NEW YORK (AP) — Just hours after Koji Uehara struck out Matt Carpenter to give the Boston Red Sox their third World Series title in 10 years, baseball's business season got underway when 147 players became free agents.
This year's class includes second baseman Robinson Cano; outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo and Curtis Granderson; catcher Brian McCann; and pitchers Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson, Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Fernando Rodney.
About 30 more are potentially eligible to go free in the next few days, depending on the outcome of club, player and mutual options. The most prominent player in this group is Yankees captain Derek Jeter. After missing most of this season due to an ankle injury, Jeter must decide whether to exercise a $9.5 million player option.
Under the labor contract agreed to after the 2011 season, there's a new, slightly accelerated schedule to the business season. Here are five dates to watch: MONDAY: Teams must decide by 5 p.m. EST whether to make $14.1 million qualifying offers to their former players who became free agents. The figure, calculated as the average salary of the 125 highest-paid players, is up from $13.3 million last year, and replaced the old system of offering salary arbitration. Just nine players were given the offers last year — including David Ortiz and Josh Hamilton — and none accepted. If a team makes a qualifying offer and the player signs with a different club, his old team gets an extra selection in next June's amateur draft and his new club forfeits a pick. A team can make a qualifying offer only to a player who has been with that organization continuously since opening day.
NOV. 11: The deadline to accept qualifying offers is 5 p.m., and it coincides with the annual meeting of general managers, held this year in Orlando, Fla. A few trades sometimes get made, but this is generally a feeling-out session where GMs gauge what's available on the trade market and start to get a sense of free-agent prices from the agents in attendance. Owners meet on the final day, Nov. 14, and could approve rules for expanded video review of umpires' calls — pretty much everything but balls and strikes.
DEC. 2: The last day for teams to offer 2014 contracts to unsigned players, known in the industry as the tender date. Teams can avoid going to salary arbitration with a player by declining to offer a contract, which makes that player a free agent. Clubs threaten non-regulars with a non-tender and try to sign some of them without going to arbitration, where they might earn higher salaries.
DEC. 9: The start of the annual winter meetings, held this year in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. This is where much offseason business gets done — or at least put in place — during a session that ends Dec. 12. In an era when players have to take physicals before agreements are finalized, many contracts get agreed to but not announced — with completion pending the medical results. The Hall of Fame expansion era committee (1973 and later) meets ahead of the meetings and voting results are announced on the opening day of the session. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who died in 2010, and former players' association head Marvin Miller, who died last year, are among the potential candidates.
JAN. 17: The day teams and players exchange proposed figures in salary arbitration, and usually the busiest day of the offseason. Eighty-one players agreed to contracts on the exchange date last year. For players and clubs who can't agree, hearings are scheduled for the first three weeks of February, running into the start of spring training. Last year, for the first time since arbitration began in 1974, no players went to hearings.