Here are the important dates of the offseason. Use this is as a handy reference...
1. Contract options: The only Angels contract option for the 2012 season is Bobby Abreu's player option. Unless the United States is has a run of inflation to surpass late-Weimar Germany during the World Series, Bobby will exercise his option in the ten day window after the conclusion of the series. Next year the club has options on Ervin Santana and Dan Haren.
2. Free Agent filings: On the day after the conclusion of the 2011 World Series, players on their major league roster whose contracts expire at the end of this season with at least six years of major league service time may declare themselves to be free agents. The club is free to negotiate with them on an extension, and only the current team can sign them prior to the filing date. Some potential free agents could potentially bring compensation if they were to be offered arbitration and sign elsewhere (explained later).
Our four free agents this year are Joel Pineiro, Fernando Rodney, Russell Branyan and Horacio Ramirez. Goodbye, Good Riddance, Rinse, Repeat. The first two put $13.5 million back in Arte's pocket. The other two were making league minimum.
3. Setting the 40 man roster: By November 18, clubs must set their 40 man rosters, deciding which players are to be protected in the Rule 5 draft (which is held at the end of the Winter meetings). Players on the 60 day disabled list must be reactivated, players that file for free agency are removed from the roster. Some long-serving minor leaguers must either be protected by being added to the 40 man roster, or be left exposed in the Rule 5 draft (see below).
On the bubble here: Chris Pettit, Ysmael Carmona, Gil Velazquez, Anthony Ortega. Seeing as we have four weak free agents, our potential Rule 5 draftee class is even weaker and only 2 players being reactivated from the 60-Day DL ( and Francisco "Wolverine" Rodriguez). And if you are keeping score at home, Reggie Willits and Matt Palmer were already granted free agency at the end of the season.
4. Arbitration offer/ acceptance deadlines: The day before Thanksgiving, November 23, is the date by which clubs must offer arbitration to their potential free agent players, which is required if they are to receive compensation for them should they sign with another club. The date for free agent players to accept or decline has traditionally been December 7.
Also at this deadline, some clubs will be keeping an eye on the list of Type A free agents to see if the former clubs offer them arbitration or not. If they don't, a new club can sign them without giving up a draft pick. Among this group is Nick Swisher (who also has a club option with New York), Josh Willingham, Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Beltran, C.J. Wilson, Brandon Phillips, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Roy Oswalt, and maybe a few more Type A free agents. If your club's GM is stupid and signs one of these players before they have been offered arbitration, your club gives up its first round pick in the deal.
None of our Free Agents are graded A or B... or C or D for that matter.
5. Rule 5 Draft: The Rule 5 draft is scheduled for December 8, the last day of the Winter Meetings (The Winter Meetings this year are scheduled for December 5-8, 2011 in Dallas). Players in the minor leagues that were drafted out of college in the June, 2008 draft or out of high school in the June, 2007 draft, or were signed as amateur free agents in the 2008 calendar year must either be protected by being added to the 40 man roster on November 18 or be left exposed in the Rule 5 draft.
Any player drafted by another club as a Rule 5 pick would have to remain on that club's 25 man roster for the entire season or be waived and then offered back to the Angels before being sent to the new team's minors. In order to select a player from another club in the Rule 5 draft, a club must have a vacancy on their 40 man roster. Players currently on the 40 man roster will be outrighted, released, or traded in order to clear roster space for new players, including those to be protected for the first time, free agents, and potential other new arrivals.
So it is D-Day in the organization for some players who have yet to make the 40-man roster, let alone the big club: Trevor Reckling (a HS '07 Draft Pick), Ryan Chaffee and Gabe Jacobo ('08 College Draft Picks).
6. (Non)Tender deadline: By December 12, clubs must either offer a contract to the players that are not under a multi-year contract and not eligible for free agency, or those players become free agents. Players that are not under contract and not yet eligible for arbitration can be automatically renewed at the previous year's salary or at least 80% of that salary, and the player has no say in the matter. The renewal deadline for those players is March 2. Most clubs give a nominal raise to such players, but they still make close to the major league minimum salary. Players that are arbitration eligible must be offered a contract that is at least 80% of the amount of their previous salary, or they will become free agents.
Who does this apply to? Well, it is shorter to list who it does not apply to: the Angels under already under contract for 2012, and I will list them here in order of millions they will be paid next year: Vernon (21), Torii (18.5), Weaver (14.2), Haren (12.75), Santana (11.2), Abreu (9), Downs (5), Takahashi (4.2) and Izturis (3.9)... $99.5 million right there.
This is the big indicator... if Mathis is non-tendered, we cannot say the ship has been righted, but we can say the sail has been mended, aye-aye Captain. Morales could well indeed be non-tendered, a signal that Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols is on the way.
6. Arbitration deadlines: When a club offers arbitration to a player, whether it's a pending free agent or a player that is under "club control", they follow a process as the arbitration deadlines approach. Very few cases, only one to three per season in all of MLB, ever get to a contested hearing. Remember now... last February, Jeff Mathis got a RAISE in his arbitration hearing from $600K in 2010 to $1.7 Million in 2011.
The deadlines (based on 2011 dates) are as follows: January 5-15: filing period. January 18: salary figures are exchanged (an arbitration panel would choose one or the other, not some figure in the middle). February 1-18: hearings scheduled, with pitchers and catchers typically going first because they are typically scheduled to report to spring training earlier. An arbitrated contract is always for a one year term. A free agent eligible player that accepts arbitration can not be traded until at least June 15, 2012 (and may have no trade rights).
7. Play Ball: Pitchers and catchers will be scheduled to report on or about Valentine's Day, February 14th, 2012. Other position players will report about a week later.