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Volume 25 No. 239
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Sources: MLB, MLBPA Discussing Wide-Ranging Changes To Game

A 20-second pitch clock is among the changes being proposed by MLB
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

MLB and the MLBPA are "discussing potentially drastic changes to the on-field game and economic landscape of the sport" in the middle of a CBA, representing a "thaw in the chill that has divided the sides," according to sources cited by Jeff Passan of ESPN.com. Dueling proposals from MLB on Jan. 14 and the union on Friday "covered a wide range of topics." Among them include a "three-batter minimum" for pitchers, a universal DH and a 20-second pitch clock. The proposals also address the "expansion of rosters to 26 men, with a 12-pitcher maximum" and "draft advantages for winning teams and penalties for losing teams." With the owners meeting set to begin this week and Spring Training next week amid another "tepid free agent market, the willingness to bandy about ideas -- and the openness to addressing concerns -- is seen as a step in the right direction by both sides." But sources said that whether any "substantive change" comes of it "remains unclear." The enactment of a 20-second pitch clock is something MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred "can put into place unilaterally." Sources said that the "recognition that Manfred has the ability to mandate it, even without the union's support, gives him leverage on the issue." Meanwhile, sources also said that service-time issues "remain a key concern for the union," with teams capable of keeping major-league ready players in the minor leagues "without recourse." Sources added that while both sides "acknowledge service time is a difficult problem to solve, the union's proposal included the possibility of additional service time for performance, playoff appearances or awards" (ESPN.com, 2/5).

SWINGING FOR THE FENCES: THE ATHLETIC's Ken Rosenthal cited sources as saying that the MLBPA's proposal "addressed the players' concerns on competitive integrity and service-time manipulation in multifaceted fashion." A lowering of a team's draft position for "failing to reach a specified win total in a certain number of seasons is believed to be part of the union's plan." Under the proposed plan for a universal DH, the NL "would adopt the DH" for the '19 season. The dueling proposals "marked an acceleration in the negotiations" between MLB and the union over "ways to improve the game." The union, with its proposal, "addressed the criticism of baseball officials who said they have experienced repeated frustration trying to engage the MLBPA in conversation" (THEATHLETIC.com, 2/5).

SMOOTH TRANSITION: In N.Y., Ken Davidoff wrote it is "impossible to envision Manfred doing nothing on the pace-of-play front." Because he first proposed the pitch clock two years ago, Manfred "possesses the legal right to introduce it this season without obtaining the players' consent." Given that the 20-second pitch clock has "existed at the Double-A and Triple-A levels" since '15, many young pitchers "should be familiar and comfortable with it, and it would speed up proceedings" (N.Y. POST, 2/3).