While Mariners fans have already spent weeks debating how much it will cost to sign Marcus Semien to play second base or started daydreaming of Kris Bryant playing third base and batting fourth in the lineup, the Major League Baseball offseason officially began Wednesday.
Less than 24 hours after the Braves hoisted the World Series trophy in Houston’s Minute Maid Park, teams could start the process of building their squads for 2022.
While the COVID-19 pandemic lingers, the expiring collective-bargaining agreement, the expected heated negotiations between the owners and the MLB Players Association and a likely work stoppage loom.
They could throw the offseason into a standstill, followed by a frenzy once it is settled.
Until then, here are some important dates.
Nov. 3 — The day after the final out of the World Series, players who have expiring major-league contracts become free agents. The Mariners have five players on the 40-man roster who will become free agents:
- James Paxton, LHP
- Tyler Anderson, LHP
- Sean Doolittle, LHP
- Joe Smith, RHP
- Hector Santiago, LHP
Mariners manager Scott Servais was vocal in wanting to bring Anderson back. Acquired at the trade deadline, Anderson posted a 2-3 record with a 4.81 ERA in 13 starts with the Mariners. In 31 total starts, he was 7-11 with a 4.53 ERA.
Paxton is recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery after exiting his first start of the season. He said he would like to return for the 2022 season, but the Mariners likely won’t offer more than a minor-league contract.
The Mariners have a five-day window to negotiate with their free agents before other teams can make offers.
Nov. 7 — The Gold Glove Award winners will be announced on ESPN at 4 p.m. Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford, who won in 2020, was named a finalist at his position with Carlos Correa (Astros) and Andrelton Simmons (Twins).
Nov. 8 — The finalists for the annual awards from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will be announced on MLB Network. Servais should be named as one of three finalists for American League Manager of the Year.
This is also the deadline for teams to exercise or decline club options for 2022. The Mariners had two players with club options — third baseman Kyle Seager and left-handed pitcher Yusei Kikuchi.
The Mariners informed Seager that they would not exercise his $20 million option for 2022. They will pay a $2 million buyout.
The Mariners declined Kikuchi’s club option, which was for four years at $16.5 million per season, turning it into a $13 million player option for 2022. Kikuchi declined that option, becoming a free agent.
This is also a deadline for teams to reinstate all remaining players on the 60-day injured list and add them to the 40-man roster.
As of Tuesday, the Mariners had six players on the 60-day IL:
- Paxton (Tommy John surgery)
- Justin Dunn, RHP (right shoulder strain)
- Nick Margevicius, LHP (thoracic outlet syndrome surgery)
- Ken Giles, RHP (Tommy John surgery)
- Evan White, 1B (hip surgery)
- Kyle Lewis, RF (knee surgery)
Nov. 8 — The MLB general managers meetings begin in Carlsbad, California, and run through Nov. 11. GM Jerry Dipoto said recently on his weekly show on ESPN 710 that the GM meetings have replaced the MLB winter meetings as the time when trades come together.
Nov. 9 — Six days after the World Series, free agents can sign with other teams after 2 p.m. PT. Also, players not on a 40-man roster and with at least seven seasons in the minor leagues can become free agents. Players such as infielder Shed Long Jr., 1B/outfielder Jake Bauers, infielder/outfielder Sam Haggerty, catcher Jose Godoy and several players with Class AAA Tacoma will become free agents. First baseman Jose Marmolejos has already elected free agency.
Nov. 11 — The Silver Slugger Award winners will be announced on MLB Network. Seager and outfielder Mitch Haniger are finalists.
Nov. 15 — The BBWAA’s Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award winners for the AL and NL will be announced on MLB Network
Nov. 16 — The AL and NL Manager of the Year Award winners will be announced on MLB Network. Much of this award is based on preseason expectations vs. actual results. The Mariners were expected to finish third in their division and win around 70 games. They finished 90-72 and entered the final day of the season with a chance for the postseason.
Nov. 17 — The AL and NL Cy Young Award winners will be announced on MLB Network.
Nov. 18 — The AL and NL Most Valuable Player Award winners will be announced on MLB Network.
Nov. 19 — The deadline for teams to place players who are eligible for the Rule 5 draft on the 40-player roster. Those players must be added by 5 p.m.; otherwise they can be selected in the Rule 5 draft, which is held on the final day of the MLB winter meetings.
Players who signed contracts at age 18 or younger must be added to the 40-player roster within five seasons, or they’ll become eligible. Players who signed at 19 or older must be put on the 40-player roster within four seasons.
Here are the Mariners’ prospects ranked in Baseball America’s Top 30 organizational rankings who are eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 draft if not added to the 40-man roster:
- Julio Rodriguez, RF (No. 1)
- Alberto Rodriguez, CF (No. 23)
- Luis Liberato, CF (No. 25)
- Penn Murfee, RHP (No. 29)
One player not on the prospect list who the Mariners could add to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 is hard-throwing lefty Raymond Kerr. He was an undrafted free agent signed in 2017. Right-hander Sam Carlson, once a top prospect in the organization, is also Rule 5 eligible.
Dec. 1 — The collective-bargaining agreement between owners and players expires at 11:59 p.m. ET. Multiple reports say the hope of a new agreement being reached before the deadline is tenuous at best.
Most insiders predict that MLB owners will lock out the players when the CBA expires as a bargaining tool. If there is a lockout, the expectation is that free agent signings would be put on hold by MLB or by the choice of teams and agents with the outcome of the agreement having serious implications on contract structure and value. It would be the ninth work stoppage in MLB’s history and first lockout since 1990.
If there is a lockout, MLB could issue a transaction freeze, meaning there could be no signing of free agents or trades.
Dec. 2 — Teams must decide whether to tender contracts to club-controlled players on their 40-man roster. It’s not a common occurrence, but there are times when teams will decide to non-tender a player who is salary-arbitration eligible and is coming off a down season or injury and wouldn’t be worth paying an increased salary for the upcoming season.
The Mariners have nine players who are eligible for salary arbitration and will see raises. Usually, a player’s representative and the team each submit salary based on parameters on performance, with both sides trying to find a common ground.
The arbitration-eligible players and their projected salaries from MLB Trade Rumors:
- Mitch Haniger, OF — $8.5 million
- Drew Steckenrider, RHP — $2.1 million
- Tom Murphy, C — $1.7 million
- J.P. Crawford, SS — $5 million
- Diego Castillo, RP — $2.6 million
- Paul Sewald, RP — $1.8 million
- Casey Sadler, RP — $1.3 million
- Dylan Moore, INF/OF — $1.6 million
- Luis Torrens, C — $1.6 million
If the Mariners decide to non-tender a player, they would likely make the decision before Dec. 1. Of the possible arbitration eligible players who might be non-tendered, Moore, outfielder Jake Fraley and Murphy are potential candidates.
Dec. 6 — The MLB winter meetings are scheduled to start in Orlando and run through Dec. 9. However, per MLB sources and multiple reports, the meetings would be canceled if there is work a stoppage.
Dec. 9 — The MLB Rule 5 draft is held on the last day of the winter meetings. It would likely be postponed until a CBA is reached.