We don't yet have an official reporting date for Cubs players for spring training, but figure it will be sometime around February 17 or 18. That leaves about 105 days for us to talk about baseball-related things other than baseball players playing the game on an actual field.
Here are some of the important upcoming dates on the baseball calendar.
Deadline for teams to extend qualifying offers to outgoing free agents.
The only Cub who would rate getting a qualifying offer is Dexter Fowler, and I'd fully expect the Cubs to give him one. No player has yet accepted a QO and I wouldn't anticipate Fowler will do so. The possibility of him returning to the Cubs still exists, but giving him the QO gives the Cubs an extra draft pick if he signs elsewhere.
Exclusive negotiating rights end and free agents can sign deals with any team.
I wouldn't expect the Cubs to sign anyone right after the signing period begins, but you'll certainly see some activity next week.
General Manager meetings take place in Boca Raton, Florida.
This is where a lot of groundwork will be laid for deals that will be consummated during the Winter Meetings.
Deadline for players to accept qualifying offers.
As mentioned above, no player has yet accepted a QO since it was created in the last collective-bargaining agreement. I wouldn't expect any to be accepted this year, either.
Deadline to protect eligible prospects from the Rule 5 Draft.
Over the next two weeks, the Cubs could add players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. As of today (November 4), the Cubs' 40-man roster stands at 29 players, following various outrightings and free-agent declarations. Here's the roster as it stands. This does not mean the Cubs will add 11 prospects, but it does give them plenty of space to protect those who need it.
The non-tender deadline.
It's possible that some current Cubs will be non-tendered. Possible non-tenders, in my view, could include Chris Coghlan and Travis Wood, but that's strictly guesswork. In all likelihood, the Cubs will tender a contract to all their arb-eligible players.
Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee.
A week's worth of fun, rumors, and baseball in the middle of winter. The Rule 5 draft will be December 10, the draft's last day.
Salary arbitration hearings.
The Cubs have had just seven arb-eligible players go as far as a hearing since the arbitration system came into being, the last being Pedro Strop last winter. A bit more on the Cubs' arb history is here.
Finally, a couple of contract-related deadlines that come up during spring training:
Last day to release a player and pay 30 days termination pay (⅙ salary) instead of 45 days.
Last day to release a player without having to pay his full 2016 salary.