Ready or Not, the Offseason Has Officially Begun

With the Red Sox beating out the Cardinals last night, the offseason officially started today. If you're new to following baseball during the hot stove, or you want more specific dates, I posted the offseason schedule earlier this month. Just to quickly explain the process over the next couple of days and weeks, major league players, like Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Hiroki Kuroda are all officially free agents starting today. The Yankees have up until November 5th to offer any of their departing players a qualifying offer (1 year $14.1 million). The next day, November 6th, is the last day that organizations can exclusively negotiate with their departing free agents. For example, the Yankees are the only team that gets to talk to Cano about money and contract length up until this date. Other teams can express interest, talk about their offseason plans, but cannot discuss a contract with the second baseman. On November 11th, free agents must let teams know if they're accepting or rejecting the qualifying offer, and if they don't accept it, the team will receive a first-round compensation pick in the June draft, assuming they sign with another major league team. After this November 11th date, free agent signings usually begin. The GM Meetings also begin this day, where a lot of the blueprints for trades are worked out.

What should you expect from this offseason? This morning, Brad posted about the likelihood of Yankee players receiving qualifying offers. This is a process under the relatively new CBA, and no free agent accepted this offer last year. It did cost some free agents in the 2012-2013 offseason, as the draft pick compensation tied to these players means that the new signing team loses their own first-round pick (assuming it isn't protected). Due to the leverage lost in rejecting a qualifying offer, there's a good chance we see at least one, if not a few, players accepting qualifying offers this season.

Once teams know who will be returning and who will be testing the market after deciding on that $14.1 million offer, teams will have some of their offseason strategy set at the GM meetings, where they'll find out about players available by trade. Usually nothing really happens during this process, but the groundwork is laid for some deals to happen less than a month later at the Winter Meetings.

For the Yankees, who want to invest $300 million this offseason, the team will likely be very active on the free agent market. There are a number of needs, but the team also has a big problem to deal with that could hinder their offseason plans. If Alex Rodriguez is suspended, they'll have $27.5 million more to spend on the 2014 payroll. Yet, the team won't find out about the length of his suspension until December thanks to the ongoing arbitration process. I theorized that the interest in free agents expressed to the media by the Yankees recently could delay most of the major free agent signings this winter. With the Yankees' interest, free agents should see a boost in their leverage, and they'll likely wait until the team is ready to start spending. Because of this, I wouldn't expect the big names to start coming off the shelf until mid-December.

The Yankees still remain in an inopportune position, where their offseason strategy won't be confirmed until that Rodriguez decision comes down. They'll likely continue to send out rumors for the time being, as well as try their hand at re-signing Robinson Cano as soon as possible. We're due for a riveting offseason.