There are a lot of things that could change over the next couple of weeks for MLB. With the pandemic still messing things up and pushing dates around in most professional sports leagues, we still have no idea what to expect for the 2021 season.
But what we do know are the anticipated dates for things happening around baseball during the offseason. We’ve complied a list of dates that every MLB fan needs to know, as well as an explanation for each one below.
December 2: Non-Tender Deadline
The non-tender deadline is that final day for teams to offer pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players contracts to play in the 2021 season. Players who do not receive any contract offer are then non-tendered and automatically become free agents. Players do not have to accept or sign the contract immediately, but teams do need to make an offer by this day. This year, there is expected to be a surplus of non-tenders as teams look to save money following a rough 2020 season.
December 6-10: MLB’s Winter Meetings
This year’s MLB winter meetings are going to look a little bit different during a pandemic year. Instead of being held live in Dallas, the league has opted for a remote option for executives. The annual meeting generally serves as a week full of trades, discussions, and free-agent signings for teams. In years past, players looking for jobs have been at these events to try and reconnect with teams looking for talent. They’ll have to do that via Zoom and phone calls this year.
December 10: Rule 5 Draft
The rule 5 draft is pretty complicated if you aren’t deep into baseball. But basically, it allows for teams without a full 40-man roster to select certain non-40-man roster players from other clubs. Teams draft in reverse order from the standings of the previous season, so the Dodgers would be the last pick. Players that are signed at age 19 or over need to be added to a team’s roster within 4 years to be protected from the draft. Player 18 and under get an extra year to be protected.
January 15: Deadline for Salary Figures
January 15 is the last day that teams and players submit their numbers for salary figures for the 2021 season. The team submits what they think the arbitration-eligible player should earn and the player submits what they think they should be paid. Most players and teams come to an agreement, but some are forced to go to third-party arbitration hearings to decide the outcome.
January 15: The International Signing Period Opens
This is a period that Dodgers fans should always keep an eye on. The signing period usually runs from July 2nd to June 25th, but MLB pushed it back due to the pandemic. That talk is that one day, there will be an international draft for Major League Baseball, and pushing it back to January could be the first step in that direction.
Mid-January: 2021 Hall of Fame Class Announced
This year’s Hall of Fame ballots are already out and feature several first-time appearances. Votes are gathered from November through January, and players need to garner at least 75 % of the votes in order to be inducted to the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling, and Roger Clemens are all in their 9th year on the ballot. Players are only eligible for 10 years before completely missing their opportunity.
Early-to-mid February: Arbitration Hearings
This is what happens when arbitration players and teams cannot come to an agreement on payment for the season. Each side will state their case to a panel of third-party members who will then decide which side to pick. Those on the panel cannot offer a middle ground or a different figure other than the two options provided by the player and the organization.
February 27: Spring Training Begins
Yes, Spring Training does have a scheduled start date for the 2021 season. However, the likelihood of it actually happening on time is still entirely up in the air. The coronavirus pandemic has obviously messed up a lot of things in terms of sports schedules, but as of now, this is the date that MLB has come up with. Every team has different reporting dates that will be released over the next couple of weeks depending on how MLB plans things out.
April 1: Opening Day 2021
The one date that matters the most in the minds of baseball fans. Opening Day is set for April 1st, but that could also change. Major League Baseball still has a lot to figure out in terms of what the 2021 season will look like, but this is the anticipated start date for real life, meaningful baseball.
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