However, there are just over 120 days until pitchers and catchers report and plenty to figure out personnel-wise before then. Many of the moves will be dictated by deadlines set forth by Major League Baseball.
Here is a look at those dates, and how each will impact the Red Sox as they assemble their 2012 edition:
End of World Series: For five days after the Fall Classic ends, teams have a window to negotiate exclusively with their free agents. This used to be a 15-day timeframe, but MLB condensed it. Players can talk with other teams during the five-day period, but not on contract matters (Movies? Politics?). Jonathan Papelbon, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, J.D. Drew, Tim Wakefield, Erik Bedard, Conor Jackson and Trever Miller are those affected by this.
November 23: Midnight on this day looms as the deadline for teams to offer arbitration to ranked free agents. This is a critical component to the offseason dance as it is how teams qualify for draft choice compensation if and when these players sign elsewhere. Papelbon and Ortiz will be Type A free agents, meaning if they sign elsewhere the Red Sox would get two draft picks in return (one is a supplemental round pick, the other is either a first-rounder or second-rounder depending on where the signing team ranks in the draft). Varitek could be a Type B. If he signs with another team the Sox get a compensatory round pick. If some options and buyouts play out a certain way, Marco Scutaro could leave as a Type B guy.
Because of the departures of Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez last offseason, Boston had four of the first 40 picks on the 2011 draft.
December 5-8: Winter Meetings in Dallas, Tex. The Red Sox stole the show at this event last season with the pre-meetings trade for Adrian Gonzalez and the out-of-the-blue signing of Carl Crawford. It was where they took on the role of preseason favorites.
December 7: This is the last date that a free agent can accept an arbitration offer. Almost nobody accepts and chooses instead to be free.
December 12: The final day that teams can tender offers to unsigned players. This involves arbitration eligibles and those still waiting to reach that phase of their career. Essentially, the Sox can choose to not tender a deal with a player, but by doing so they risk losing them to free agency. Players are sometimes non-tendered if the club feels they may be worth less than whatever they will get through the arbitration process.
The free agency list will greatly increase this day when players throughout baseball are non-tendered, although some have understandings or expectations that they will sign a minor-league deal with the team that chose not to tender them an offer. Rich Hill and Andrew Miller went this route last offseason.
There are often a few gems to be found once the dust settles. Among the notables that became available to the Red Sox through this process were Ortiz in 2002 and Bobby Jenks last year. The first obviously worked out pretty well. The second did not, at least not in the first year of Jenks' two-year deal.
January 5-15, 2012: Those headed toward arbitration file for the process during this time.
January 18: The union and MLB exchange salary arbitration figures.
February 1-21: Salary arbitration hearings take place during this time. The Red Sox have not had one under general manager Theo Epstein's watch. Players have filed during that earlier time period, but the organization has reached a settlement before it hits the court.
March 2-11: This is when unsigned players who have no say in their compensation (not yet eligible for arbitration) will receive new salary figures. On March 8 of last year, notables such as Daniel Bard, Clay Buchholz, Darnell McDonald, Lars Anderson, Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick all signed, among others. All were inked to deals just under or just over $500,000.
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