The Day After the End
Today is the day after the conclusion of the MLB regular season, so (among other things) these things happen:
1. OPTIONAL ASSIGNMENTS: All players on Optional Assignment to the minors must be recalled. No players may be on Optional Assignment to the minors beginning on the day after the conclusion of the MLB regular season until 45 days prior to MLB Opening Day.
2. RULE 5 PLAYERS: After being selected by the Cubs in the Major League Phase of the December 2011 MLB Rule 5 Draft, RHP Lendy Castillo accrued one full season on an MLB 40-man roster and/or 60-day DL with at least 90 days spent on an MLB Active List during the following season, so he is no longer a "Rule 5 Player."
This means he can be sent to the minors by optional or outright assignment without any special restrictions, and the Philadelphia Phillies AAA Lehigh Valley affiliate (the club from which Castillo was drafted) no longer has the right to reclaim the player for $25,000 per MLB Rule 6 should Castillo be placed on Outright Assignment Waivers and not be claimed by another MLB club. (Same goes for Baltimore Orioles INF Ryan Flaherty and Houston Astros INF Marwin Gonzalez, who were selected from the Cubs AAA Iowa affiliate in the Major League Phase of the December 2011 Rule 5 Draft).
Castillo will have three minor league options beginning in 2013, and the Cubs could outright Castillo to the minors if they place him on Outright Assignment Waivers and he is not claimed.
3. ARTICLE XX-D MINOR LEAGUE FREE-AGENTS: All minor league players eligible to be a free-agent per Article XX-D of the CBA can file for free-agency beginning on the day after the conclusion of the MLB regular season through October 15th. This is the only class of free-agent who must file for free-agency. (Article XX-B MLB free-agents and MLB Rule 55 minor league free-agents are declared free-agents automatically, an Article XX-B MLB free-agent on the day after the conclusion of the World Series, and an MLB Rule 55 minor league free-agent at 5 PM on the 5th day following the conclusion of World Series if the player is not added to an MLB 40-man roster prior to that time).
A player is eligible to file for free-ageny under Article XX-D of the CBA if the player was on an MLB 40-man roster and then was sent outright to the minors, and the player had accrued at least three years of MLB Service Time and/or had been outrighted previously in his career, and the player accepted the assignment and deferred his right to elect free-agency until after the conclusion of the MLB regular season. (If a player eligible to be a free-agent per Article XX-D of the CBA elects free-agency immediately upon being outrighted, the player's contract is terminated and the player receives no termination pay). However, if a player who is eligible to be a free-agency per Article XX-D of the CBA accepts an outright assignment to the minors and then is subsequtently added back to an MLB 40-man roster prior to the conclusion of the MLB regular season, the player is not eligible to elect free-agency after the conclusion of the MLB regular season.
There are four Cubs minor leaguers who are eligible to file for free-agency per Article XX-D of the CBA beginning today and up through 10/15: INF Blake DeWitt, LHP Alex Hinshaw, RHP Rodrigo Lopez, and RHP Randy Wells.
In each case, the player accepted an outright assignment to the minors, deferring his right to elect free-agency until the after the conclusion of the MLB regular season.
In the case of DeWitt, Lopez, and Wells, it was a matter of not wanting to forfeit a substantial 2012 salary by electing free-agency at the time they were outrighted (DeWitt $1.1M, Lopez $1M, and Wells $2.7M), and in the case of Hinshaw, he was outrighted after the conclusion of the minor league season and would have had no reason to give up his two September pay days (albeit at the pro-rated MLB minimum salary) just so he could become a free-agent a month early.
It is not unusual for a few potentially useful Article XX-D players to be signed quickly (usually to a minor league contract with an NRI to Spring Training, but occasionally to a major league contract) once the player elects free-agency, either because the player has some value at the major league level but was not claimed off outright waivers because he was making too much money when he was outrighted, or because the player had a good year in AAA after being outrighted.
4. 2013 MINOR LEAGUE OPTION STATUS: This won't matter right now, but Welington Castillo and Travis Wood will be out of minor league options in 2013, joining Justin Germano, Bryan LaHair, Marcos Mateo, Joe Mather, Jeff Samardzija, and Luis Valbuena as players on the Cubs 40-man roster who have less than five years of MLB Service Time who are out of minor league options. (Players with a least five years of MLB Service Time must give their permission before they can be optioned to the minors).
5. PLAYERS ELIGIBLE FOR SALARY ARBITRATION: The following Cubs players will be eligible for salary arbitration this off-season: RHP Manuel Corpas, RHP Matt Garza, LHP James Russell, RHP Jeff Samardzija, 3B Ian Stewart, INF Luis Valbuena ("Super Two"), and RHP Chris Volstad.
6. ARTICLE XX-B MLB FREE-AGENT: RHP Shawn Camp is the only Cub eligible to be an Article XX-B MLB free-agent post-2012.
Any unsigned MLB player with a least six years of MLB Service Time is declared a free-agent on the day after the conclusion of the World Series, and the player's club retains exclusive negotiating rights with that player for the first five days after the conclusion of the World Series. The club must decide by the 5th day whether to extend a "Qulaifying Offer" to the player (a one-year guaranteed contract with a salary at least equal to the average salary of the 125 highest-paid MLB players from the previous season, expected to be about $13.5M post-2012).
If the club extends a "Qualifying Offer" to the player and the player accepts, the player is considered "signed" and must be added back to the club's 40-man roster immediately.
If the club extends a "Qualifying Offer" to the player and the player declines, the club can still sign the player at some point, but the club would receive a compensation draft pick immediately after the 1st round in the next year's Rule 4 Draft (First-Year Player Draft) if the player subsequently signs a major league contract with a different club.
If the club does not extend a "Qualifying Offer" to an Article XX-B MLB free-agent, the club receives no compensation if the player signs with a different club.
Don't expect the Cubs to extend a "Qualifying Offer" to Shawn Camp.
7. MLB 60-DAY DISABLED LIST: Players on the MLB 60-day DL do not count against a club's 40-man roster limit, but all players on a club's 60-day DL must be reinstated no later than 5 PM on the 5th day follolwing the conclusion of the World Series.
The Cubs have five players on the 60-day DL (RHP Matt Garza, RHP Marco Mateo, RHP Blake Parker, 3B Ian Stewart, and RHP Arodys Vizcaino), so each will have to be reinstated to the 40-man roster no later than 5 PM on the 5th day following the conclusion of the World Series. Five players will need to be dropped from the 40-man roster to make room for the five players on the 60-day DL when they are reinstated (although any of the five on the 60-day DL could be released or outrighted, plus one slot on the 40-man roster will be available when Shawn Camp becomes a FA the day after the conclusion of the World Series).
8. RULE 5 DRAFT EXCLUDED PLAYER: Any minor league player eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft who is added to an MLB 40-man roster between August 15th and the Rule 5 Draft is a "Draft Excluded Player." This means the player cannot be sent to the minors (by outright or optional assignment) starting with the close of the waiver period that ends on November 10th up until 20 days prior to MLB Opening Day.
LHP Chris Rusin is presently the only "Draft-Excluded Player" on the Cubs 40-man roster (although more are likely to be added by the November 20th roster deadline), so (for example) if the Cubs want to send Rusin outright to the minors to open up a slot on their 40-man roster, they must request Outright Assignment Waivers no later than the 5th day following the conclusion of the World Series and then outright the player before the waivers expire on 11/10, or else they will have to wait to outright him to the minors until 20 days prior to MLB Opening Day. Same goes for any other minor league player eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft that the Cubs add to their 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft.
A "Draft-Excluded Player" can be non-tendered on 12/2, or traded, or released, but cannot be sent outright to the minors between November 10th and 20 days prior to MLB Opening Day.
So the Cubs need to be careful to leave enough slots available on their 40-man roster for free-agents they might sign during the off-season. A club cannot outright a "Draft-Excluded Player" to the minors for most of November, December, January, February, and the first half of March. The club could outright a player who is not "Draft Excluded," but most of those players would be minor league free-agents if outrighted (at least until the player has signed a 2013 contract).
9. NOVEMBER 20th: Any minor league player who is eligible for selection in the next MLB Rule 5 Draft who is not added to an MLB 40-man roster by close of business on November 20th cannot be traded or added to an MLB 40-man roster until after the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft.
Also, any injured player who accrued at least one day of MLB Service Time the previous season cannot be outrighted to the minors after November 20th.
10. MLB RULE 55 MINOR LEAGUE FREE-AGENT: Any minor league player who is eligible to be a free-agent per MLB Rule 55 ("Six-Year FA" and/or "Second-Contract" FA) is automatically declared a free-agent at 5 PM on the 5th day following the conclusion of the World Series, unless the player is added to an MLB 40-man roster prior to that time.
Also, if a club wishes to outright a player to the minors who would be eligible to be a Rule 55 minor league FA if on a minor league reserve list, the player must be outrighted to the minors by 5 PM on the 5th day following the conclusion of the World Series, unless the player signs a major league contract for the following season prior to being outrighted.
CUBS MINOR LEAGUERS ELIGIBLE TO BE RULE 55 FA POST-2012:
SIX-YEAR MINOR LEAGUE FA: OF Jim Adduci, INF Alfredo Amezaga, C Juan Apodaca, RHP Jairo Asencio, RHP Justin Berg, LHP Kyler Burke, C Brian Esposito, 1B-OF Jeff Frazier, INF Vladimir Frias, INF Diory Hernandez, RHP Seth McClung, INF Jonathon Mota, LHP Horacio Ramirez, LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith, INF Nate Samson, C Alvaro Sosa (player-coach), and INF Matt Tolbert,
SECOND CONTRACT (PREVIOUSLY-RELEASED) MINOR LEAGUE FA: INF Carlos Figueroa (player-coach) and RHP Michael de la Cruz
A player is not eligible to be a Rule 55 minor league FA if the player and club agree to a minor league "Successor Contract" prior to 5 PM on the 5th day following the conclusion of the World Series.