Welcome to the long dark. The official period between baseball and other baseball, otherwise known as winter, or the MLB offseason.
This year, the Cleveland Indians will be tasked with keeping together a group of players that have helped build the current run of success, while also keeping an eye on the future. They’ll do so over an offseason schedule that should look familiar to baseball fan veterans, but for those who are new to the sport, just started watching the Indians because of Jose Ramirez’s Mario Kart skills, or otherwise don’t know when the Rule 5 draft takes place, here’s the post for you.
November 2, 2018 (five days after World Series): Contract option deadline
Today is the day that teams and players must make final decisions on contract options. As of this writing, the Indians still have club options on the table for Carlos Carrasco ($9.75 million) and Brandon Guyer ($3 million). Carrasco’s option was originally for $9 million, but he received a cool $750,000 boost thanks to his fourth place finish in the 2017 AL Cy Young race.
November 2, 2018 (five days after World Series): Qualifying offer deadline
If the Indians wish to extend qualifying offers to outgoing free agents who have spent at least the entire 2018 season with them, November 2 is the day to do it. The Indians have a lot of outgoing free agents, some more notable than others. The ones eligible for a qualifying offer include longtime staples Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Cody Allen, and Josh Tomlin.
This year, the qualifying offer sits at $17.9 million. Meaning if the Indians wanted to extend the offer to Andrew Miller, for example, he could either take that money for a one-year deal or hit the free agent market. If he believes he can get more on the open market and chooses the latter, the Indians get a draft pick back from the team that signs him.
Josh Donaldson is not eligible for a qualifying offer because he came over mid-season via a trade.
November 3, 2018: Free agency begins
This is likely to be one of the biggest free agent seasons ever… but will the Indians go in on anybody?
Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are going to make ridiculous amounts of money — most likely not from the Indians — but there’s always a value buy that the Indians like to poke around with later on in the offseason. Don’t expect Cleveland (or anyone, for that matter) to make a splash early in free agency. Even with the biggest names it still takes a while for the dominoes to start falling. Patience is how the Indians got Edwin Encarnacion for such a bargain, after all.
November 4, 2018: Gold Glove award winners announced
Four Indians players are up for Gold Glove awards this year: Corey Kluber, Yan Gomes, Francisco Lindor, and Jose Ramirez as a third baseman. Only Francisco Lindor has one to his name to date — for the other three, it’d be new hardware for their mantle.
November 5, 2018: Finalists for all of the other awards
On November 5, finalists for every award not named Gold Glove or Silver Slugger will be announced. That means Manager of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and the big kahuna, Most Valuable Player. The Indians should at least have two Cy Young candidates in Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, and two MVP candidates in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez.
Unless MLB enjoyed Shane Bieber’s perfectly groomed beard, it’s likely the Indians will not have a Rookie of the Year finalist this year.
November 6-8, 2018: General manager meetings
ALRIGHT HERE WE GO BOYS WINTER MEETINGS TIME LET’S GET TRAD-… wait, no. Wrong meetings. These ones are boring and mostly deal with rules and other off-field stuff. Surely this will be a good time for the Indians to slam a folder called “Astros are big dirty cheaters” on the desk and wait for the gasps.
November 8, 2018: Silver Slugger winners announced
The heavy-hitters get their due on November 8. Here’s where some key Indians players rank in wRC+ at their position among players with at least 300 plate appearances in the AL:
There’s a chance Lindor or Ramirez squeak by at their positions, but the rest… woof.
November 12, 2018: Qualifying offer acceptance deadline
Yo, Andrew. Do you want $17.9 million, or do you want to be a free agent and let the Indians get a draft pick out of it? Come on, be a sport. Today’s the day he has to decide.
November 12, 2018: Rookie of the Year winners announced
Have I mentioned Shane Bieber’s beard?
November 13, 2018: Manager of the Year winners announced
This didn’t feel like a great year for Tito, so I wouldn’t get excited. At least Paul Molitor can’t win it again.
November 14, 2018: Cy Young award winners announced
This is a date to watch for Indians fans. As stated above, they’ll probably have two contenders with a pretty good shot. If Trevor Bauer didn’t go down with a freak injury, he’d almost be a lock with his outstanding 2018 campaign.
November 14-15, 2018: Owners meetings
ALRIGHT HERE WE GO FOR REAL THIS TIME WINTER MEETINGS BRING ME BRYCE HARP-… oh, wait. No. Not this one either. This is the one where a group of massively rich owners get to together and talk about yachts (I assume).
November 15, 2018: Most Valuable Player award winners announced
Frankie?! Jose?! Someone else?!
November 19, 2018: Comeback Player of the Year winners announced
Don’t expect any Indians here.
November 20, 2018: Rule 5 draft protected list deadline
This is the day that the Indians have to decide who will be left to the wolves of the Rule 5 draft in the Winter Meetings, and who will get to stay in the nice cozy cabin that is the 40-man roster. Any player not on the 40-man who roster who either a) was drafted out of college in or before the 2015 draft or b) were signed as international free agents under the age of 19 in or before 2014 can be taken by another team in the Rule 5 draft at the end of the Winter Meetings.
Here’s a good summary from Twitter on the state of the roster ahead of the deadline that I’ll just embed instead of trying to summarize:
Once the Indians activate Anderson, Goody, Salazar, Martin and James Hoyt from the DL, looks like their 40 man roster is at 36 (assuming Guyer’s option is picked up & Martin will be tendered). Potentially 4 roster spots to add ahead of Rule 5 before FA starts.
— Justin (@JL_Baseball) October 29, 2018
We’ll dig into the full ramifications of the draft and who the Indians might leave exposed as the date approaches, but for now it’s hard to imagine more than four can’t-miss prospects being left off. So I wouldn’t worry too much.
November 30, 2018: Non-tender deadline
For players entering arbitration, this is the day that the Indians can offer them a contract and avoid the whole messy court system. Here’s a look at who is entering what levels of arbitration this offseason:
Thus begins the long, slow march of Francisco Lindor towards free agency. The Indians have, historically, liked to avoid arbitration altogether, but if Trevor Bauer wants to continue his le epic trolling XD from last year, he’ll probably decline what they offer and try for something involving 69 and 420.
December 9-13, 2018: Winter Meetings
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’m not falling for it again.
No wait, this one is it. This is the big focal point of the offseason where the world starts to care about baseball again for a brief, glorious week. Most of the wheeling and dealing of the offseason will take place in this five-day stretch, concluding with the Rule 5 draft at 9:00 a.m. ET on the 13th.
January 11, 2019: Arbitration figures deadline
If the Indians plan to take any players to arbitration salary court, January 11 is when they must begin the process by exchanging figures.
February 1-20, 2019: Arbitration hearings take place
Hopefully we won’t have any Indians-related news in this space.
February 23, 2019: Spring training begins
We’re so close at this point I can almost smell the Twins disappointment from here. The Indians open spring training with a preview of the Ohio Cup as they take on the Cincinnati Reds. Games will take place at Goodyear Park and run through March 26, until…
March 28, 2019: OPENING DAY!
That’s right, the season is starting on March 28 next year — the earliest Opening Day ever. Every team will also be playing on this Opening Day, so there will be no built-in weather delay day and a faux-Opening Day. The Indians will open the season facing the Minnesota Twins, where they play without a dome for some stupid reason.