Every year, soon after we publish the offseason roadmap, people quickly scroll through the “calendar,” hunting for the start of the Winter Meetings – the four annual days in December when MLB executives, agents, and players (as necessary) get together somewhere warm for a week.
Typically, the multi-day event is the biggest collection of rumors *and* transactions, both in trade and free agency we’ll see all winter long, so I get the general excitement. The less exciting, but still relatively important GM meetings come first, of course, and they usually gain some attention, despite a lack of actual moves, because the groundwork of future transactions is often laid here. And when there’s even a hint of a rumor – or the potential for one – offseason baseball fans go nuts.
And then there are the Owners Meetings, the least publicized and usually least sexy set of meetings over the offseason, where the owners of all 30 teams get together and discuss league stuff. It, too, is a precursor to the Winter Meetings, but the focus is less on transactions and team needs and more on league decisions and rule changes.
This year, the Owners Meetings are being held in Carlsbad, California throughout the day today and tomorrow. According to Whitney McIntosh, the full agenda hasn’t been released to the public, but we can take a guess and some things that may be discussed and in which direction they’re heading.
For example, McIntosh guesses that the “most sure outcome” of these winter meetings will be an extension for Commissioner Rob Manfred. Manfred, elected to the role back in 2014, is approaching the end date on his deal (after the 2019 season) so not unlike the Cubs TV deal and Joe Maddon’s contract, something needs to get done, lest he enter the year as a lame duck commissioner.
The owners are expected to vote on an extension this week and Manfred is expected to receive unanimous support, despite needing just 23 of the 30 teams’ approval. The owners will want him to have full job security through the next (expectedly more contentious) round of CBA negotiations – he clearly did well for them in the last round – so this isn’t much of a surprise.
One interesting topic that could be brought up: postseason broadcast rights. Although the league’s current deal with FOX and Turner Broadcast doesn’t expire until 2021, one specific aspect of that plan is on the agenda this week. Namely, MLB took *extra money* when they signed this deal in exchange for allowing FOX to play their non-World Series playoff games on FS1, a stupid channel a lot of people don’t even have. Obviously, that was a short-sighted decision, because the lack of attention on baseball is already a problem. We don’t need the league moving the most important games as far away from viewers as possible (particularly younger viewers who are less likely to subscribe to a cable provider at all let alone pay extra for special channels). McIntosh hopes the league will accept a deal for less dollars (relatively) in exchange for correcting this.
And finally, rules changes. The biggy, from the fan perspective. The league could propose banning the shift, finalizing the prospect of a pitch clock, discussing the mound visit rule, limiting reliever usage, addressing openers in an official way, and much more. And it’s not just on-field stuff, either. Changes to the DL, waivers, and the trade deadline could happen, too (indeed, we already caught wind of the potential changes on that front).
At The Athletic, Jayson Stark runs down the items he sees being discussed this week and the likelihood of whatever outcome occurring, including: the pitch clock, limiting pitching changes, limiting how many relievers can pitch in one game in general, tightening up the replay system, mound visits, inning-breaks, sign-stealing, banning shifts, and more. Although each topic has its own unique dilemmas, the one broad stroke fact seems to be Manfred’s reluctance to make any changes unilaterally, which, in some cases, is his prerogative. That’s probably wise given the discord between the league and the union right now, but also means we might not get that sweeping winter of change they keep promising. We’ll see.
And if you’re just an absolute nerd and need more Owners Meetings fodder, the Boston Globe has even more topics and discussion over what might be on the docket today and tomorrow, including roster size, reducing strikeouts, and more.
So while this week won’t be a hot bed for rumors and transactions, we will see some major changes to the game discussed.