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The Offseason
"Wait till next year!" That's the rallying cry of the fans of the 29 teams that don't win the World Series each year, and iOOTP Baseball 2011 lets you live that sentiment as you guide your team through the offseason. In my case, the Red Sox won the 2011 World Series, so I'm preparing to defend my championship. As we all know, winning two straight titles isn't easy.

Let's start with the Manager Home screen:

In the offseason, you get one more option to advance the game: Auto/Play until an event. As you see in the screenshot, the first event is the announcement of the season awards. But before I continue, I take a look at the league news and find this:

The Hall of Fame is a nice feature in iOOTP Baseball 2011, since it's an honor all players strive for. It's nice to see existing players get voted in, but it's even more exciting to read the news about a player you drafted and nurtured getting the nod.

In my game, only Jamie Moyer, was elected but it's only a matter of time before more players enter the Hall of Fame.

But back to the offseason events. I simulated until the first one, the awards, and can now take a look at the winners: in iOOTP you have season awards for the best hitter, pitcher, rookie and fielder (for every position).

Remember: John Lackey was my only player selected for the All-Star Game and now he gets the Outstanding Pitcher Award in the AL!

Additionally, two players from my Red Sox won the Glove Wizard Award: first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and left fielder Carl Crawford.

Back to the Offseason: the next event is Salary Arbitration Hearings.

Players that have more than 2 and less than 6 years of service time will get arbitration. They automatically get a new 1-year contract (you cannot lose them to free agency) ,but the salary is decided by an arbitrator.

First I check all the players on my team who are arbitration eligible. I do this on the Active Roster screen by selecting the Financial Info View:

I have 5 eligible players. To see the estimated salary each one will receive, check the player page:

As you can see, Buchholz is expected to get a pretty nice (for him) raise, but I still want to keep him. I check out the other players and decide to keep them. If you want to avoid arbitration, just release the player and you won't be on the hook for the salary dictated by the arbitrator.

I continue to the Arbitration Hearings and then check my in box. You receive the results of all the hearings, like this one for Buchholz:

The next step in the offseason involves players who have no contract years left filing for free agency.

So if you want to sign contract extensions, hurry up! I did this during the season, so I just tap Auto/Play.

You get a message listing the players from your team who filled for free agency (no surprises there) and ...

... another one with a few FA's from other teams (you just scroll to the bottom of the message shown above).

Now it's time to bid for some free agents. To do so, just open the Free Agents screen from the League menu:

You get a list of all available FA's. As with all tables in iOOTP, you can chose the view you prefer. The view selected in the screenshot above shows the Overall rating, Potential rating and Salary Demand. Carlos Beltran would be a nice addition to my club (remember my problems in CF last season) but $26 million is a lot. But just for fun, I take a look:

Two things to note here: first, I don't have enough money to sign Beltran (after all, I don't work for the Evil Empire) and second, if I did sign him, I would lose my first draft pick to his old team in the upcoming amateur draft.

To show you the bidding process, I will make an offer to Russell Branyan:

With David Ortiz gone, I lost a big lefty bat and he could replace him nicely (or better, he could even be an upgrade from Ortiz, who did not have his best year).

He wants $11 million and 4 years. Considering his age, I offer him 3 years and $12 million. Now I have to wait, so I tap Auto-Play.

After a few days, I get an update from him telling me that my offer is the best one so far. I might get lucky: maybe most other teams are going for the big names and I can sign him before other teams show their interest. iOOTP Baseball 2011 has the same offseason drama that the big leagues do in real life. Remember all the rumors about who Cliff Lee was going to sign with?

During my wait for another update, I reach the next event: the Winter Meetings. This is a great time to make some deals with other teams. You will get trade offers, listen to rumors, and try to set up trades on your own. And since all GM's are around, it takes no time to negotiate. Since I showed the trade process in an earlier Road to Release article, I will continue.

Russell Branyan signed a contract with me, so I filled one need on my team. He will see time at 1B and as a DH.

As you can see, the offseason is all about setting up your team for the new season. You face the same issues that big league general managers do. Soon spring training will be around the corner and you'll need to prepare your freshly-updated team for Opening Day and the pennant chase. In my case, I'll be the hunted.