MLB Free Agency Primer: Schedule, deadlines, rosters, and the Rule 5 draft

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency begins as soon as the World Series ends.

With the Red Sox and Cardinals scheduled to play Game 6 of the World Series tonight, the baseball season will soon be over. As soon as the World Series ends, the offseason begins as eligible players officially become free agents. From there, a few things come into play.

Qualifying offers

By the fifth day after the conclusion of the World Series, teams must decide whether or not to tender a qualifying offer to their eligible free agents. A qualifying offer is a one-year deal for the average of the top 125 salaries in Major League Baseball in the preceding season. This year, that's a $14.1 million offer. The Mets don't have any players who would warrant such an offer.

Free agency

On the sixth day after the World Series ends, eligible free agents—both of the major and minor league variety—are eligible to sign with all teams. Under previous collective bargaining agreements, teams had a longer window of exclusive negotiation with their impending free agents, but that's no longer the case.

Six days later, those player who were tendered qualifying offers must decide whether or not to accept them. If a player declines, he's free to sign anywhere, but if he signs with a new team, that team must surrender its highest available non-protected draft pick in next year's amateur draft. The team that lost the player receives a compensatory pick.

Non-tender deadline

So within a couple of weeks from today or tomorrow, weather permitting, the big free agent hurdles will have been cleared. But teams must decide whether or not to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players—think Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, and Daniel Murphy—by December 2. Those players can be traded before December 2, and if they are, their new team gets to decide whether or not to tender the player a contract by the deadline.

Rule 5 draft

After that, 40-man rosters must be set by December 9 in advance of the Rule 5 draft, which will take place on December 12, the last day of Major League Baseball's winter meetings. Certain players—see the list over at tpgMets—in the minor leagues would be exposed to the draft if they are not included on the Mets' 40-man roster by the deadline.

So after the last pitch—or pickoff or obstruction call or whatever else the Red Sox and Cardinals can come up with—of the World Series, things will begin to move quickly. Here's hoping the Mets are able to make the kinds of moves they've hinted they'd like to make.

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