2019-20 MLB offseason key dates: Free agency, Winter Meetings, Hall of Fame, awards and more

Wednesday night, the Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the World Series to clinch the franchise's first-ever championship. The Nationals were 19-31 after 50 games this season before going on a torrid hot streak that carried them right through October.

With the World Series now complete, the 2019-20 offseason is officially upon us, and some significant events are right around the corner. Here are the important dates and deadlines for the coming weeks and months. Make sure you bookmark this page for future reference.  

Oct. 31: As of 9 a.m. ET on Thursday, all eligible players are free agents. MLB used to make players file for free agency, which was a total waste of time. Now players automatically become free agents once eligible (i.e. six-plus years of service time). It is important to note free agents can not sign with new teams just yet. They have to wait five days for that. 

Nov. 2: Most contract option decisions are due on this date. Some contracts specify a different date -- the Phillies had to make their decision on Jimmy Rollins' 2011 club option following the 2009 season, for example -- but the vast majority have to be made three days after the World Series. Club options are controlled by the team, player options and opt-outs are held by the player, and mutual options are pointless. They are a way to move money to next year's payroll.

Some option decisions are no-brainers, like the Cubs picking up their $14.5 million option for Anthony Rizzo. This offseason's notable contract option decisions belong to Aroldis Chapman (can opt out of two years and $30 million), J.D. Martinez (can opt out of three years and $60 million), and Stephen Strasburg (can opt out of four years and $100 million). We already know the Indians will pick up their option on Corey Kluber, and that Jake Arrieta and Elvis Andrus will not opt out.

Nov. 3: Gold Glove winners announced. MLB has already revealed the three Gold Glove finalists at each position in each league.

Nov. 4: Finalists for the major 2019 awards are announced during a live MLB Network broadcast. Those awards are: Manager of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and Most Valuable Player. Three finalists are announced for each award in each league. MLB has been announcing finalists for a few seasons now in an effort to generate buzz.  

Nov. 4: Free agency begins. The five-day exclusive negotiating period will end next Monday and free agents will be truly free to negotiate and sign with any team. That said, much like the regular season, MLB free agency is a marathon, not a sprint. We (probably) won't see a rash of signings on Day 1 of free agency because MLB is not a salary-capped league (though the luxury tax has acted like a cap the last few years), and players aren't as worried about getting left out in the cold when cap space runs out.  

Nov. 4: Deadline for teams to tender their eligible free agents the qualifying offer. The qualifying offer is a one-year contract worth the average of the top 125 salaries, or $17.8 million this offseason. To be eligible for the qualifying offer, a player must have spent the entire 2019 season with his team and have never received the qualifying offer previously. The Cubs can make Cole Hamels the qualifying offer but not Nicholas Castellanos because he came over in a midseason trade. Here's a look at qualifying offer candidates.

Nov. 7: Silver Sluggers announced. If the Silver Slugger award is your thing, this is the date for you.  

Nov. 11-14: General manager meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona. Generally speaking, the GM meetings cover off-the-field matters, such as last postseason's sign stealing chaos. But, when you put all 30 GMs in one place, inevitably deals get discussed and sometimes completed. Last year the Mariners and Rays made the Mike Zunino/Guillermo Heredia/Mallex Smith trade at the GM meetings. Lots of groundwork is laid for deals that are completed at a later date at the GM meetings.

Nov. 11: Rookies of the Year announced during a live MLB Network broadcast. In our September voting, Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez and Mets record-setter Pete Alonso won the awards.

Nov. 12: Managers of the Year announced during a live MLB Network broadcast. In our September votingYankees manager Aaron Boone and Brewers manager Craig Counsell won the awards. 

Nov. 13: Cy Young winners will be announced during a live MLB Network broadcast. In our September voting, Astros co-ace Justin Verlander and Mets ace Jacob deGrom won the awards.

Nov. 14: Most Valuable Players announced during a live MLB Network broadcast. In our September votingAngels star Mike Trout and Dodgers wunderkind Cody Bellinger won the awards.

Nov. 14: Deadline for free agents to accept or reject the qualifying offer. Players who accept the qualifying offer sign that one-year, $17.8 million contract and remain with their team (players who accept the qualifying offer can not be traded until June 15 without their consent). Free agents who reject the qualifying offer are attached to draft pick compensation. Their former team receives a draft pick should they sign elsewhere, and their new team has to forfeit a draft pick and international bonus money. (The exact compensation depends on the contract size as well as the former team's revenue sharing and luxury tax situation.) Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Madison Bumgarner are among the free agents who will undoubtedly reject the qualifying offer this winter.

usatsi-135538101.jpg
Gerrit Cole will reject the qualifying offer and possibly sign the largest pitching contract in baseball history this offseason. USATSI

Nov. 18: Comeback Players of the Year announced. We did not vote for this award in September. Rangers outfielder Hunter Pence and Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson are among the top Comeback Player of the Year candidates.

Nov. 19: Designated Hitter of the Year announced. I reckon Twins slugger Nelson Cruz is the odds on favorite to win.

Nov. 19-21: Owners meetings in Arlington, Texas. The owners meetings are to handle off-the-field business matters. These typically aren't a big source of hot stove news, though occasionally we get a good sound bite.

Nov. 20: Deadline for teams to add eligible minor leaguers to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. Generally speaking, college players drafted no later than 2016 and high school players drafted no later than 2015 are Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter, as are players signed internationally no later than 2015. Among the notable Rule 5 Draft eligible prospects this winter are Braves center fielder Cristian Pache and Astros righty Forrest Whitley. Expect both (and many others) to be added to the 40-man roster on this date. (There are usually several minor trades on this date as teams get their 40-man roster in order. The Aledmys Diaz for Trent Thornton trade was made on the Rule 5 Draft protection deadline last year, for example.)

Dec. 2: Non-tender deadline. This is the deadline for teams to offer their pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players a contract for 2020. They don't have to sign them just yet, but they do have to offer a contract. Players who do not receive a contract offer are considered "non-tendered" and thus become free agents. Notable players are non-tendered every offseason as teams decide their salary outweighs their performance, and the trade market turns up nothing exciting. Mike Fiers, Avisail Garcia, and Billy Hamilton were among those non-tendered last offseason.

Dec. 8: Modern Baseball committee Hall of Fame voting results announced. A few years ago the Hall of Fame replaced the old Veterans Committee with four new "eras" committees that meet every few years. The four committees: Early Baseball (1871-1948), Golden Days (1950-69), Modern Baseball (1970-87), and Today's Game (1988 to present). The Modern Baseball committee will meet this year to vote on eligible players. The folks at Hall of Stats came up with some potential candidates for consideration by the Today's Game committee

Dec. 9-12: Winter Meetings in San Diego. This is typically when all offseason hell breaks loose. The Winter Meetings are the busiest week of the offseason, if not with big trades and free agent signings, than with gobs of rumors. It is four days (well, three days, really, since everyone heads home the last day) of non-stop hot stove action. Historically, the biggest moves of the offseason are consummated at the Winter Meetings. GMs can talk face-to-face with agents and other GMs to get things done.

usatsi-118220751.jpg
The 2020 MLB Winter Meetings will be held in sunny San Diego. USATSI

Dec. 12: Rule 5 Draft. By rule, players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on their new team's big league roster all season in 2020, otherwise they must go through waivers and be offered back to their original team. Keep in mind MLB is adding a 26th roster spot next year, which figures to make carrying a Rule 5 Draft pick a little easier. We could see more Rule 5 Draft activity than usual this offseason.

Teams are often looking for middle relievers, bench players, and/or lottery tickets in the Rule 5 Draft, and most players wind up back with their original team. Shortstop Richie Martin stuck all year with the Orioles as the No. 1 pick in last offseason's Rule 5 Draft. Joe Biagini, Mark Canha, Odubel Herrera, and Brad Keller are notable recent Rule 5 Draft success stories. The Rule 5 Draft is the unofficial end of the Winter Meetings. Everyone packs up and heads home after that. 

Jan. 10: Deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to submit salary figures. The player files what he believes he should be paid in 2020 while the team counters with that they believe the player should be paid in 2020. It is important to note the two sides can still agree to a contract of any size even after filing salary figures. The vast majority of arbitration-eligible players agree to a contract before filing salary figures. Matt Swartz and MLB Trade Rumors released salary arbitration projections earlier this month. Their model has proven to be quite accurate over the years.  

Jan. 20: BBWAA voting results for the 2020 Hall of Fame class announced. Among the first year eligible players joining the ballot this offseason are Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu, Cliff Lee, and Alfonso Soriano. Holdovers include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Larry Walker. Jeter is a lock for induction while Bonds (59.1 percent), Clemens (59.5 percent), and Schilling (60.9 percent) were within striking distance of the 75 percent threshold needed for induction last year. Baseball-Reference.com has the full 2020 Hall of Fame ballot.  

Feb. 3-21: Arbitration hearings. Inevitably, a few arbitration-eligible players and their teams are unable to come to terms on a contract each offseason, and they wind up in front of an arbitration panel. Each side makes their case and the three-person panel picks either the salary the player filed or the salary the team filed, nothing in between. Again, teams and players can work out a contract of any size prior to a hearing, even after filing salary figures. Trevor Bauer and Carlos Correa were among the notable players to go to an arbitration hearing last year.

Mid-February: Spring training camps across Florida and Arizona open. Hooray for that. Cactus League play begins Feb. 21 and Grapefruit League play begins Feb. 22.  

March 26: Opening Day! The earliest Opening Day in MLB history, in fact. (Not counting openers played internationally). Like the last two years, Opening Day is a Thursday. That accommodates a few more off-days throughout the season for each team.  

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