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Transaction Analysis: Cards’ Free Agents off of the 40-man roster; 40-man now at 36

MLB: Colorado Rockies at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The transaction wires are a little slow today and do not reflect this yet, but I can promise you that at 9:00 A.M. EST this morning, the following transactions took place that affected the Cards’ 40-man roster:

LHP Tony Cingrani activated from the 60-day IL

LHP Tony Cingrani, LF Marcell Ozuna, RHP Michael Wacha, RHP Adam Wainwright and C Matt Wieters declared free agents

These five players are technically called “Article XX-B free agents” because it is Article XX-B of the 2017-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement that outlines their rights and the procedure for dealing with them. They are free agents under this provision because their contracts are expired, they have no contract for the 2020 season, and they have 6 years or more of MLB service time. You will actually see on the transaction pages of teams that these players “elected” free agency This is not true. It used to be true, but has not been the case for several years now. These players were declared free agents automatically at 9:00 A.M. EST this morning (because this is the day after the World Series ends), did not elect anything, and did not have to file. Apparently the transaction pages have not updated the nomenclature after all this time.

You may wonder why there is a separate transaction to activate Cingrani from the 60-day IL. All players that are currently on the 60-day IL of clubs must be activated from the 60-day IL and thus added back to their clubs’ 40-man rosters by 5:00 EST on the 5th day following the day that the World Series ends. But if an Article XX-B free agent is also on the 60-day IL, he must be activated today. It would make no sense for such a person to be declared a free agent and still on the 60-day IL of a club for another 4 days. So Article XX-B free agents must be activated today so that they can simultaneously be declared free agents.

The free agents come off of the 40-man roster immediately. These moves put the Cards’ 40-man roster at 36 players. The 40-man roster was full. Cingrani was simultaneously activated from the 60-day IL to be added back and then was declared a free agent, so his move provided no net change. Then the four other free agents were removed to put the roster at 36.

Quiet Period

This morning at 9:00 A.M. EST was the official start of what the Collective Bargaining Agreement calls the Quiet Period with respect to free agent negotiations. Starting at 9:00 A.M. EST this morning and ending on the 5th day following the conclusion of the World Series at 5:00 EST, which will be November 4th, the Cards have exclusive rights to negotiate terms and enter into contracts with their Article XX-B free agents.

Other clubs are allowed to talk to them, but are not allowed to actually sign the players or negotiate terms. The Collective Bargaining Agreement specifically outlines exactly what these free agents and other clubs are allowed to discuss. The following topics are permissible areas of conversation:

  • The player’s interest in playing for the club and 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 (as a starting pitcher 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; and
  • No-trade or limited no-trade provisions.

That’s a fairly broad range of topics. A club can basically come up to Ozuna and tell him they’d love for him to start in left field for the club, that he and the city would be a great fit, tell him that they are prepared to offer him a 5-year deal with a full no-trade clause, and ask him what he thought about that possibility. They just couldn’t talk actual numbers.

Stay Tuned for November 4th at 5:00 Eastern Time

Monday November 4th is going to be a huge transaction day across Major League Baseball because 5:00 EST on that date is a deadline for 4 major things.

  • All players must be activated from the 60-day IL by then, whether they have spent 60 days on the IL or not, adding all those players back to their clubs’ 40-man rosters. The Cards have 3 players on the 60-day IL (Brett Cecil, Jordan Hicks, Lane Thomas), and adding them will put the Cards’ 40-man roster right back at 39 players.
  • All players eligible for Rule 55 minor league free agency will automatically be declared free agents unless they are either added back to the clubs’ 40-man roster by then or agree to sign another minor league deal for 2020. I count 11 players in the Cardinals’ organization who will be declared minor league free agents at this time. It is possible that the Cardinals may want to add one or more players to the 40-man roster to prevent them from becoming minor league free agents. They may take a close look at RHP Roel Ramirez, whom the Cards acquired in the Tommy Pham trade, as he made a decent showing in the Arizona Fall League as a reliever.
  • This is the deadline for clubs to extend a Qualifying Offer to their Article XX-B free agents. I think it’s a foregone conclusion that they will make a QO to Ozuna and no one else.
  • This is also the deadline for player and club options to be exercised, if the contract itself does not call for an earlier deadline. The Cardinals do not have to worry about this, because there are no players that have either player options or club options attached to their contracts for 2020. There are, however, some interesting cases around the league.

Teams have already been placing players on outright assignment waivers over the last couple of days and waiver claims have been made. Between now and November 4th, it is possible that someone could be made available that the Cards have their eye on. Whatever happens, I’ll keep you updated right here at VEB.