Tuesday night, the Atlanta Braves defeated the Houston Astros in Game 6 to clinch the franchise's first World Series championship since 1995. It's their second title since moving to Atlanta in 1966. The Braves had to overcome quite a bit of adversity, most notably Ronald Acuña Jr.'s injury, to win the championship.
With the World Series now complete, the 2021-22 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.
Nov. 3: As of 9 a.m. ET on Wednesday, all eligible players are free agents. MLB used to make players file for free agency, which was a 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. These next few days are considered an exclusive negotiating period where the player can only speak to his previous team.
Nov. 7: Most contract option decisions are due on this date. Some contracts specify a different date -- the Yankees had to make a decision on Zack Britton's 2022 club option last offseason, for example -- but the vast majority have to be made within five days of the end of the World Series. Club options are controlled by the team, player options and opt-outs are controlled by the player, and mutual options are pointless. They are essentially a way to move money to next year's payroll.
Some option decisions are no-brainers, like Cleveland picking up their $11 million club option for José Ramírez. This offseason's notable contract option decisions include Nick Castellanos (can opt out of two years and $34 million), Buster Posey ($22 million club option), JD Martinez (can opt out of one year and $19.375 million), and Craig Kimbrel ($16 million club option).
Nov. 7: 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 $18.4 million this offseason. To be eligible for the qualifying offer, a player must have spent the entire 2021 season with his team and have never received the qualifying offer previously. For example, the Mets can make Michael Conforto the qualifying offer but not Marcus Stroman because he received it last offseason.
Nov. 7: Free agency begins. The exclusive negotiating period ends and free agents are 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 because MLB is not a salary-capped league, and free agents aren't as worried about getting left out in the cold when cap space runs out. Also, free agency may be slower than usual this winter given the looming collective bargaining agreement.
Nov. 7: Gold Glove winners announced during a live ESPN broadcast at 8:30 p.m. ET..
Nov. 8: Finalists for 2021's major awards will be announced during a live MLB Network broadcast at 6 p.m. ET. 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. 9-11: GM Meetings in Carlsbad, California. Generally speaking, the GM Meetings cover off-the-field matters, such as the ongoing foreign substance crackdown. But when you put all 30 GMs in one place, inevitably deals get discussed and sometimes completed. Three years ago the Mariners and Rays made the Mike Zunino trade at the GM Meetings, for example. Lots of groundwork is laid for deals that are completed at a later date at the GM Meetings.
Nov. 11: Silver Sluggers announced during a live MLB Network broadcast at 6 p.m. ET. If the Silver Slugger award is your thing, this is the date for you.
Nov. 17: Deadline for free agents to accept or reject the qualifying offer. Players who accept the qualifying offer sign that one-year, $18.4 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.) Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, Corey Seager, and Marcus Semien are among the free agents who will undoubtedly reject the qualifying offer this winter. They have larger paydays coming.
Nov. 19: 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 2018 and high school players drafted no later than 2017 are Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter, as are players signed internationally no later than 2017. Among the notable Rule 5 Draft eligible prospects this winter are Mariners outfielder Julio Rodríguez and Reds righty Hunter Greene. Expect both (and many others) to be added to the 40-man roster on this date. It should be noted there are usually several minor trades on this date as teams get their 40-man roster in order. The Aledmys Díaz for Trent Thornton trade was made on the Rule 5 Draft protection deadline three years ago, for example.
Nov. 22: The 2022 Hall of Fame ballot will be released on this date. Just the ballot will be announced. The voting results and 2021 Hall of Fame class will be revealed at a later date. Here are the players eligible for this year's ballot. Most notably, this is year 10 of 10 on the ballot for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling. David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez are the biggest names scheduled to join the Hall of Fame ballot this year.
Dec. 1: Non-tender deadline. This is the deadline for teams to offer their pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players a contract for 2022. 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 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. Archie Bradley, Carlos Rodón, Eddie Rosario, and Kyle Schwarber were among those non-tendered last offseason.
Dec 1: The collective bargaining agreement expires at 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 1, and calling this the most important day of the offseason is not hyperbole. Either MLB and the MLBPA will agree to a new CBA by this date, or they won't, and the sport will have its first work stoppage since the 1994-95 strike. That does not automatically mean the start of the 2022 season will be delayed and games will be missed, but it will mean MLB and MLBPA do not have an agreement in place to conduct a season.
"It's hard to characterize progress," commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters, including James Wagner of the New York Times, prior to Game 1 of the World Series. "Progress is you go in the room, you're having conversations, people are continuing to talk. It doesn't move in any measurable way that I've ever figured out, and I've done it a long time. The most important point is I know our clubs are 100 percent committed to the idea that they want an agreement by Dec. 1."
It's important to note that even during a work stoppage, trades and signings and all that can happen. Jack McDowell was traded and Tony Gwynn signed a new contract extension during the 1994-95 work stoppage, for example. Now, just because transactions can happen doesn't mean they will. Owners may not (likely won't) want to set their 2022 budget until seeing the terms of the new CBA. The new CBA could change the sports economic landscape significantly. We'll just have to wait and see.
Here's everything you need to know about the CBA. Every important deadline and event listed from this point forward is subject to change pending the new agreement.
Dec. 5: The Early Baseball Era Committee and Golden Days Era Committee will meet to consider long-retired managers, umpires, executives, and players for the Hall of Fame. The Early Baseball Era Committee considers those who made their contributions prior to 1950 and the Golden Days Era Committee considers those from 1950-69, and their results will be announced during a live MLB Network broadcast that evening. Negro Leaguers and pre-Negro Leaguers will be eligible for Hall of Fame induction for the first time since the 2006 Special Committee voted 17 Negro Leaguers and pre-Negro Leaguers into Cooperstown.
Dec. 6-9: Winter Meetings in Orlando, Florida. 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.
Dec. 9: 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 2022, otherwise they must go through waivers and be offered back to their original team. Teams are often looking for middle relievers, platoon bats, and lottery tickets in the Rule 5 Draft, and most players wind up back with their original team. That said, 2021 was a banner year for Rule 5 Draft picks, with Red Sox righty Garrett Whitlock and Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo both topping 2 WAR. The lost minor league season a year ago made it inevitable that some players would slip through the cracks, and guys better than the usual Rule 5 Draft fodder would be available.
Jan. 14: Deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to submit salary figures. The player files what he believes he should be paid in 2022 while the team counters with that they believe the player should be paid in 2022. It is important to note the two sides can still agree to a contract of any size even after filing salary figures, and the vast majority of arbitration-eligible players agree to a contract before the filing deadline. Matt Swartz and MLB Trade Rumors released their salary arbitration projections in mid-October. Their model has proven to be quite accurate over the years.
Jan. 15: The 2022 international signing period opens. The signing period typical runs July 2nd to June 25th each year, though last year MLB and the MLBPA agreed to push the start of the 2021 and 2022 signing periods back for pandemic reasons. (MLB is also laying the ground work for an international draft by setting the signing period neatly in one calendar year.) Here is MLB.com's list of this year's top 30 international prospects. Dominican shortstop Roderick Arias, the No. 1 prospect, is expected to sign with the Yankees.
Jan. 25: 2022 Hall of Fame class announced. The ballot is revealed in November, votes are compiled in the following weeks, then the results are announced in the dog days of the offseason. Schilling was 16 votes short of induction last year and asked to be removed from the ballot, though the Hall of Fame denied his request. This winter's Hall of Fame voting results will be the most interesting in quite some time.
Jan. 31 to Feb. 18: Arbitration hearings. Inevitably, a few arbitration-eligible players and their teams will be unable to come to terms on a contract, and they'll wind up in front of an arbitration panel. Each side makes their case -- the hearings can be contentious because the team essentially outlines the player's shortcomings and explains why he deserves a lower salary than he believes -- 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. Jack Flaherty, Ian Happ, and Dansby Swanson were among the notable players to go to an arbitration hearing last offseason.
Mid-February: Spring training camps open across Florida and Arizona (each team sets their own reporting dates for pitchers and catchers, and position players). Cactus League and Grapefruit League play begins Feb. 26 with every team in action.
March 31: And, finally, Opening Day 2022. All 30 clubs will be in action on Opening Day, with 11 of the 15 games featuring intradivision matchups. Here's what you need to know about the 2022 MLB schedule.