The day after the World Series' final out marks the official start of the Hot Stove season for baseball fans. That's when teams typically announce that they have exercised or declined options on players whose contracts have such a provision. It's also when veterans file for free agency. That's what happened Monday for several former (and perhaps some once and future?) St. Louis Cardinals.
As announced over the weekend, the Cardinals exercised the $11.5 million club option on Jaime Garcia, preventing the lefty from becoming a free agent. He maintains his spot on the 40-man and will receive a guaranteed $11.5 million salary for the 2016 season.
The following players officially became free agents:
- Mark Reynolds
- Carlos Villanueva
- Randy Choate
- Matt Belisle
- John Lackey
- Jason Heyward
- Jonathan Broxton
The Broxton news is not at all surprising. Broxton's contract came with a $9 million club option for 2016. (What was Walt Jocketty thinking when he signed Broxton to that three-year, $21 million deal after the 2012 season? It's a horrendous contract for nearly any middle reliever, let alone one of Broxton's age and caliber.) The buyout for Broxton's option year escalated to $2 million when the Reds
dealt him to the Brewers
last season. As Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported
at the time of the nonwaiver deadline trade, condition of the Cardinals' accepting the assignment of Broxton's contract from Milwaukee in exchange for prospect Malik Collymore was that the Brewers throw in $2 million to pay for the buyout of the veteran's hefty club option. So Milwaukee is footing the bill for the Cards' decision to not exercise the Broxton's 2016 option.
None of the other players on the list are at all surprising. Per the terms of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between MLB and the MLBPA, which governs labor relations in the big leagues, we are in the midst of a five-day "Quiet Period" during which time a free agent may only sign with his former club. It is during the Quiet Period that a team may elect to issue a free agent a Qualifying Offer, which will net them a draft pick should he elect to sign elsewhere during the offseason. I imaging we'll hear that St. Louis has issued a qualifying offer to Heyward in the days ahead and perhaps Lackey as well. Any player issued a Qualifying Offer has until the end of the seventh day after the close of the Quiet Period to accept or reject. He may reject by signing with another team (as Michael Cuddyer
did last year when inking a deal with the Mets
During the Quiet Period, any free agent may discuss "the merits" of signing with any club, "provided, however, that the Club and free agent shall not negotiated terms or contract with each another." So what is permissible for clubs and free agents to discuss during the Quiet Period? Per the terms of the CBA, the following:
- The player's interest in playing for the club
- The club's interest in having the player play for it
- The club's plans about how it intends to utilize the player's services (e.g., as a starter or reliever, as a designated hitter or not, platooning, etc.)
- The advantages and disadvantages of playing for the club, including the nature of the organization, the climate of the city, availability of suitable housing, etc.
- Length of contract
- Guarantee provisions
- No-trade or limited no-trade provisions
The Cardinals also cleared space on their 40-man roster. St. Louis outrighted the following players off the 40-man:
- Pete Kozma
- Ed Easley
- Travis Tartamella
The trio are now free agents, free to sign where they please.
The following graphic shows the updated 40-man roster matrix. The players in blue ended the season in the minors without a callup. For some reason, Jordan Walden is still on the 60-man DL according to the Cardinals' official site, yet Carlos Martinez is not. So Walden is in dark green. The other players finish the regular season on the expanded September roster one way (active) or another (DL).