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Volume 25 No. 177

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Big-name free agents like Manny Machado can wait several months to sign with an MLB team
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

This year's MLB Winter Meetings "went down as a dud, their Las Vegas locale notwithstanding, as no transaction reached the buzz threshold of actually mandating an industry-wide news conference to announce it," according to Ken Davidoff of the N.Y. POST. The quietude prompted Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski to "float the idea of an offseason transaction deadline." Dombrowksi: "We've reached a point where there's not any downtime for people in the game" (N.Y. POST, 12/16). In N.Y., Bill Madden wrote the Winter Meetings used to be a "Hot Stove haven for baseball and its fans." But now it has "dissolved into nothing more than a 24-hour-a-day, week-long infomercial for the MLB Network, with panel after panel of baseball scribes and talking TV heads rambling on about trades and potential signings that never happen." Madden: "At least at the Winter Meetings anyway." Former Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said, "The problem is that you have clubs with payrolls of $200 million and clubs with payrolls of $60 million and teams are shopping in different markets for their needs and different dollars to fill them. To line up these two is very difficult without a deadline. Without a deadline, teams find it a lot easier to say 'no.' Look what happens in July where there is a deadline" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/16).

BAD FOR BASEBALL: In Boston, Nick Cafardo noted Dombrowski "isn't alone in his recommendation to have the league impose free agent signing deadlines and trade deadlines in the offseason." The "lack of activity at the Winter Meetings is ridiculous." MLB is "getting bad publicity because the sport's biggest winter showcase is resulting in minimal transactions." The free agent signing deadline "should be the last day of the Winter Meetings." If a player is "not signed by then, then not until the beginning of spring training." Teams and agents have "plenty of time between the end of the World Series until mid-December to figure out what they want to do" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/16). But Mets reporter Rich Coutinho tweeted, "Talk about adding a trade deadline to MLB off-season is nonsense. I like fact Winter Meetings can be a prelude to trades and free agent signing. It lets the market evolve & to me is so interesting. NBA and NFL are different but those are salary cap leagues-different scenario" (TWITTER.com, 12/16). Also in Boston, Sean McAdam wrote for those who think actual games "take too long and don't feature enough action, the same can be said of the offseason, too." This "doesn't happen in other sports." When the NFL, NBA and NHL begin their free agent periods, the action is "non-stop." Signings in baseball can "literally take months." Fans "eventually tire of the lack of movement." It is "hard to affix blame for the current mess." MLB execs "insist that agents encourage the slow-play," while agents "point the finger of blame at front office personnel" (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 12/15).

WHAT'S EVEN THE POINT? In Chicago, Paul Sullivan wrote the lack of movement during the Winter Meetings "makes the affair seem anachronistic." Only 16 official moves "were announced during the three days in Las Vegas: six waiver claims, six signings, three trades and one player (Troy Tulowitzki) released." It was a "snoozefest from start to finish." Sullivan: "It makes you wonder whether the meetings are even necessary in this day and age" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/16). In N.Y., Bob Raissman gives MLB Net "credit for sending its troops to Vegas" to cover the Winter Meetings. Raissman: "But when all you get is a few minor moves and a couple of free agent signings there is not much to talk about." So what MLB Net "wound up presenting was baseball's version of a national Chamber of Commerce Convention," featuring "mostly interviews with GMs, business types, and managers, all who had little to say." Raissman: "We realize the structure and deadlines are different, but compared to what happens during the NFL free agent period, the MLB thing was Heavy Sominex" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/16).

WHERE'S THE COMPETITION? The GLOBE's Cafardo wrote something "has to be done" to address tanking, as there is "simply too much" of it happening. The situation surrounding the Mariners "is ridiculous." Cafardo: "You can't win 89 games and not think if you make the right moves you could improve and make the postseason." These teams "make a ton of money and it's a shame there's this urgent need to dismantle and then rebuild." Some of the matchups and games are "getting so lopsided they're not worth watching" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/16).

The study concluded that Montreal would be in the top half of existing MLB TV markets, ranking 12th out of 27
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

A group of investors trying to bring MLB back to Montreal released a market study "concluding the project would be viable and would generate strong interest among fans and the city’s business community," according to Frederic Daigle of the CP. The study, conducted by the proposed ownership group led by local businessman Stephen Bronfman, concluded Montreal "would be in the top half of existing MLB TV markets, ranking 12th out of 27." It also "places Montreal as the strongest among cities considered potential expansion sites, with the largest population, TV market and corporate base and the second-largest median household income." It also "does not name the other cities." Montreal "would have the 15th largest metropolitan population among MLB cities, the 18th highest median household income and the 19th most corporations" with annual sales of at least $5M and 25 or more employees. Interviews with 13 Montreal executives revealed that they "would all purchase season tickets and three-quarters of them would buy premium seating." The execs said that a downtown location for a new ballpark "would be very important and access by public transit essential." Bronfman said that the findings "have been shared" with MLB (CP, 12/14). Bronfman said, " At the end of day we don't control this process. We're doing everything in our power to get it done. I feel it's looking pretty good" (CBC.ca, 12/14). In Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said she is glad the study is "moving forward and moving pretty fast." Plante "reiterated that if there was any question of using city funds to build a stadium, she would hold a referendum to see if Montrealers were in favour of the move." She said, "I will be asking them what they think about it, because needs are so important in other areas" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 12/15).

IS IT HAPPENING? In Montreal, Jack Todd wrote MLB is "wending its way back ... one stately, cautious step at a time." Bronfman and group partner Mitch Garber "know precisely what they’re doing." But ultimately, MLB "will decide whether Montreal gets another franchise." All Bronfman, Garber and their partners can do is "get all their ducks in a row." Todd: "Is Montreal being played here? Used to extort a new stadium in Florida, the way Washington was once used in the attempt to get taxpayers to build a park for either Claude Brochu or Jeffrey Loria? The answer is probably affirmative -- but then Washington did eventually haul in the Expos" (MONTREALGAZETTE.com, 12/16).

TIMING IS EVERYTHING: THE ATHLETIC's Arpon Basu wrote the timing of the study being release was intriguing because it "came two days after Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg declared his team’s plan to build a new ballpark in Ybor City to be dead." But Bronfman "got the blessing" of MLB before releasing the study when he did, "about 10 days after it was completed and delivered to the ownership group." Basu: "Coincidence, kismet, whatever you want to call it, the timing of the release made the impact of that study far greater and extended its reach all the way down to the Gulf Coast of Florida." Bronfman: "We try and do things quietly and not step on toes, so from a distance -- and I’m not in daily contact with anyone in Tampa or Oakland or in New York. ... At the end of the day, it’s not disastrous in Tampa." Basu noted Montreal's Olympic Stadium is "far from an ideal building to host baseball games, but it can work on a temporary basis" (THEATHLETIC.com, 12/14).