2017-18 MLB Offseason: Free agency, Winter Meetings, other important dates

Wednesday night, the Houston Astros won the first World Series championship in franchise history with a 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7. The Astros and their fans sat through a long, long rebuild to get to this moment.

With the World Series now complete, the 2017-18 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. 2: 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. 4: Most contact option decisions due. Some contracts stipulate a different date for option decisions -- usually much earlier than the Nov. 4 deadline, not later -- though that doesn't happen all that often these days. Notable looming option decisions involve Michael Brantley ($11 million club option), Asdrubal Cabrera ($8.5 million club option), Masahiro Tanaka (can opt-out of final three years and $67 million on contract), and Justin Upton (can opt-out of final four years and $88 million on contract). Here is our player opt-out preview.

Nov. 6: Deadline to make eligible free agents the qualifying offer. The qualifying offer has been set at $17.4 million this offseason. As a reminder, only free agents who were with their team the entire 2017 season are eligible for the qualifying offer. That means big name free agents like Jay Bruce, Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, and Upton (if he opts out) can not receive the qualifying offer because they were traded at midseason. Also, players who received a qualifying offer in previous years are not eligible to receive it again, which rules out Carlos Beltran and John Lackey.

Among the free agents expected to receive the qualifying offer this offseason are Jake Arrieta, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Eric Hosmer, Lance Lynn, Mike Moustakas, Carlos Santana, and Tanaka (if he opts out).

Nov. 6: Awards finalists announced. That is the Rookies of the Year, Managers of the Year, Cy Youngs, and MVPs. For several years now MLB has been announcing three finalists for each award in each league ahead of time to build hype. Nothing wrong with that.  

Nov. 7: Free agency begins. The five-day exclusive negotiating period will end next Tuesday, allowing free agents to talk and sign with any team. This is the day the offseason really gets underway.

Nov. 7: Gold Glove winners announced. Here are the finalists. There are three finalists at each position in each league.

Nov. 8: Silver Slugger winners announced. There are no finalists for these. They just announce the winners. The Silver Slugger is given to the best offensive player at each position in each league as determined by a poll of managers and coaches.

Nov. 13: Qualifying offer decisions due. Players get seven days to mull things over. Players who accept the qualifying offer return to their team on a one-year contract worth $17.4 million. Players who reject the qualifying offer are attached to draft pick compensation. 

The new collective bargaining agreement changed the draft pick compensation rules considerably. No longer do teams give up their highest unprotected draft pick to sign a qualified free agent, nor do they automatically receive a supplemental first round pick for losing a qualifying free agent. Here are the new rules:

Sign a qualified free agent

  • Signing team received revenue sharing money in 2017: Forfeits their third highest 2018 draft pick. Keep in mind this is not necessarily their third rounder.
  • Signing team paid luxury tax in 2017: Forfeits second and fifth highest 2018 draft picks, plus $1 million in international bonus money during the 2018-19 signing period.
  • All other teams: Forfeit second highest 2018 draft pick plus $500,000 in international bonus money during the 2018-19 signing period.

Lose a qualified free agent

  • Player signs deal worth $50 million or more: Former team receives a 2018 draft pick after the first round.
  • Player signs deal worth less than $50 million: Former team receives a 2018 draft pick after Competitive Balance Round B, which is before the third round.
  • Former team paid luxury tax in 2017: The compensation 2018 draft pick is after the fourth round regardless of contract size.

Got all that? It wasn't until two years ago that players started accepting the qualifying offer, which could very well happen again this year.

Nov. 13-16: Major award winners announced. The Rookies of the Year will be announced Monday, followed by Managers of the Year on Tuesday, Cy Youngs on Wednesday, and MVPs on Thursday. Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger will win the Rookie of the Year awards, possibly unanimously. That much is certain. The other awards are pretty much up in the air. Keep in mind voting for all the major awards was completed after the regular season but before the postseason. The playoffs have no bearing on the outcome. These are regular season awards.

Nov. 13-16: GM Meetings in Orlando. The GM Meetings are held each year primarily to handle off-the-field matters, though when you stick all 30 general managers in one place for a week, deals tend to happen. Two years ago the Andrelton Simmons trade went down at the GM Meetings, for example. 

Nov. 20: Deadline for teams to add Rule 5 Draft eligible prospects to the 40-man roster. An important deadline! Though kind of a boring one. Generally speaking, prospects who were drafted out of college in 2014 or high school in 2013, or signed as an international free agent in 2013, are Rule 5 Draft eligible this offseason. Among the notable Rule 5 Draft eligible prospects this winter are Eloy Jimenez (White Sox), Austin Meadows (Pirates), and Gleyber Torres (Yankees).

Dec. 1: Non-tender deadline. The non-tender deadline is usually Dec. 2, but because that falls on a Saturday this year, MLB moved it up to Dec. 1. Anyway, this the deadline for teams to make contract offers to their pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players. Any eligible player who does not receive a contract offer becomes a free agent, so a whole batch of new free agents will hit the market this day. Those who get non-tendered tend to be flawed (or seriously injured) players who are deemed no longer worth their projected 2018 salaries, not stars.

Dec. 10-14: The Winter Meetings in Orlando, baseball's annual hot stove bonanza. These are the busiest days of the offseason, bar none. The biggest trades and free agent signings tend to go down at the Winter Meetings, plus there is a non-stop barrage of rumors as well. It's a fun week. Hectic, but a lot of fun. This is when all hot stove hell breaks loose.

Dec. 14: The Rule 5 Draft, which serves as the unofficial end of the Winter Meetings. Players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on their new team's active 25-man roster all next season, or be placed on waivers and offered back to their former team. Clubs have been getting better and better at finding hidden gems in the Rule 5 Draft in recent years. Luis Perdomo, Joe Biagini, and Matt Bowman were all Rule 5 Draft picks two years ago who have since turned into valuable big leaguers. The Phillies struck Rule 5 Draft gold with Odubel Herrera three years ago.

Jan. 13: Deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to submit salary figures. The player files what he feels he deserves to be paid in 2018 while the team counters with what they feel the player deserves to be paid. It should be noted most players don't get to this point. Most will sign new contracts before the filing deadline, and even if the two sides do exchange figures, they can still negotiate a contract of any size after this date. It's an administrative deadline more than a hard "you need to get a deal done by this date" deadline.

Mid-January: The 2018 Hall of Fame class will be announced. Both Trevor Hoffman and Vlad Guerrero fell only a handful of votes short of induction last year and figure to get over the hump this year. Among the newcomers on this year's ballot are Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones, Omar Vizquel, and Johnny Damon.

Early-to-mid February: Arbitration hearings. In the event the two sides can not work out a contract, they'll go to an arbitration hearing, where a three-person panel will listen to arguments, then award the player either the salary figure he filed or the salary figure the team filed. Nothing in between. 

Arbitration hearings can get ugly -- you may remember Yankees present Randy Levine ripping Dellin Betances after their arbitration hearing last year -- and the vast majority of arbitration-eligible players never get to this point. The two sides try to get a deal done before the hearing. There are always a handful of hearings each year though. They're unavoidable.

Mid-February: Spring training begins! Camps across Florida and Arizona will open as players and teams begin preparing for the 2018 season. The 30 clubs will announce their spring reporting dates throughout the offseason.

March 29: Opening Day! All 30 teams open on the same day next season. Also, Opening Day is a Thursday next year. Not a Sunday or Monday as usual. The MLBPA pushed for a few extra off-days during the season as part of the new collective bargaining agreement, so to accommodate those extra off-days, Opening day was moved up a bit.

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

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