2014-2015 Off Season Primer

With the World Series coming to an end last night, the 2014/2015 off-season officially begins today.  Here is a quick primer of all of the off-season topics.

40-Man Rosters

Teams must reinstate players from the 60-day disabled list no later than five days after the end of the World Series, getting their rosters down to 40-men.  The deadline this year is on Monday.  The Pittsburgh Pirates had Charlie Morton on the 60-day disabled list, but reinstated him last week. Thus, no move needs to be made to trim the 40-man roster.

Teams must also make decisions on option years no later than 11:59 PM EST on Saturday night.  The Pirates don’t have any decisions to make with options this year.

November 20th marks the deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters for the 2014 Rule 5 draft.  We did a Rule 5 preview in September, and will take another look in a few weeks. Teams can make changes to the 40-man roster after November 20th, although they can’t add any new internal players to the roster between November 20th and the 2014 Rule 5 draft, held on December 12th.

My prediction of the 2014 40-man roster can be found here, minus the Rule 5 additions.

Arbitration Eligible Players

Teams have until December 2nd to tender offers to their arbitration eligible players for the 2014 season.  The Pirates have ten players who are eligible for salary arbitration this year.  Last week we looked at all of the arbitration eligible players, and their salary projections.

Once offers are tendered, the two sides (the team and the player) will work to reach an agreement.  If no agreement can be reached, the two sides file for arbitration, during the first two weeks of January.  Once they file for arbitration, the two sides exchange salary figures around the third week of January, and have their salary arbitration hearing during the first three weeks of February.  The sides can reach a deal outside of the arbitration process at any time before the actual hearing, even immediately before the scheduled hearing.

If the negotiations do reach the hearing, both sides will argue their case for the salary they submitted, and the three person arbitration panel will determine which salary is more appropriate for the player.  All decisions made by the panel are final, although the club and the player are free to re-negotiate the deal.

Free Agency

October 30th at 12:01 AM EST marks the beginning of a five day period in which teams retain exclusive negotiating rights with their players who qualify for free agency.  The Pirates have four players who qualify for free agency: Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, and Clint Barmes.  Pending free agents can have general discussions with other clubs during this five day period, but can’t discuss contract details or sign with a new team until 12:01 AM EST, November 4th.

The big topic during this period will be the qualifying offers for these players. Teams have five days to decide if they will make a qualifying offer to departing free agents. This year the offer is $15.3 M for one year. If the player accepts that offer, the team gets him for the 2015 season on that deal. If the player declines and signs with another team, the former team gets a draft pick in the 2015 draft. The Pirates will make a qualifying offer to Russell Martin, and no word yet on Francisco Liriano.

Meetings

The two notable meetings that take place in the off-season are the GM/Owners meetings, and the more popular Winter Meetings.  The General Manager’s meetings take place on November 10-12, and the Owners’ Meetings take place November 11-12.  Usually there’s not much occurs during these meetings, although it provides an opportunity for the General Managers to meet face to face, and possibly start discussions on potential trades.

The Winter Meetings take place on December 8-11.  The Winter Meetings usually marks the time when free agency starts to heat up.

Analysis

  • Here is just a wild guess from me.
    Barmes signs a quick one year extension in the 1.5-2.2m range?

    What do you think?

  • This is going to be one of if not the most interesting offseason for the pirates. So many decisions,so many choices. Whatever they decide all I can say is strap in folks it’s gonna be a bumpy ride! ( this is really fun ain’t it !!)

  • Does minor league free agency happen on the same timeline as major league? In other words, are the guys who are going to be minor league free agents officially that starting today??

    • Not sure. That’s a question for Tim probably. I’d like to know too, just look at my McPherson post below

  • Hey guys my first post here.
    I guess I’ll just go out and say that im a big bucs fan.
    My top 3 favorite players are Kyle McPherson Reese McGuire and Polanco.
    I have a question for you guys.
    Do you think the Pirates will sign McPherson back?

    • Two elbow surgeries in the same year does not bode well.

      • They weren’t actually the same year but yeah I think that too.
        I actually contacted him before, maybe around August, told me he”broke his elbow bone because his arm was too strong after TJ”
        So idk. Told me then he was fine. I hope he does

  • Question: How long does a player have to accept / reject a qualifying offer? A $15.3 million commitment (even for one year) can put the serious kibosh on any other potential deals a team is looking at.

    • I was thinking like 6 days.

    • One week.

    • It won’t impact it at all because, in addition to this week being QO time, it is also during the same one-week window where the team losing free agents have exclusivity to negotiate with them. In other words, the QO situation will be completely resolved by the time that Barmes, Volquez, Martin & Liriano can begin negotiating officially with other teams.

      • The question is, okay so the Pirates make a qualifying offer to Martin, can Martin use that QO to negotiate with other teams or must he accept / reject it before hitting the free agent market?

        • Must accept or reject before hitting the open market.

          Pirates must extend QO before next Tuesday.
          Martin must decide by next Tuesday.
          Martin can only negotiate with the Pirates until next Tuesday.

          Basically, we’ll know a lot more next Tuesday!!

  • In the last two years, zero QOs have been accepted for any player who received an offer (0 for 22). (Particularly unlikely that Martin would be the first player ever to accept a QO). The dynamics of the system make it difficult for a player to accept. Within a week of receiving the QO, and before really being able to negotiate a free agency deal, the player has to decide whether to accept and renounce free agency and a potential guaranteed long-term deal when the player could be cashing in a big way near the end of his career – a tough decision to make in one week’s time. The chance of the QOs’ being accepted is small. The upside is significant – a near first round pick if a QO is declined. The Pirates clearly value such a pick highly because they traded away Morris mid-season to get a similar pick from Miami. Even on the rather remote chance that one or more QOs were accepted, the Pirates end up either with one or more very good players with only a one year financial commitment, or they can trade an accepting player and get a player in exchange who would likely be a better return than a sandwich pick selection. A few months ago, Tim did an evaluation of the Selig era and noted that the QO system favors rich teams. Of course it does to a certain extent, but it only becomes very unfair if a team is afraid to take an even remote financial risk – like the Pirates receiving no compensation for Barry Bonds in a somewhat similar system then, when there was no chance Bonds was not going to become a free agent, or like AJB last year for slightly different reasons.

    • Interesting. But looking at the history of the QO, so far, as far as gaining/losing picks goes:

      Gained compensatory round picks:
      Cardinals: 2
      Rangers: 2
      Braves: 2
      Yankees: 2 (but gave them away, by signing 2 others)
      Rays: 1
      Royals: 1
      Reds: 1
      Indians: 1
      Red Sox: 1

      Lost picks:
      Yankees: 3 (1st & 2 comps picks)
      Braves: 2 (1st)
      Orioles: 2 (1st & 2nd)
      Indians: 2 (2nd & sandwich between 2nd & 3rd)
      Nationals: 1 (1st)
      Brewers: 1 (1st)
      Angels: 1 (1st)
      Rangers: 1 (1st)

  • I’d be curious to see what would happen if you QO Volquez. Let me first say, I’m in no way advocating that the Pirates do it, but just wondering from a use case scenario, because he is a player who has a value likely to be below the QO value.

    Would a player like Volquez delay a multi-year contract by a year and accept the QO offer? In other words, does he take extra money today in a one-year deal while risking affecting future value (either positively or negatively) or does he take the multi-year guarantee, while making less than the $15.3m QO this year in year one of that contract.

    An advantage for a player like Volquez is that if he has a repeat of 2014 in 2015, he could really drive up the value on a multi-year contact signed after next season.

    The reverse is also true, though, and a bad season could push a multi-year contract value way down or a disastrous year could completely eliminate the possibility of a multi-year contract.

  • Lee Foo Young
    October 30, 2014 2:46 pm

    Can the Pirates gamble that two players would tie up over $30 mil (over 1/3 of our payroll)? Sure, it is easy to sit back in our chairs and say they should offer both Russ and Frankie, that they are SURE to get multi-year contracts from other teams, but after last year with Drew, Cruz and Morales will we risk it?

    Gonna be interesting.

    • True. However, what we don’t also know is how much communication has already occurred between Huntington and Liriano & Martin (or, more likely, their agents).

      I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the communication channel between the Pirates FO and Liriano and Martin is a bit more open than it was with Burnett.

      In other words, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve already had the discussion with both Martin and Liriano about the QO (or no QO) and likely already know that they will decline it. (Especially, if you believe that the QO offer “offends” the outgoing player in any way, it would be smart to say, “well, we know we’re going to have to compete for you to come back, but we’re going to have to offer this QO in order for us to get something in return.”

    • You bring up Cruz, Drew and Morales. None of those guys accepted the contract. Cruz signed with the Os so Texas got the pick. The Sox and Mariniers were off the hook because the players chose not to take the one year deals. After the season started those teams chose to resign there guys because they became desperate. Nothing forces the Pirates to do the same. The Bucs would not have to resign them if they chose not to accept our offer initially. The risk to Pittsburgh is extremely light. The upside is we could get two first round picks. Thats how you build a team. If by chance both players accepted (I give that 5%) then good. We would have our starting catcher and our number two starter next year. I really don’t want the most economical team money can buy I would like to have the best team. Anyways its only about 13-15 million more then what they are already paying the guys. We could cover that by dumping all of our first base candidates and signing Laroche

      • IC Bob. Thank you. Well said. I was reading this thinking closely to what you just posted here. The risk is far higher to NOT offer the QO than any risk involved in offering QO. The worst case scenario could be that you get 2 first rounders. The best case scenario could be that they accept.

        • Best case isnt they both accept, because this FO wont see “best case” where they end with a payroll of 100+ to start the year. Take the 50-some current projected payroll, add 30 for those two players, include even conservative increases for arb players and you get around 90 for a payroll with the team still needing another SP (say another Volquez at 6 million) and a barmes type backup IF and maybe a relief option on the cheap. FO wont want to start the year at 100 million in payroll as they will want room to increase during the year if the need arises.

          • Just so we’re talking real numbers here, using Tim’s updates, a roster that included (OF) Cutch/Marte/Polanco/Snider (IF) Alvarez/Walker/Mercer/Harrison (C) Martin [at $15M]/Stewart (SP) Liriano [at $15.3M]/Morton/Cole/Worley/Locke/Cumpton (BP) Melancon/Watson/Hughes/Wilson/Holdzkom costs you exactly $86,149,500. Add in Tabata’s $4 mill, deferred signing bonuses and Rule 5 protections at another $600K and you’re around $91 million for 22 guys. You take on another 4 to fill the roster at minimums and you’re at $93 million to start the season.

            Not $100 million. Not more than $100 million.

            Just so we’re being accurate.

  • IMO, the way the Pirates see it is that they will find a pitcher that will give them the same or better production than Liriano for 5 to 10mil, therefore the risk is great for them to offer a QO to Liriano. IMO, they won’t offer him a QO. They could get Volquez for somewhere between 15 and 20 for 2 years and his production was better than Liriano last year. When it comes to Volquez the peripheral stats that are available to me don’t trump his stuff, the Pirates probably have advanced stats that they will surely use.

  • Thanks Tim,
    This will be very helpful. Can you pin this over in your resources section so we can refer back to it over the next 2-3 months.
    Thank you.

  • The smart move is to make a QO to Liriano. Even at $15 million, a 1-year contract carries minimal risk. It would be a no-brainer to retain Liriano for 1 year at $15m, and if he declines, a draft pick has financial value and could turn into a decent player down the road.
    However, I suspect the Bucs will choose not to risk paying $15m for a pitcher, and they will lose Liriano for nothing.

    • Lee Foo Young
      October 30, 2014 2:43 pm

      So you would guarantee 30 mil to two players? That would be over 1/3 of our payroll to two players.

      • There is zero chance Martin is taking the QO. But if the Bucs do end up re-signing Martin for 4/$60, it still makes sense to QO Frankie because it’s not $15 mill vs $500K minimum salary, it’s $15 mill vs $7 or $8 mill to sign a McCarthy or whomever. And Bucs could push payroll to fit that.

        • If you are really trying to sign Martin you dont QO frankie, unless you are paying over 100 million in payroll to start the year which gives you no room in season to increase. If you QO Liriano, you likely are admitting you dont think you can sign Martin. I highly doubt they would put themselves in a spot where, even at a low chance, they would be stuck with Liriano and Martin and a payroll near 100 million to start the year.

          • You say “stuck with Martin and Liriano” like that’s a bad thing.

            • Since signing those two has serious impact on how the rest of the roster is filled out, its entirely possible we sign both of those players and its a bad thing overall. Martin could go back to hitting .230 and play 100 games and be slightly overpaid while forcing the team to use Locke and Cumpton for 2 months rather than signing another mid level FA pitcher.

              • Martin could do exactly that and still be a 3.8 WAR catcher. Which is better than Bucs are going to get elsewhere – and still well on the positive side of the contract. Liriano is the one at risk of underperforming a $15.3 mill deal.

                Still, that’s a better gamble than losing Martin and Liriano and hoping you come up with a solution that provides 7+ WAR between whatever warm bodies you’re going to sign on the cheap.

                Silly as it sounds, at least Locke is apparently a first half pitcher. You could probably live with him into June if you have both Martin and Liriano.

                The real question is: what are the odds Liriano accepts a QO? He might, but the Cubs, Rangers and Red Sox are all among the teams with protected 1st round draft picks. None should have fear of negotiating for a QO player. So after Lester and Shields get deals, who’s next? Earvin Santana?

                And beyond the teams with protected picks are a few other teams with cash who could use a good LHP. I think Liriano is in a good position – thus Bucs should take the risk and offer the QO and at least get the draft pick/pool money.

                • Don’t forget, Lester can’t be given a QO by Oakland because he wasn’t there the whole year.

                  It will be interesting to see if Lester gets a bigger contract than somebody that has a rejected QO around their neck!! (Perhaps soon-to-be-free-agents will start to realize that a mid-season trade greatly benefits their ability to sign a better contract the next year and they may stop with their “no-trade-to-certain-team” clauses!!)

      • Yes. I would risk guaranteeing two very good players $15m each on 1-year deals. I think the odds of Martin taking the QO are minimal, and the odds of Liriano taking the QO are also low, so I doubt we would actually sign them. But it is a bit of a win-win… If either or both accept the QO, we get quality players on reasonable 1-year deals; if they decline, we get additional draft selections.

  • I believe that if they offer Liriano a qualifying offer, he will accept it. He is a 31 year old with injury history and an inconsistent career. A team would be gambling with each additional year and 15 million is about what he would get, without a draft pick attached to him. Seeing what that did to Morales and Drew last year, it would be quite the gamble to test it

    • I really doubt he would accept, look at the contract Ubaldo just got last winter. He is looking at 3-4 years at $12-15 million a year. There is no risk in offering the QO, if he takes it you have him at market rate for 1 year, if not you get a pick. NH woudl be very stupid to let him leave for nothing. He should be trying hard to resign him.

      • A few points: one, Ubaldo’s deals annual value is between 11.25 and 13.5. He never gets close to the 15.3 qualifying offer. Second, in the past 5 years Liriano hasn’t pitched more than 162.1 innings, Ubaldo has been over all 5 years leading up to his deal. And finally, Ubaldo’s ERA was better over that stretch. I don’t believe 15.3 million is market rate. I believe he is benefited by pitch framing, defensive shifts and park factors

        • JJ: The $15.3 mil QO is the average of the Top 125 salaries of 2014. Any starting pitcher who is 30+ with at least half a brain will opt for a 4 year long term deal at less than the QO rather than risk it all by accepting the 1 year QO. I think Liriano will decline a QO, eventually signing a FA contract for at least 4 years at an average of $12.5 mil/yr. If he received 4 years at an average of $14 mil/yr it would not surprise me. With all but the very elite teams, he sizes up as a Top of the Rotation SP – at least a #2, and the Pirates may stretch and strain to sign him.

          • Well Jimenez was in a better position than Liriano and got 12.5 per year for 4 years. 15.3 per year it would only take 3 years to accumulate that. Plus the draft pick compensation could drive it down, plus a slightly down year at 15.3 would Mean 11.5 at 3 years would be the same amount as if he signed the same deal as Jimenez over the length of that contract. Basically, I feel like he won’t get more than 12 million annually, and due to that I wouldn’t turn down a year of 15.3 million, especially on a playoff team I’m used to

  • I’ll predict they do make a qualifying offer to Liriano. If he accepts, which is unlikely, that’s one rotation spot covered for a year and they don’t have to rush Kingham and Sampson. And the cost if for one year only. That’s the price you have to pay for pitching if you want to contend.

  • I would love to see the Bucs offer Liriano a Qualifying offer. I don’t think theres a chance someone doesn’t sign him long term. If he did accept, that would create a nice bridge to some of the up and coming pitching talent and resolve the need to chase reclamation projects for a year. That said, I don’t think the Pirates will give him a Q offer.

    • IC: Yes, it would be stupid bordering on criminal to let a team come in, sign him long term, and walk away without having to pay the Pirates a thing. AJ was nearing the end, but Liriano is a lock to be signed for a minimum of 4 years and $50 mil, and he cannot afford to gamble another year that he will improve his stock. He is going into his age 31 season next year and could be signed for 31, 32, 33, and 34, with some sort of Option for 35. Those are prime years for pitchers, especially a LHSP who has hit and miss stuff. Think the Pirates would be willing to go $12.5 for him for 4 years?

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