September 12, 2012 -- MLB 2013 Schedules Released (ok, this one isn't upcoming, but it's still important)
What it means: Next season, the Astros will be joining the American League, thereby giving each league 15 teams. This means that the inter-league games will be held throughout the season. It's not really a huge deal, but it might mean that a contending AL team may have to play a series without the benefit of a designated hitter in the final games of the season (I believe this will happen to the Tigers as they play the Marlins to finish the season).
Also, for teams that have the regularly-scheduled "rivalry series": Yankee/Mets, Dodgers/Angels, Giants/A's, Twins/Brewers, etc., those will be reduced to two 2-game series instead of two 3-game series.
What it means for the Twins: I haven't looked carefully at the Twins schedule yet, but I've read a few things about it. They'll be hosting the Tigers on MLB Opening Day, April 1. I think it's great to have the real Opening Day at home, but I will likely have to bring my Twins stocking cap. And Twins mittens. And Twins scarf. And probably my Twins blanket. Meanwhile, you probably shouldn't plan on going to Target Field much to occupy your July evenings -- there will be only nine home games. They will, however, be done with inter-league play by the end of June.
I think that MLB blew it by reducing the number of "rivalry series" game, at least for the Twins. I'm not a fan of the idea of these series, but from a business standpoint, they're pretty valuable. Fans from both sides travel to see their teams. And with the possibility of the Twins suffering more attendance woes in 2013, they should take advantage of every opportunity to put butts in the seats. Even drunken 'Sconnie butts.
Start planning your spring and summer here: http://atmlb.com/NZHkOb
October 3, 2012 - End of the Regular Season; October 5, 2012 - Wild Card Playoff Games; October 6-7 - Start of the Division Series; October 13 -14, 2012 - Start of the League Championship Series; October 24, 2010 - Start of the World Series
What it means: This season, MLB added a second Wild Card team. Each division in both leagues will have its leader, then the two next best teams in each league will have to battle each other in a one-game play-in to the Divisional Series. The interesting part would be if any tie-breaker games are required for either a Division Championship or Wild Card berth. With the way some divisions are bunched up in the standings, this is a real possibility. Then, factor in that there may be some cross-country travel required, and this could be very messy. But in a fun way.
What it means for the Twins: Not a thing. After they finish their series in Toronto, they get to go home. Like, home home. On their couch. Like the rest of us.
Immediately after the World Series - Eligible Players Become Free Agents
What this means: Players used to have to file for free agency, but now it's automatically done. Teams have five days to negotiate exclusively with Major and Minor league free agents. Teams may offer a player (Major leaguer, at least) arbitration (basically a one-year contract), but will not receive compensatory draft picks if he signs elsewhere unless the the dollar amount is more than the average of the top 125 players. No one really knows yet what the exact qualifying amount will be, but it sounds like it'll be around $12.5 million. On the sixth day after the World Series is over, players may speak with other teams. Players have until the twelfth day to accept arbitration offers.
What this means for the Twins: Carl Pavano, Scott Baker, and Matt Capps are eligible for free agency. Ain't none of them worth $12.5 million, especially since they lost most or all of 2012 to injury, so there won't be any extra draft picks. Capps has a $6 million team option for 2013 with a $250 thousand buy out. Baker has a $9.25 million team option. It's doubtful that the Twins will pick up either of those. However, there's nothing stopping the Twins from signing any of them as free agents at a lower cost.
If you have big dreams that the Twins will super-duper free agent pitchers, you might want to temper them a bit. I read somewhere that a mediocre pitcher like Jeremy Guthrie might get as much as $10 million. And trading for stud pitching isn't terribly likely either; most teams hang on to good pitching.