The White Sox started their offseason with moves that the timeline forced them to make -- declining Matt Albers’ option, reinstating Matt Davidson and Jake Petricka from the 60-day disabled list. They only needed to open one roster spot to accommodate the latter, so they could’ve outrighted J.B. Shuck or released Daniel Webb. They did both instead.
The league as a whole went the extra mile. After options were exercised or declined, after players were outrighted, two teams made significant -- and somewhat unusual — transactions before the close of the offseason’s first day.
No. 1: The Houston Astros claimed Nori Aoki off waivers from the Seattle Mariners.
Aoki signed a one-year deal with the Mariners, and since he fell short of his vesting option by 13 plate appearances, he was expected to hit free agency. But when the Mariners tried outrighting him to get him off the roster and onto the open market, the Astros swooped in and claimed him. Even MLB Trade Rumors was caught off guard:
As MLB.com’s Greg Johns pointed out earlier today, there’s been a public misconception that Aoki is eligible for free agency because his option didn’t vest and because his previous contracts allowed him to hit free agency upon their completion. That doesn’t appear to have been the case with the one-year deal he inked in Seattle last offseason, and he’ll now be controllable by the Astros via arbitration for the 2017 season.
His previous contracts allowed him to bypass the arbitration process and enter free agency afterward, which is (or was) a common arrangement with older Japanese players (Tadahito Iguchi had the same thing). Apparently this one did not, and so Aoki will be in his final arbitration year at the age of 34.
No. 2: The Detroit Tigers traded Cameron Maybin to the Los Angeles Angels for Victor Alcantara.
The deadline for exercising options — and perhaps a shrinking Detroit payroll — forced this move. The Tigers didn’t want to be on the hook for Maybin’s $9 million salary for 2017, and they didn’t want to pay $1 million for the privilege of losing him, either.
The solution: a trade-and-sign. They sent him to Anaheim for Alcantara, a hard-throwing Double-A lottery ticket who stands a chance of figuring out control in a relief role. The Angels then exercised Maybin’s $9 million option, which allows them to start their offseason with a potential solution to the league’s worst production from their left fielders.
It’s a somewhat surprising move since Maybin was effective in his Detroit homecoming this season, if only for 94 games. He hit .315/.383/.418 despite various injuries eating up more than two months of playing time.
Detroit GM Al Avila has expressed a desire to pare down the payroll, but the Tigers have talked that game before. This is action along those lines — especially with their internal replacements being less than scintillating — but it can’t yet be confused for a step back. There’s a lot of offseason left.
Speaking of which, here’s a timeline for that remaining offseason, with an assist from CBS Sports.
Nov. 4-6: White Sox organizational meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Nov. 7-10: GM meetings in Scottsdale (convenient!).
Nov. 7: Deadline for teams to make qualifying offers to their free agents.
Nov. 7: Find out whether any White Sox are in the running for Rookie of the Year or Cy Young awards (and Manager of the Year and MVP, I guess).
Nov. 8: Free agents can negotiate and sign with any MLB team starting at 12:01 a.m. Eastern.
Nov. 8: Find out whether Adam Eaton wins a Gold Glove.
Nov. 14: Deadline for free agents to accept or reject qualifying offer.
Nov. 14: Find out if Tim Anderson received any Rookie of the Year support.
Nov. 16: Find out how much Cy Young support Chris Sale and Jose Quintana received.
Nov. 18: Deadline to add prospects to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft.
Dec. 1: The day the baseball’s collective bargaining agreement expires.
Dec. 2: Deadline for the White Sox to tender contracts to Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia, Miguel Gonzalez, Dan Jennings, Zach Putnam, Petricka, and maybe Jose Abreu. Shuck and Webb were also on this list until the Sox shuffled them off the 40-man.
Dec. 5-8: MLB’s winter meetings at the Gaylord Convention Center, on the Maryland side of the Potomac River outside Washington.
Dec. 8: Rule 5 draft.
Sometime in January: Deadline for arbitration-eligible players exchange salary figures with their teams. The exact date will be determined by the new CBA, if and when it exists.
Jan. 18: Find out whether Tim Raines makes the Hall of Fame in his final year on the ballot, and whether Harold Baines hangs around on the ballot.
Jan. 27-29: SoxFest at the Hilton Chicago. Mood of the rooms to be determined.
Mid-February: Pitchers and catchers report.