The 2020-21 Offseason Begins

The most unusual season in baseball history is officially in the books, as the Dodgers notched a 3-1 victory in Game 6 last night to clinch the World Series.  It was the Dodgers’ first championship since 1988, and the drought felt particularly long given the team’s multiple postseason near-misses in recent years, most notably coming up short in both the 2017 and 2018 World Series.

The immediate aftermath of Game 6, however, focused equally on both the Dodgers’ triumph and the controversy surrounding Justin Turner’s positive COVID-19 test, which led to his removal in the eighth inning of last night’s game.  Much more will be written about Turner’s situation and MLB’s health protocols in the coming days and months, yet it serves as something of an ironic end to a season that will be forever defined by the coronavirus pandemic.

That same uncertainty over COVID-19 will spread into the offseason.  At the moment, Major League Baseball has little idea about how anything related to the 2021 season will proceed — how Spring Training will operate, when a new season will start, the length of said season (though a full 162-game schedule has been drafted), whether or not fans will be permitted to attend games, how the arbitration process will proceed, etc.  All these unknown factors will certainly impact how teams go about their normal offseason business, as it is widely expected that the large majority of clubs will look to limit or cut spending.  The threat of more labor unrest also hangs over the proceedings, as the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2021 season.

Amidst it all, MLB Trade Rumors will continue to provide full coverage of all baseball news in the coming months.  Our projected arbitration numbers are already live, and our annual Top 50 Free Agents list and Free Agent Prediction contest are both expected to be posted early next week.  You can also follow our ongoing Offseason Outlook series for a team-by-team breakdown of what each club may look to do this winter.

Here is a list of notable dates to monitor for offseason business…

Today: The beginning of a five-day period where teams and players must decide whether to exercise or decline contract options and opt-out clauses for the 2021 season.  All eligible free agents are officially now “free agents,” though they cannot sign with anyone but their current team for five more days.

NOVEMBER 1: The deadline for teams to issue qualifying offers (one-year, $18.9MM contracts) to eligible free agents, at 4pm CT.  Players issued qualifying offers then have ten days to decide on accepting or declining the QO.  For more on what this year’s qualifying offer market could look like, click here and here.

NOVEMBER 2: Free agency officially opens, five days after the conclusion of the World Series.

EARLY NOVEMBER: The GM Meetings take place, this year in virtual fashion rather than an in-person event for team general managers and front office staffers, as well as player agents.

NOVEMBER 20: Teams must finalize their 40-man rosters in advance of the Rule 5 Draft on December.  Any draft-eligible players within an organization who aren’t on a 40-man roster can be selected in the Rule 5 by another team.

DECEMBER 2: The deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players.  A very large number of non-tenders are expected, as clubs look to save on payroll.

DECEMBER 6: The Winter Meetings are scheduled to take place in Dallas.  While no official word has been made, it is expected that the in-person Winter Meetings will be canceled, and some version of the event may take place online.

DECEMBER 10: The Rule 5 Draft.  Normally set for the final day of the Winter Meetings, the draft is expected to proceed as scheduled, just remotely.

JANUARY 15: The opening of the 2020-21 international signing period.  A new addition to the winter calendar, the international signing window was pushed back from its usual July 2 date due to the pandemic.  The 2020-21 signing period ends on December 15, 2021.  The 2021-22 int’l signing window also won’t begin on July 2, 2021, as that period has now been pushed to January 15, 2022-December 15, 2022.

JANUARY 15: The deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to submit their salary figures to the league, if a deal hasn’t been reached by this date.  Teams and players who can’t reach an agreement will go to an arbitration hearing to determine the player’s 2021 salary.  With teams increasingly deploying the “file and trial” strategy of using the arb deadline as a strict date for working out contracts, any unsettled arbitration situations by this point are likely to advance to a hearing, though teams and players can agree to a contract at any point prior to the hearing actually taking place (most hearings are held in February).

FEBRUARY 27: The first Spring Training games are scheduled to take place.  The actual opening of Spring Training camps should roughly begin two or three weeks prior, though that has yet to be determined.

APRIL 1: Opening Day

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