The K Zone

Andy McCullough blogs about the Royals and baseball

Changes to note in baseball's off-season calendar

10/19/2012 10:56 AM

05/16/2014 8:02 PM

   Baseball's off-season calendar changes this year under the new labor agreement. Some things to be aware of: Options    There is now a specific window for when options must be exercised. The Royals' only option case is reliever Joakim Soria, who recently started throwing again after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April.    The Royals must decide within three days after the World Series concludes whether to pick up the $8 million guarantee for next season on Soria or exercise a $750,000 buyout clause. All signs point to the Royals taking the buyout and trying to negotiate a new deal with Soria, who is open to doing so.   Free-agent compensation    It received a complete overhaul. No longer are there any Type A or Type B free agents. Instead, clubs now receive compensation only if they make a qualifying offer to their free agents.    The only Royal currently eligible for free agency is pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, although Soria would also become a free agent if the club exercises its buyout.    The qualifying offer is the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball. That figure is not yet available, but industry estimates are it will be somewhere between $13-13.5 million.    Qualifying offers must be made within five days of the conclusion of the World Series. The player then has seven days to accept or reject the offer. If he accepts, he becomes a signed player -- although the two sides can continue to negotiate a longer-term deal.    If the player rejects the offer, he can still negotiate with his former club, but his team gets a draft pick as compensation if chooses to sign elsewhere. There is one exception to all of this: If doesn't apply to players who were traded during the previous season.    That means the Royals, even if willing to make a qualifying offer, can't get compensation for Guthrie, whom they obtained in July from Colorado for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez. (Similarly, the Angels can't get compensation for Zack Greinke, whom they acquired in July from Milwaukee.)   Would the Royals, if permitted, have made a qualifying offer -- $13 million or more -- to Guthrie? Probably not, although it presents an interesting academic question: Would it be worth grossly overpaying the market for one year in order to avoid a longer-term commitment while hoping he could provide a necessary bridge to the prospects and/or pitchers recovering from injuries (Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino)?    As it is, retaining Guthrie will likely require a deal of two-to-three years.   Arbitration    More players are eligible for super-2 status under the new agreement because the cutoff changes from the top 17 percent to the top 22 percent of players with between two and three years of major-league service.    Arbitration is automatic for any player who has at least three full years of service. (A club can, of course, choose to release or non-tender a player in order to avoid arbitration.) Free agency still requires six full years of service; there is no such thing as a super-5 for free agency.    The super-2 change won't affect the Royals. Their only potential qualifier is reliever Blake Wood, who would have almost certainly qualified under the previous system. (Yes, players accumulate service time while on the disabled list.)

   The Royals have five players eligible for arbitration: pitchers Luke Hochevar, Paulino and Wood; catcher Brayan Pena and second baseman Chris Getz.    In the past, the Royals often chose not to risk arbitration with backup players or middle relievers. That might put Pena, Wood and even Getz at risk if they fail to reach a negotiated settlement prior to the deadline.

Other dates    Nov. 20: All clubs must file reserve lists for all major- and minor-league levels. The key here is this marks the deadline for setting the 40-man roster and protecting players from eligibility for the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 6. This often means players must be released or designated for assignment to clear space for additions.    Nov. 30: This is the deadline for clubs to tender contracts to all players. Doing so with a player who is eligible for arbitration means the club accepts the possibility of arbitration. Players not offered contracts -- i.e, players who are "non-tendered" -- become free agents.    Dec. 3-6: Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn. The meetings conclude with the Rule 5 Draft.    

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