MILWAUKEE -- There’s never been an offseason with so much uncertainty for general managers. Will there be fans in the stands in 2021 (and thus revenues coming in)? Which of the rules instituted to get the sport through '20 will remain? Will conversations about the next collective bargaining agreement have an impact during the final year of the current deal?
Nevertheless, GMs are forging ahead. Here’s a look at the landscape:
What are the key dates?
• First day after the World Series: Teams can trade Major League players again, and eligible players become free agents. That starts a five-day “quiet period” in which free agents may negotiate only with their own team.
• Fifth day after the World Series: The last day to reinstate players from the 60-day injured list. The “quiet period” ends and Major League free agents are able to sign with clubs as of 4 p.m. CT. Minor League players become free agents at 4 p.m. CT, if applicable. Also, the deadline for clubs to tender a qualifying offer to eligible free agents.
• Fifteenth day after the World Series ends: Deadline for players to accept qualifying offer.
• Nov. 20: The deadline to add players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft is 5 p.m. CT.
• Dec. 2: Tender deadline. Sometimes referred to the non-tender deadline, it is the date by which teams must formally tender a 2021 contract to unsigned players. If a player is non-tendered, he becomes a free agent.
• Dec. 7-10: Winter Meetings in Dallas, culminating with the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 10.
• Jan. 15, 2021: Eligible players and their teams exchange arbitration figures.
• Feb. 1, 2021: Arbitration hearings begin.
• Week of Feb. 15, 2021: Brewers pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.
Did any of the free agents receive a qualifying offer?
No. This year’s figure is $18.9 million.
What about contract options?
Braun’s option was declined as he mulls whether to return in 2021. General manager David Stearns predicted that decision might not come until close to Spring Training. If Braun, who turns 37 on Nov. 17, decides he’s interested in another season, then he and the Brewers would have to work out a contract that makes sense for both sides.
The Brewers also declined options on Gamel, Gyorko and Sogard.
Are any of those players non-tender candidates?
Hader and Woodruff are locks to be tendered, and Narváez is close, disappointing 2020 season notwithstanding. But the financial uncertainty caused by the pandemic makes it more challenging than ever to predict how clubs will operate this winter. Arcia’s 2020 salary was set at $2.2 million, and while he delivered solid performance, is that a price the Brewers will be willing to pay when they have a cheaper option in the waiting in Luis Urías? The same goes for Knebel, who is in his last year of arbitration eligibility and this can compare his performance not only to fellow arb-eligibles for the purposes of salary, but free agents as well. Vogelbach is another close call; he gave the Brewers a power jolt down the stretch, but his future in Milwaukee may hinge on whether the designated-hitter rule remains. A reminder: Like happened with Claudio a year ago, a player can be non-tendered and made a free agent, then re-sign later on.
Who needs to be added to the 40-man roster this winter?
Generally speaking, players who were drafted out of college in 2017 or earlier, or out of high school in '16 or earlier, and are not currently protected on 40-man rosters, are eligible to be plucked away in December’s Rule 5 Draft. Here are the members of MLB Pipeline’s Brewers Top 30 Prospects list who would be Rule 5 Draft eligible if not added to the 40-man roster: Catcher Mario Feliciano (Milwaukee's No. 4 prospect), Right-hander Zack Brown (No. 14), right-hander Trey Supak (No. 15), catcher Payton Henry (No. 16), right-hander Alec Bettinger (No. 25), right-hander Dylan File (No. 26), infielder Lucas Erceg (No. 29).
The Brewers have left notable players unprotected in recent years, including Brown a year ago (he wasn’t claimed). Of interest this year are the catchers. The Brewers already have four catchers on the 40-man roster in Narváez, Piña, Jacob Nottingham and David Freitas. The organization thinks highly of Feliciano and Henry, assigning both to the 60-man player pool and the alternate training site this summer, but would they carry six catchers on the roster?