Navigating the Off-Season Roster
5 PM (Eastern) on the 5th day after the final game of the World Series (which was Sunday 11/1 this season) is an important deadline for several reasons.
You already know about certain unsigned minor leaguers being declared second-contract or 6YFA on that date/time, but it is also the deadline for outrighting certain players.
This is why you saw so many players get outrighted by MLB clubs prior to that date/time.
Any player on an MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) who is not eligible to elect free-agency if outrighted (players on the 40 who are eligible to elect free-agency must have Article XX-D or Article XIX-A status, meaning the player either has been outrighted previously in his career or the player has accrued at least three years of MLB Service Time or the player qualifies as a "Super Two" player) but who would have been declared a Rule 55 minor league second-contract or 6YFA this past Sunday if it wasn't that he was on an MLB 40-man roster at the time cannot be sent outright to the minors unless and until the player has signed a 2021 MLB contract or until the player agrees (in advance) to sign a 2021 minor league contract.
Since MLB contracts are not tendered until 12/2 (that's the MLB contract tender date) and since 2020 MLB contracts cannot be renewed until March 1st, a player in this class is usually advised by his agent not to sign a contract for 2021 until the player reports to Spring Training in February. That way, the player cannot be outrighted to the minors during the off-season (after this past Sunday).
Players on the Cubs MLB 40-man roster who cannot be sent outright to the minors without the player's permission during the off-season are:
PLAYERS WITH ARTICLE XIX-A STATUS:
Players on the Cubs MLB 40-man roster who can be sent outright to the minors but can elect free-agency after being outrighted:
PLAYERS WITH ARTICLE XX-D STATUS:
Rowan Wick (was outrighted previously in his career)
Players on the Cubs MLB 40-man roster who cannot be sent outright to the minors until the player either signs a 2021 MLB contract or agrees (in advance) to sign a 2021 minor league contract:
PLAYERS WITH RULE 55 STATUS:
Duane Underwood Jr
In addition, any minor league player who has accrued less than three years of MLB Service Time, who is eligible for selection in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, and who had his contract selected and was added to the MLB 40-man roster after August 31st (it was after August 15th in previous seasons) and prior to the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, cannot be sent outright to the minors until 20 days prior to 2021 MLB Opening Day. This is called a "Draft-Excluded Player."
PLAYERS WITH DRAFT-EXCLUDED STATUS:
Briailyn Marquez, LHP
Also, any Rule 5 Draft-eligible minor league player with less than three years of MLB Service Time who is added to the 40 by the 11/20 roster filing deadline will have Draft-Excluded Status as well (these players still TBD).
So this means that very few players on the Cubs MLB 40-man roster can be outrighted to the minors during the off-seasson (after last Sunday) without restriction.
The only ones who can be outrighted throughout the off-season without any restriction (other than the possibility that the player might get claimed off waivers) are:
David Bote (has Rule 55 Status but is signed to a multi-year contract)
In addition, even if the player is one of the eight with "no rrestriction" listed above, an injured player cannot be placed on Outright Assignment Waivers and be sent outright to the minors after 11/20 and up until 15 days prior to MLB Opening Day unless the player accrued no MLB Service Time in 2020. The only such player on the list above is Miguel Amaya.
And since Norwood, Rodriguez, and Wieck ended the 2020 season on the MLB 60-day IL, there may be issues with the player being medically cleared so that he can be placed on Outright Assignment Waivers during the off-season after 11/20. (Both Rodriguez and Wieck are active at AZ Instructs, and Rodriguez has even been pitching in AZIL games, while Wieck has thrown "live" BP only).
So that doesn't leave the Cubs much 40-man roster wiggle room during the off-season if they need to open up additional roster slots for MLB free-agents, trades, waiver claims, and/or Rule 5 Draft picks.
And that's why the MLB contract tender date (December 2nd) is so important.
Players who cannot be outrighted during the off-season or who can elect free-agency if outrighted can be released at any time (but the player could be claimed off Outright Release Waivers, although a player claimed off Outright Release Waivers can reject the claim and elect free-agency, and once released the player cannot return to that club's MLB 40-man roster until May 15th), but non-tendering the player on 12/2 does not expose the player to waivers - AND - the player can be re-signed by the same club to a minor league contract (normally after the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft, so that the player would not be eligible for selection) and can be added back to the MLB 40-man roster prior to May 15th (perhaps by Opening Day if the player gets an NRI to MLB Spring Training and pitches or plays well enough to make the Opening Day MLB roster).
So while the 12/2 contract tender date is often presented as the deadline to offer or decline to offer a contract to arbitration-eligible players, it actually isn't just about tendering or non-tendering arbitration-eligible players.
It's also very important as the one off-season "roster oasis" as far as a club being able to remove a pre-arbitration (auto-renewal) player from the MLB 40-man roster who otherwise cannot be removed from the 40 during the off-season, except by Outright Release.