall of Fame class will be four or five inductees deep. We'll find out on Jan. 18.

Mid-January: Deadline for teams and unsigned arbitration-eligible players to file salary figures. Most arbitration-eligible players will sign before this date, but if not, they'll submit the salary they feel they deserve to the arbitration panel, and the team will counter with what they feel the player deserves. The exact deadline date has not yet been set because the new collective bargaining agreement hasn't been finalized.

February: Arbitration hearings take place throughout the month, sometimes even after spring training begins. It's important to note the two sides can still agree to a contract of any size at any point prior to the arbitration hearing, even after filing salary figures.

The arbitration hearing itself can get ugly. The player and the team state their cases to the arbitration panel. They explain why the player deserves the salary they filed, not the salary the other side is requesting. The team basically details all of the player's shortcomings during the hearing. It's not fun. The three-person arbitration panel then awards the player either the salary he filed or the salary the team filed. Nothing in between.

March 7: The 2017 World Baseball Classic begins with pool play in Tokyo and South Korea. Here's the full WBC schedule.

March 22: The World Baseball Classic Championship Game at Dodger Stadium.

April 2: Opening Day! Well, not the real one. There are two games on Sunday, April 2: Yankees at Rays and Giants at Diamondbacks. The first full slate of games is the following day, April 3.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories