TORONTO — The Washington Nationals pulled off the improbable in seven games, but there’s zero downtime for front offices around Major League Baseball.
As of 9 a.m. on the morning after the World Series is decided, free agents can start the process of figuring out what the future holds, as the five-day countdown to free agency begins.
Houston Astros ace Gerrit Cole, the crown jewel of this year’s free-agent crop, moved on quicker than most Wednesday night, wondering aloud if he was even required to speak to the media following the loss because he was “not an employee of the team” anymore.
He then proceeded to do his interview in a ‘Boras Corporation’ hat, once again reminding us all how vital a role super-agent Scott Boras will play in everything that happens from here on out this winter.
Here’s a timeline for the entire off-season – from free agents filing to opening day in March – including some key points for the Blue Jays and general manager Ross Atkins:
2019 MLB Off-season timeline
Oct. 31: Eligible players become free agents
One day after World Series ends, eligible players become free agents. The clock also starts on a five-day quiet period where teams can negotiate exclusively with their own free agents, before free agency begins in earnest. Justin Smoak, Clay Buchholz and John Axford are the Blue Jays hitting the open market.
Nov. 3: Gold Glove winners
The Blue Jays have two players up for the defensive award in catcher Danny Jansen and Smoak at first base. Neither player is considered a favourite to win.
Nov. 4: BBWAA Award Finalists announced
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has a good chance to be named as one of the three finalists for American League rookie of the year. Houston Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez is the heavy favourite to win.
Nov. 4: Qualifying offer/option deadline
By the time the quiet period is up, teams must decide whether or not to extend a qualifying offer to their own free agents. This year, the QO is set at $17.8 million, down from $17.9 million in 2018. This is the first time the QO has gone down since the system was implemented in 2012. Players then have 10 days to decide whether to accept or decline the QO, and the ones who reject it will then be tied to draft pick compensation. The Blue Jays don’t have to worry about the QO this year, as none of their free agents are worth extending a qualifying offer to.
Nov. 7: Silver Slugger Awards
Nov. 11-14: GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Nov. 11: Rookie of the Year
Nov. 12: Manager of the Year
Nov. 13: Cy Young
Nov. 14: MVP
Nov. 14: Deadline to accept/reject qualifying offer
Nov. 19-21: MLB Owners Meetings in Arlington, Texas
Nov. 20: 40-man rosters must be set ahead of December’s Rule 5 draft
As is the case every November, each team around baseball will have a handful of interesting Rule 5 protection decisions to make, and the Blue Jays are no exception. Starting pitching usually takes precedence, making right-hander Tom Hatch, acquired at the trade deadline from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for reliever David Phelps, the only obvious candidate to be added from this list of key eligible prospect names: SS/2B Santiago Espinal (AAA), LHP Kirby Snead (AAA), RHP Bryan Baker (AAA), RHP Jackson McClelland (AAA), RHP Corey Copping (AAA), OF Forrest Wall (AAA), RHP Andrew Sopko (AAA), RHP Jon Harris (AAA), OF Josh Palacios (AA), RHP Tom Hatch (AA), LHP Jake Fishman (AA), LHP Danny Young (AA), RHP Curtis Taylor (AA), RHP Dany Jimenez (AA), 1B/3B Nash Knight (AA), SS Kevin Vicuna (A+), SS/3B Ronny Brito (A+), OF Demi Orimoloye (A+), OF Reggie Pruitt (A+), RHP Mike Ellenbest (A+), RHP Kyle Weatherly (AA), OF Mc Gregory Contreras (A), RHP Juan De Paula (A), RHP Jose Espada (A), C/1B Yorman Rodriguez (A). There’s usually a flurry of minor moves around baseball on this day as teams shuffle their 40-man rosters. Last year, Atkins shipped infielder Aledmys Diaz to the Houston Astros in exchange for starter Trent Thornton at this deadline.
Dec. 2: Non-tender deadline
It’s fully expected that oft-injured second baseman Devon Travis will no longer be a Blue Jay once this deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players on the 40-man roster comes and goes. As of today, six other Blue Jays need to be tendered contracts for 2020: Ken Giles, Matt Shoemaker, Brandon Drury, Ryan Tepera, Derek Law, and Luke Maile.
Dec. 8: Modern Baseball Era Committee (1970-87) Hall of Fame announcement
Dec. 9-12: Winter Meetings in San Diego, California
Dec. 12: Rule 5 draft
Jan. 10: Deadline for teams and players to exchange arbitration numbers
Jan. 18-19: Blue Jays Winter Fest at Rogers Centre
Jan. 21: BBWAA Hall of Fame results announced
This is Maple Ridge, B.C., product Larry Walker’s 10th and final year on the ballot. In 2019, a push for Walker helped him surge to 54.6 per cent of the vote, up from 34.1 per cent in 2018. He has a chance to get the 75 per cent required when voting results are announced in January. Interesting first-timers on the ballot include Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu, Cliff Lee and Jason Giambi. Controversial names such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling are also trending closer and closer to making the cut.
Feb. 3-21: Arbitration hearings for any unresolved contracts
Feb. 10-12: Pitchers and catchers report to Dunedin
Feb. 22: Blue Jays’ Grapefruit League opener vs. NYY in Tampa
Feb. 24: Blue Jays’ first spring home game vs. ATL in Dunedin
March 23-24: New York Yankees at Blue Jays in Montreal
March 26: Opening Day: Boston Red Sox at Blue Jays, 3:37 p.m.