When the Skies of November Turn Gloomy
At 9 AM (Eastern) on Thursday 11/2 (the day after the final game of the 2023 World Series), 3B-1B Jeimer Candelario, RHP Tyler Duffey, and RHP Shane Greene will be automatically declared Article XX-B MLB free agents and will be removed from the Cubs MLB 40-man roster. They do not have to file. It is automatic. At that same time, RHP Michael Fulmer will be reinstated from the MLB 60-day IL and will be declared an Article XX-B MLB free-agent.
The other six potential Cubs Article XX-B free-agents will be declared free-agents if and when the club option is declined (Hendricks and Gomes), the mutual option is declined by either party (Bellinger and Boxberger), or if the player opts-out (Smyly and Stroman). These decisions must be made no later than 5 PM (Eastern) on the 5th day after the final game of the 2023 World Series (Monday 11/6).
5 PM (Eastern) on Monday 11/6 will also be the deadline to reinstate players from the MLB 60-day IL and minor league players from a minor league 60-day IL. If a club does not reinstate the player from the 60- day IL by that time, it is done automatically by the MLB Commissioner. Michael Fulmer will be automatically reinstated from the 60-day IL when he is declared an Article XX-B MLB FA on 11/2, but the other five Cubs on the MLB 60-day IL (RHP Nick Burdi, RHP Codi Heuer, LHP Brandon Hughes, INF Nick Madrigal, and RHP Ethan Roberts) must be reinstated and added back to the MLB 40-man roster by 5 PM (Eastern) on 11/6, unless the player is released, traded, outrighted to the minors, or Designated for Assignment prior to the deadline.
In addition, 5 PM (Eastern) on 11/6 is the point in time when all unsigned players eligible to be an MLB Rule 9 minor league free-agent (second contract or 6YFA) will be automatically declared a free-agent if the player has not been selected to an MLB 40-man roster or has signed a 2024 minor league successor contract by that time. Again, players do NOT need to file for this type of minor league free-agency. It is automatic. Notable Cubs minor leaguers eligible to be minor league free agents on 11/6 are OF Yonathan Perlaza, and SS Luis Vazquez, both of whom are legit MLB prospects.
Clubs also must decide by 5 PM (Eastern) on 11/6 whether to extend a Qualifying Offer (likely to be about $20M) to any of its Article XX-B free-agents eligible to receive one. (Players extended a QO will have until 11/15 to accept or decline). Cody Bellinger is a lock to receive a QO, and then he will certainly decline (thus providing the Cubs with a 2024 comp draft pick between the 2nd & 3rd rounds if Bellinger signs elsewhere). If he opts-out. Marcus Stroman is not eligible to receive a QO, because he received one previously in his career.
11/14 is the date when clubs must file off-season reserve lists with the MLB Commissioner. The Rule 5 Draft 38-man AAA rosters will be established at this time. (The reserve list filing date used to be 11/20, but it was moved up beginning in 2022). Rule 5 Draft-eligible players on a club's AAA reserve list can only be selected in the Major League Phase of the Rule 5 Draft ($100,000 draft price with the possibility that the player could be re-claimed later for $50,000), while Rule 5 Draft-eligible players not placed on a club';s AAA reserve list can be selected in the AAA Phase of the Rule 5 Draft for $24,000 with no right to re-claim. (Because the Cubs farm system is so deep, they could end up losing some fairly decent minor leaguers in the AAA Phase this year).
Rule 5 Draft-eligible players on minor league reserve lists cannot be traded, selected to an MLB 40-man roster, or added to or removed from the organization's AAA reserve list beginning when the reserve lists are filed and extending through the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft in December. A free-agent who signs a minor league contract or a player who is outrighted off an MLB 40-man roster can, however, be added to the AAA reserve list during this period of time.
Besides minor league free agent eligibles Luis Vazquez and Yonathan Perlaza, Cubs Rule 5 Draft-eligible minor leaguers most likely to be added to the MLB 40-man roster by 11/14 are C Pablo Aliendo, LHRP Bailey Horn, and RHSP Michael Arias, although conceivably the Cubs might not add any of them to the 40 and just take a chance that they won't get selected (or if any of them are selected, that the Cubs could eventually re-claim the player, as happened with RHP Chris Clarke a year ago).
Friday 11/17 will be this year's MLB contract tender day. (It used to be December 2nd, but it was permanently moved up to the Friday prior to Thanksgiving last year). Unsigned players on an MLB 40-man roster will be automatically declared a free-agent (and the player's club receives no compensation) if the player is not tendered a contract on that date. A non-tender is the one way to remove a player from an MLB 40-man roster without risking a waiver claim.
Although a player becomes a free-agent after being non-tendered, nothing precludes a club from re-signing a player to either an MLB or minor league contract after he is non-tendered. Sometimes a club believes it will need a player's 40-man roster slot for an MLB free-agent sometime during the off-season and a pre-emptive non-tender in mid-November is the best method to open up the slot since there is no risk of losing the player off waivers.
Cubs likely non-tender candidates are Nick Burdi, Codi Heuer, Brandon Hughes, and Ethan Roberts (all of whom the Cubs would certainly hope to re-sign to a 2024 minor league contract for "big league money" and with an NRI to MLB Spring Training), with Mark Leiter Jr, Nick Madrigal, Mike Tauchman, and/or Patrick Wisdom possible non-tender (or trade) candidates mainly because they are salary-arbitration eligible, and clubs hate salary arbitration. (Justin Steele, Adbert Alzolay, and Julian Merryweather are also salary arbitration eligible, but they are in no danger of being non-tendered).