We know that new pace-of-play rules are coming to MLB this season, one way or another. It is highly likely that the changes will include, among other things, a pitch clock and a limit on mound visits. Whatever your feelings on those things, it’s going to be best for your psyche to just prepare yourself now.
But that isn’t to say that the players will not have a say in the process of finalizing these changes and then rolling them out. The league continues to negotiate with the players:
Sources: Pace-of-play discussions ongoing. Commissioner’s office sent formal proposal for players to consider.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 14, 2018
You might think that, because the league has the right to make these pace-of-play changes without approval from the players, there is no real “negotiation” to be had. What leverage could the players have, after all?
But Buster Olney rightly points out that the players’ leverage is going to come from their public acceptance – or not – of these rules. The last thing MLB wants to see is a Spring Training filled with stories about how much the players are hating the new rules.
Olney suggests that, in return for accepting the pace-of-play rules in a smooth way, the Players Association could seek something significant in return, like a 26th man for the big league roster (something they didn’t get in the Collective Bargaining Agreement). Given how one-sided that CBA is looking right now, I’m going to say it would probably be a good idea for ownership to be extra flexible on these topics. I know they won’t want to give up another player spot (because it’ll cost money), but give a little now, and it could be beneficial for everyone when the next contentious CBA negotiation rolls around.
I don’t want to get too far down the wormhole of the implications of a 26th man since this is very speculative at this point (though we do know it’s something the players want, and it has been discussed before), but the counterargument from the league might be that a bigger roster – which would allow for an extra bullpen arm, for example – could wind up slowing down the very pace the rule changes are designed to improve. (To which I’d say that’s why you need to implement the rule that a reliever must face at least two batters upon entering the game, but, like I said, I don’t want to go too far here.)