Baseball Season May Be Over, but Offseason Prep Work Just Beginning
Bob Toth | On 04, Nov 2017
While the 2017 Major League Baseball season just came to a close with the Houston Astros’ Game 7 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series on Wednesday night, teams and players are already hard at work preparing for the 2018 season.
For fans who have not gotten their fill of baseball for the season, there is plenty of action of all varieties still going on around the globe.
Arizona Fall League play continues in the desert as eight Indians prospects get in extra work for the Glendale Desert Dogs. The Indians prospects have been paired up with minor leaguers from the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Pittsburgh Pirates organizations.
Top Tribe prospect Francisco Mejia is the league’s leading hitter entering the day on Friday. The catcher is getting work in at third base in the offseason league to try to grant him the flexibility to factor into the Indians’ 2018 roster decisions in March. Time is limited behind the plate at present on the parent roster, with Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez providing plenty of defensive benefit to the club, but the bat of Mejia is one that the Indians could use moving forward. If the team can sneak him into action at third base and/or off of the bench regularly, it could be a nice upgrade moving forward.
The first half of Arizona Fall League play concluded on Friday afternoon. The Fall Stars Game is scheduled for a 8:08 PM ET start from Salt River Fields on Saturday, November 4, with Mejia and Angulo representing the Indians in the exhibition. Nine more games will be scattered over the rest of November before the championship game from Scottsdale Stadium at 4:08 PM ET on Saturday, November 18.
Caribbean League play is well under way as other prospects from around the game continue their progression towards future Major League careers.
The Dominican Winter League opened for business on October 13 and concludes on December 17. The league’s All-Star Game will take place on December 10. Three position players (Willi Castro, Michael Martinez, and Ronny Rodriguez) and six pitchers (Joe Colon, Carlos Frias, Alsis Herrera, Henry Martinez, Anderson Polanco, and Cole Sulser) from the Indians farm system are performing well thus far in league action.
The Venezuelan Winter League was one of the first offseason leagues to begin play this fall as it started its regular season activity on October 10. Games run through December 29. Yonathan Mendoza and Jorma Rodriguez are Indians position players in the league and are joined by pitchers D.J. Brown and Luis Lugo. Brown has not allowed a run in his first 12 2/3 innings of work.
The Mexican Pacific League schedule also began on October 10 and runs through December 29. The Cleveland organization does not have any representatives in the league, but former Tribe minor leaugers Chris Colabello (Charros de Jalisco), Quincy Latimore (Mayos de Navojoa), and Cedric Hunter (Yaquis de Obregon) are on rosters there. One-time Indians minor leaguer Benji Gil is the manager of the Tomateros de Culiacan squad.
Play in the Puerto Rican League typically kicks off at the end of October, but in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, games have been pushed back to January. Former Indians infielders Carlos Baerga and Ramon Vazquez are expected to be among the managers of the five-team league
Official league business is also being conducted around the Majors in what will once again be a busy offseason.
Players became eligible for free agency at 9 AM ET on Thursday, November 2. Teams have an exclusive rights window to negotiate for five days to follow. Contract options are due by November 4 on most players, although that is dependent upon contract language. Teams must return players on the 60-day disabled list to the 40-man roster by Monday, November 6.
Teams also have until 5 PM ET on Monday to determine if they will extend qualifying offers to their eligible free agents. Players given a qualifying offer have until November 13 to accept or decline the offer. Carlos Santana is the only player of the six Tribe free agents (Craig Breslow, Jay Bruce, Austin Jackson, Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith, and Santana) who would be deserving and eligible for such an offer (Bruce is not eligible after being acquired during this past season via trade). Draft pick compensation rules have changed for this season and are tied largely to whether a signing team received revenue sharing money during the 2017 season or if they paid luxury tax. The forfeiture of some international bonus money is also at stake with some of these signings. Teams that lose a free agent who was extended a qualifying offer will get a draft pick based on the contract signed by the free agent and whether or not the losing team paid luxury tax during the season.
Free agency truly gets rolling on Tuesday, November 7, as the five-day exclusivity window closes for teams with their own free agents and players can begin negotiating and signing with other teams.
November can also be considered award season for MLB. Beginning with the announcement of the BBWAA finalists on Monday, awards will be announced each week day for the next two weeks, almost exclusively on MLB Network. The lone exception is the first of the awards given, as ESPN will broadcast the Rawlings Gold Glove selections at 9 PM ET on Tuesday, November 7. In the days that follow next week, the Players Choice awards (11/8), the Louisville Silver Sluggers (11/9), and the Wilson Defensive Players of the Year (11/10) will be announced on MLB Network. The following week, the Jackie Robinson Rookies of the Year (11/13), the Managers of the Year (11/14), the Cy Young winners (11/15), the MVPs (11/16), and the Esurance MLB Awards (11/17) will be aired on MLB Network.
The GM Meetings are also scheduled for the week of November 13 in Orlando, Florida.
Teams must file their reserve lists by Monday, November 20. The Indians will need to make some decisions regarding their 40-man roster by that time in preparation for the Rule 5 draft. As a general rule of thumb, players drafted out of high school or signed as an international free agent in 2013 or drafted out of college in 2014 would be eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Eligible players not added to the 40-man roster by this date would be exposed to possible selection in the draft.
Baseball’s non-tender deadline is December 1. All players not already under contract (pre-arbitration players and arbitration-eligible players) must be offered a contract by this deadline or they will become a free agent. This is the date that arbitration eligible players could be cut loose by around the league by teams unwilling to pay their anticipated costs.
This season’s winter meetings are scheduled for the week of December 10 and will take place in Orlando. A top trade talk time of year, the week also hosts the Rule 5 Draft on December 14. Last season, the Indians selected left-handed reliever Hoby Milner from the Philadelphia Phillies and lost outfielder Anthony Santander to the Baltimore Orioles in the Major League portion of the draft. Four other minor leaguers were lost by the Tribe in the minor league phase of the draft.
Teams and agents have until January 13 to try to avoid arbitration. If the two sides cannot come to an agreement, arbitration hearings will be heard in February to resolve the contract argument.
The Indians should return to their spring home in Goodyear, Arizona, sometime in the middle of February. The exact dates for pitchers and catchers and then position players to report has not yet been announced by the club. the Indians’ spring training schedule is expected to be announced later in November.
Opening Day of the 2018 season for all 30 teams is scheduled for Thursday, March 29.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images