The throes of winter are upon us as baseball fans and with it comes some important offseason dates in the MLB universe. Some of those dates have already come and gone, but a bulk of the winter activities are still ahead of us before Opening Day 2021 arrives. What’s left between now and late March and how does it affect the Minnesota Twins?
All of the eligible players that did not have contracts with teams for 2021 became free agents. This also means that players that finished arbitration eligibility are now free agents for the first time ever. The Twins lost Nelson Cruz, Tyler Clippard, Jake Odorizzi, Trevor May, Tyler Clippard, Marwin Gonzalez, Ehire Adrianza, Rich Hill, and Alex Avila to free agency.
Teams and players that have contract options had to decide whether to exercise or decline those options. Minnesota had one club option on the table on which to decide. The declined the option they had on veteran reliever Sergio Romo, who will be owed a $250,000 buyout.
This was the deadline for teams to provide a qualifying offer to eligible free agents that they lost a couple days prior. Free agents had to be with the team for the entirety of the 2020 season and also not received a qualifying offer in the past. The qualifying offer for this year was $18.9 million to be paid for the 2021 campaign and players that receive this offer have 10 days to accept or decline. The Twins and Jake Odorizzi went through the qualifying offer process last season, but the front office did not issue any offers this winter.
Oh, free agency started this day as well.
Awards, awards, awards. This stretch of days is when Twins players get shafted by MLB and the BBWAA in favor of some random player that you may have never heard of or that did marginally worse than a Twins player, yet still won the award. Kenta Maeda was a Cy Young Award candidate while Nelson Cruz won the Silver Slugger Award for the American League DH spot.
This is the deadline for players who received a qualifying offer to make their decision. Again, this is moot as Minnesota did not issue any QOs to players this year.
Now we’re in the future! Tomorrow is the deadline for teams to stash minor league players on their 40-man roster to protect them for the Rule 5 Draft. Those that played in college and were drafted earlier than 2017 or were drafted out of high school no later than 2016 are eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft this winter. Twins prospects that could be added include righty Jordan Balazovic, catcher Ben Rortvedt, righty Griffin Jax, outfielder Trey Cabbage, and lefty Charlie Barnes. Of course, that’s just a smattering of names, and more could pop up.
The non-tender deadline is on this day. Teams have to send their pre-arb and arbitration-eligible players a contract for 2021. It doesn’t mean that they have agreed upon a salary for the next season, but just that they have mutual understanding that they are with the club for the upcoming year. Eddie Rosario is a major non-tender candidate this season.
It may be cold outside, but the hot stove is on fire during this week. The Winter Meetings will take place! This is when there are a lot of rumors, speculation, trades, and signings. The Winter Meetings usually take place in person, but with the current pandemic, it will take place remotely.
The last day of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft. Players selected in this draft have to be on their new team’s 26-man roster for the entirety of 2021 or they go back to their original team after passing through waivers. Albeit not chose by the Twins in this example, Johan Santana was selected by the then-Florida Marlins in the Rule 5 Draft.
Teams and arbitration-eligible players must submit salary figures by this date. The player procures a number that they believe they should make in 2021 while the team puts forth a number that they believe the player should make. Teams and players can still come to terms on a figure, but if they don’t, the figures they submitted will go before an arbitrator. (More on this later.) They can also sign an extension, which generally results in the player losing their arbitration eligibility before the contract extension expires.
Also, this date marks the opening of the 2021 international signing period. It usually starts in July each year, but because of the pandemic, it was moved to this date.
Arbitration hearings will start in February. If teams and arb-eligible players do not agree on a salary for 2021, the two sides will go before an arbitration panel and present their case. The panel will choose either the player’s salary number he submitted or the team’s salary number they submitted. The panel cannot choose anything in between. The Twins have gone to arbitration hearings with Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson in the past.
Pitchers and catcher report dates fall in mid-February with the rest of the teams coming in a few days later.
The Twins will kick off Spring Training 2021 at the Tampa Bay Rays! They will play 33 games of Grapefruit League action in 32 days down in Florida. The last Spring Training game is on March 30.
Opening Day 2021! The Twins will travel from Florida to Milwaukee and take on the Brewers in the first game of the season in hopes of securing a third American League Central pennant in three years.
What are you most excited about this winter?