With the Red Sox taking down the Rockies, it’s time to look toward 2008. I can’t tell you how much my wife gets annoyed with the idea that baseball never seems to sleep. The regular season is fun, but the off-season can be just as fun and suspenseful now that free agency has boomed over the past 15 to 20 years. I’d like to put a spotlight on some key dates to watch as we inch closer to the new season.

 

 
 

Fresh off his recent resignation, Joe Torre, appears ready to sign on as the new manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers plan to fire Grady Little to make room. (Source)

The Yankees have offered their coaching job to Joe Girardi, who is expected. Don Mattingly is expected to not return as part of the coaching staff as a result. (Source)

Alex Rodriguez has decided to opt out of his contract and become a free agent this off-season. He joins a pretty good crop of household names in the pool this offseason. The timing of the announcement angered the commissioners office because of the fact that it stole some of the spotlight of the World Series. (Source)
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Even though the Yankees appear to be dominating the news of late, I really don’t expect them to be the talk of the town this off-season. With George Steinbrenner in the final stages of his ownership of the team, I really think the way the Yankees do business is going to change.

 

November 12th, 2007 – Last day for eligible players to file for free agency. Until this day, the former club has exclusive rights to negotiate a new deal with the player. This came into play with Aramis Ramirez when the Cubs went right to the wire trying to re-sign him. Ramirez went to the open market but quickly re-signed with the Cubs, despite being able to listen to other offers. Here are some potential players who are eligible to file for free agency from the Cubs:

- Jason Kendall
- Steve Trachsel (Club Option for $4.75 million)
- Kerry Wood
- Daryle Ward (Club Option for $1.2 million)
- Cliff Floyd (Mutual Option)
- Scott Eyre ($3.8 million player option)

November 13th, 2007 – First day Major League free agents may negotiate and sign with a club other than their former club

November 5th – 8th, 2007 – General Managers meetings in Orlando, FL

December 1st, 2007 – Last day for a team to offer arbitration to their players who have filed for free agency. Some teams elect not to do this for fear that the player will accept the offer and win in arbitration. A team must offer arbitration if they want to receive draft pick compensation for their lost player in the June draft. Failure to offer arbitration means you take the safe route, but get nothing if the player leaves to another team.

December 3rd – 6th, 2007 – Winter Meetings in Nashville, TN
These used to be a lot more exciting in terms of franchise type deals and big signings, but now they simply seem to be a lot more smoke and less fire. Maybe this year will be different with A-Rod dangling out there for teams and an upset Johan Santana after the Twins laid an egg around the trade deadline.

December 6th, 2007 – Rule 5 Draft

Here is a real good description of the Rule 5 from Wikipedia:

As in the amateur draft, the selection order of the teams is based on each team’s win-loss record from the prior regular season, each round starting with the team with the worst record and proceeding in order to the team with the best record. Any player selected under Rule 5 is immediately added to his new team’s 40-man roster; thus, teams who do not have an available roster spot may not participate in the Rule 5 draft. Players who are not currently on their team’s 40-man roster are eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft, but only after a standard exemption period has elapsed. See Exemptions to Selection Eligibility below.

If chosen in the Rule 5 draft, a player must be kept on the selecting team’s 25-man major league roster for the entire season after the draft–he may not be optioned or designated to the minors. The selecting team may, at any time, waive the Rule 5 draftee. If a Rule 5 draftee clears waivers by not signing with a new MLB team, he must be offered back to the original team, effectively canceling the Rule 5 draft choice. Once a Rule 5 draftee spends an entire season on his new team’s 25-man roster, his status reverts to normal and he may be optioned or designated for assignment.

To prevent the abuse of the Rule 5 draft, the rule also states that the draftee must be active for at least 90 days. This keeps teams from drafting players, then placing them on the disabled list for the majority of the season. For example, if a Rule 5 draftee was only active for 67 days in his first season with his new club, he must be active for an additional 23 games in his second season to satisfy the Rule 5 requirements.

Any player chosen in the Rule 5 draft may be traded to any team while under the Rule 5 restrictions, but the restrictions transfer to the new team. If the new team does not want to keep the player on its 25-man roster for the season, he must be offered back to the team of which he was a member when chosen in the draft.

December 7th, 2007 – Last day for players who have been offered salary arbitration to accept or decline the offer. The team may continue to try to work out a deal with the player in the event that he declines the arbitration offer.

February 1st – 21st, 2008 – Salary arbitration hearings are held and players are either rewarded with their desire or are forced to settle for what the team requested. It’s one or the other.

February 14th, 2008 – Voluntary reporting date for pitchers & catchers.

February 26th, 2008 – Mandatory reporting day for all other players

March 30th, 2008 – Opening Day. All rosters reduced to 25 players before today.

Hopefully that helps and will serve as a nice reference point as you follow throughout this off-season.

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail