Hot Stove Season Starts Now – Time To Get Cookin’

The World Series is over. It took seven games of extraordinarily dramatic baseball with two future Hall of Fame managers engaged in a chess match.

Now what?

It’s time for The Suits to start their chess match.

Beginning at 9:00 AM EST (8:00 AM CST) the day after the World Series ends, General Managers and their most trusted aides take the Field of Negotiation and start the six-month long game to out-acquire and outbid each other. They will change the lives of players and their families. They change the landscape of their divisions and throw countless millions of dollars at people. And believe it or not, they can develop new rivalries.

This is the Hot Stove. Already, within the first week of Major League Baseball’s Winter, several dates come up to which one should pay attention.

November 3rd 9:00EST/8:00CST AM – Eligible Players Are Officially Free Agents, BUT…

All of those Free Agent players officially drop off of the payrolls of the team they played with on the last day of their respective seasons. Starting here, and for the next four days, however, that team has exclusive negotiating rights with said player. This is where General Managers will make their initial offers to the Free Agents they would want back. GMs will make offers to nearly 98% of Free Agents. These offers will not be for an outstanding amount of money, nor for a very lengthy amount of time. If you have a particular player you want to come back, fear not; this isn’t going to be the end of the negotiation.

What does it mean for the Rangers?

Let’s use Ian Desmond as an example. From November 3rd until 12:00 AM November 8th, Desmond can trade figures with the Rangers and only the Rangers. It’s unlikely that JD immediately offers the 4-year/$64 million contract that Jon Heyman projected. It’s also unlikely that Desmond accepts whatever deal Daniels puts on the table. It would be silly for either side to do either of those things. Don’t be alarmed. It’s just starting, after all.

November 5th – Contract Option Decision Deadline

Unless specifically outlined in the terms of the contract, both players and teams must officially exercise or decline whatever options they have for next year. If a player does not exercise the option, he is dropped into the Free Agent market. If a team does not exercise the option, a check is cut for the previously agreed upon buyout amount. The player then heads to Free Agency.

What does it mean for the Rangers?

All of that talk about Texas not picking up the option on left-handed pitcher Derek Holland is just that for right now – talk. On the 5th, if all of that talk is true, then Holland will deposit $1.5 million into his bank account and be cast out into the world of Free Agency.

If that sounds like a very short amount of time between the start of Hot Stove and this date, it is. It represents the amount of time Texas has to trade Derek Holland. If they want to trade him before they pay the $1.5 million buyout of course. If they trade him, what does that do? It may not seem like a lot, but whoever acquires Holland would have to pay his $11 million contract for 2017 – and Texas doesn’t have to pay Holland another cent, freeing up $1.5 million.

November 7th – Qualifying Offer Decision Deadline

For the 2017 season, the contract that teams may or may not offer to eligible players is for one year (as always) and a robust $17.2 million (the average of the top 125 player salaries for 2016). In order to be eligible for a Qualifying Offer, a player entering Major League Free Agency MUST have been with the offering team’s roster from the start of the season and not traded in the middle of the season.

AS OF NOW – an important qualifier with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and potential adjustments to this process on the horizon – players who accept this 1-year/$17.2 million contract don’t have to go through Free Agency. They have a job for next year. Players that do NOT accept this contract become Free Agents. Furthermore, if any of the other 29 teams signs that player, they forfeit either a first round pick (20 teams that had the top records in MLB) or a second round pick (10 teams that had the worst records in MLB) in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft.

What does it mean for the Rangers?

Ian Desmond, Mitch Moreland and Colby Lewis are eligible to be offered the 1-year/$17.2 million contract from the Rangers. Carlos Gomez and Carlos Beltran, acquired at the Trade Deadline, are NOT eligible to be offered that contract. Because of that, any team that signs Gomez or Beltran does not have to surrender a draft pick of any type.

November 8th – Free Agents Are Up For Grabs

At 12:01 AM on November 8th, all unsigned Free Agents are able to negotiate and sign with any team they desire. This will include straight-up Free Agents, players whose options have been declined, players that have refused outright assignments to minor league teams and players who have declined Qualifying Offers.

What does it mean for the Rangers?

The following Free Agents from the Major League roster, if they haven’t signed during the week, had options exercised or accepted the Qualifying Offer, can go talk to other teams:

  • Ian Desmond
  • Mitch Moreland
  • Colby Lewis
  • Carlos Gomez
  • Carlos Beltran
  • Derek Holland
  • Jonathan Lucroy

So that’s all that happens during the first week of the Hot Stove season. This is where Executives make their money and start putting the ingredients together for a winning – or rebuilding – team. We’ll have more on key off-season dates as they approach.

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Matt Fisher
Matt Fisher is an Editor/Staff Writer for ShutdownInning. He is a baseball lifer, preferring to use the eye test and rely on the knowledge and analysis of baseball minds greater than his, while using relevant stats to encourage situational discussions. He is also co-host of The Most Valuable Podcast on the NextWave Radio Network, talking sports, entertainment, and sports entertainment.

While Matt's favorite team will always be his hometown Texas Rangers, he knows the ongoing story lines of every team in Major League Baseball. If you sit next to him at a game, be prepared to hear him try and do play-by-play. If you're famous and reading this, just know that he's not afraid to drop names.

Matt Fisher. ShutdownInning Editor/Staff Writer

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