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Commissioner seeking pace-of-play deal with MLBPA

Manfred makes proposal that would avoid pitch clock in '18
MLB.com @AJCassavell

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- If Major League Baseball and its players are going to reach an agreement regarding pace-of-play rule changes this season, it's almost certainly going to come within the next two weeks.

Commissioner Rob Manfred, speaking from the Owners Meetings on Thursday, said he doesn't have a firm deadline for any changes to be implemented, but he'd prefer an agreement to be in place before players report to Spring Training in mid-February. If no deal is reached, a pitch clock could be on the horizon.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- If Major League Baseball and its players are going to reach an agreement regarding pace-of-play rule changes this season, it's almost certainly going to come within the next two weeks.

Commissioner Rob Manfred, speaking from the Owners Meetings on Thursday, said he doesn't have a firm deadline for any changes to be implemented, but he'd prefer an agreement to be in place before players report to Spring Training in mid-February. If no deal is reached, a pitch clock could be on the horizon.

"We're going to spend the next 10 days trying to get to our preferred resolution, which is a negotiated agreement with the players," Manfred said.

As it stands, Manfred and the league's owners are waiting to hear back from the Players Association regarding their most recent proposal -- one which would not include pitch clocks for the 2018 campaign. The proposal, which covers three years and includes unspecified changes regarding mound visits, features a clause that mandates game times average under 2:55 in 2018. Otherwise, a clock could be implemented in the following year.

Manfred touted the mechanism, saying "it puts the control over whether a clock goes on the field in the hands of the players." He added that if the target game length were to be met in 2018, "It's a 'W' for all of us."

And if the players reject the proposal currently on the table?

"Our fundamental goal remains a negotiated agreement with our players," said Manfred. "If and when it comes to the point where it's clear that's absolutely not possible, we'll make a decision as to where we are."

The most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, finalized in December 2016, included the possibility for Manfred to impose a rule change after it had been proposed and negotiated for a year. However, this specific proposal hasn't been negotiated for a year.

"We negotiated for a particular contractual right, just like they negotiated for certain rights," Manfred said. "If it turns out that we have to exercise one of those rights, it is what it is."

If Major League Baseball exercises that right, a pitch clock could be forthcoming for the 2018 season, as it was part of the proposal submitted to the Players Association a year ago. It's unlikely that pace-of-play changes will be shelved, even if no formal agreement is reached.

"There is a strong sentiment among ownership that we need to do something about pace of play this year," Manfred said. "As I said, our preferred way to get there is by making an agreement with these players."

In other words: Changes are coming in 2018. The nature of those changes, however, remain to be seen.

Manfred discusses free-agent market

The calendar turned to February on Thursday and many of baseball's top free agents remain unsigned.

"Every market is different," Manfred said. "There's different players, different quality of players, different GMs, different decisions, new Basic Agreement, different agents who had particular prominence in a market in terms of who they represent.

"Those factors, and probably others that I can't tick off the top of my head, have combined to produce a particular market this year. Just like there's been some markets where the lid got blown off in terms of player-salary growth, occasionally you're going to have some that are not quite as robust."

No changes coming to extra innings in regular season

Major League Baseball has considered putting a runner on second base to start the 11th inning of the All-Star Game and doing the same for Spring Training games that reach the 10th. On Thursday, Manfred made it clear that those changes have not been considered for regular-season games.

"To the contrary," Manfred said. "This is a rule that's useful in exhibition games where we used to let them end in ties, or games like the All-Star Game, where at a certain point, given the logistics, the risk of injury starts to increase. We see it as a limited-purpose tool."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.