When the season starts a lot of things happen fast. Here's your guide to what you need to do and check each day. By the way, you can see the schedule of events for the entire season by clicking World Office >> Schedules >> World Schedule.
Day 1 - Budget Distribution: Admin Office >> Budgeting >> Set Budget. This is one of the areas of HBD that is decidedly unlike real-life baseball, and it takes a bit of getting used to. There are 3 aspects to the budgeting process in HBD that newcomers can find a bit quirky:
First, how come I can't change the scouting budgets more than $4MM either way? When a new owner takes over a team, HBD resets the scouting budgets (and training and medical) to $10MM, and limits the one-year change to + or - $4MM. They do this so an owner can't take all scouting to zero, load up on free agents regardless of the cost in an effort to win it all in one year, then abandon the team leaving behind a bunch of bad contracts. Plan accordingly.
Second, there's a penalty for bad budgeting. Once budgets are set, you can change your budgets but at a cost: you can transfer $$ between budget categories (in $2MM increments), but you lose 50% of it. If you transfer $2MM from player payroll to prospect payroll, only $1MM arrives in prospect payroll. This is weird, I know. The primary place this comes into play is signing international free agents (IFA's). The top IFA's can command signing bonuses of $20MM+...and $30MM is not unheard of. Since your prospect payroll budget tops out at $20MM, competing for the top IFA's involves transferring $$ from player payroll to prospect payroll. If there wasn't a transfer penalty, it would be possible for teams to slash their player payroll to a very small number (like $12 million) at the expense of this year's won-loss record, transfer huge sums into prospect payroll, and snap up all the top IFA's that appear during the season. The transfer penalty helps to moderate this practice.
Third, unused money vanishes at yearend. If you don't use money this season, it doesn't carry over to next season. Budgets are strictly "use it or lose it".
Day 2 - Rehire Coaches and Avoid Free Agency/Arbitration: To rehire coaches, click Admin Office >> Coaching Staff >> Rehire Coaches. Pretty straightforward. For the avoid FA/arb part, there are 4 things to do:
Decide on players with team or mutual options: Click on GM's Office >> Contracts >> Options Report. If you have contracts that include team or mutual options for this season they'll show up on this page. Just click decline or exercise. Note that if you want to decline an option, it costs you 25% of this season's contract amount, which gets charged to your player payroll.
Decide on major league free agents: This is the day you can sign (maybe) your former players who have become free agents this year. GM's Office >> Contracts >> Free Agent Report. Set franchise to your team, make sure the season is set for the current season, set level to Majors and set Position to All Positions or All Pitchers. Then click Negotiate Contract for each player you want to deal with. For the players you don't want to re-sign, you don't have to do anything. Repeat for either All Positions or All Pitchers.
Decide on minor league free agents: Same process for your minor league free agents, just set the level to Minors.
Arbitration: GM's Office >> Contracts >> Arbitration Report shows you your players who are eligible for arbitration this year. Today's not arbitration day, but you can sign players long-term, or release them, on this day to avoid arbitration. To sign an arb-eligible player to a long-term contract, just click Negotiate Long-Term.
To release the player and avoid arb, you have to go to another page. Click GM's Office >> Roster Management >> Edit Roster. Make sure level is set to ML. Here's your ML roster. Over to the right you see their salaries - the arb-eligibles will show a salary of 0. To release the player, click on the little circle to the right of the salary. Now, see the drop-down menu below the pitchers? Select Release, then Add Roster Move. You get another screen where you must confirm or cancel this move.
Important Note: this is the only time you can outright release a player without salary implications. If you release a player who is under contract, you still pay the contract even if another tram picks him up. If you have a player with a contract you don't like, there are only 2 ways to attempt to get rid of that contract:
1. Try to trade the player;
2. Waive him and hope someone claims him (if that happens the claiming team picks
up the remainder of the contract).
So, do not under any circumstance release a major league player with multiple year remaining on his contract.
A couple of helpful arbitration notes: The amount of money players demand in arbitration (and the long-term contract alternative) follows a pretty consistent pattern:
First arbitration year: they ask for a very low amount (typically $700K to $2MM,
depending on OVR) relative to their long-term demands.
Second arbitration year: guys who were full-time players the previous year usually
ask for an amount that's in the same ballpark as their long-term demands, although I
think that more often than not the arb demand is still lower than the long-term demand.
Guys who were role players/part-timers (I think this is based on AB's and IP's although
I don't know where the line is) will only ask for the minimum salary.
Third arbitration year: Full-time players demand an arb salary higher than their
long-term contract demands.
That's the pattern..useful. Here's the critical note: Players whom you've taken to arbitration twice will always (I think) agree to sign a long-term contract with you in their third arbitration year (but you have to do it on arb day or the day before, you can't wait). If you arbitrate a player 3 times, he will almost always refuse to sign a long-term contract with you the following year. So if you have a player you want to control long-term (up to 5 years), make sure you only arbitrate twice.
Day 3 - Arbitration Day (and you still have today to finish re-hiring your old coaches): OK, today's the day you can actually go to arbitration with players (you can still opt to sign them long-term on this day). GM's Office >> Contracts >> Arbitration Report. Click Arbitrate next to each player - this takes you to another screen where you actually fill in the amount you want to offer. Once you confirm the amount you want to offer, you get the result.
Does the amount you offer affect the likelihood the "arbitrator" decides in your favor? Unknown, although there are certainly those who believe that the closer your offer is to the player's demands, the more likely the arbitrator rules for you. Others think it's a "random roll of the dice" no matter what you offer.
Next: free agency