GM Meetings can fire up Hot Stove action
Major League Baseball's general managers will conduct their annual retreat this week to discuss issues facing the game, begin serious talks on trades and free agents, and familiarize themselves with colleagues in new positions and new teams after another season of widespread front-office changes.
The meetings will formally begin at the Boca Raton (Fla.) Resort and Club with a dinner tonight. There will be meetings Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning before the session breaks up.
A dozen clubs have made significant changes in their organizational structure, which now often includes a baseball president at the top of the baseball operations department, to whom the general manager reports.
One wrinkle at this year's General Managers Meetings will be that Commissioner Rob Manfred will help get the proceedings started. With the current Basic Agreement between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association expiring at the end of the 2016 season, it's expected that there will be a lot of give-and-take on labor issues.
While preparation for the upcoming negotiations with the MLBPA are liable to take center stage, other topics that could be discussed include pace of game, the neighborhood play and slides into second base, scheduling, on-field technology and the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Qualifiers for the Classic are next year, with the tournament being held in early 2017.
There also will be the standard discussions regarding arbitration, on-field rules, administrative rules, umpiring, international overview and youth programs overview.
One of the familiar faces in a new place is Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, who previously held that position with the Angels. He noted that trade talks tend to develop more quickly than they did in the past.
"To me, the market is always moving," Dipoto said after being hired by Seattle. "The General Managers Meetings, years ago, used to be where everything was set up for the Winter Meetings. Now, quite frankly, the General Managers Meetings are where we generally culminate or bring to fruition a lot of the conversations we've been having since the season ended."
Another change is who's talking to whom. New Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro and Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill have yet to hire a full-time general manager.
The Phillies made dramatic changes at the top, hiring Andy McPhail as team president and Matt Klentak as general manager. McPhail had been retired for three years after stints with the Twins, Cubs and Orioles. Klentak was an assistant GM for the Angels.
The Red Sox (Mike Hazen), Tigers (Al Avila), Braves (John Coppolella), Athletics (David Forst) and Reds (Dick Williams) were promoted from within. All but Avila will report to a baseball president or the equivalent.
Chris Antonetti was moved up to president and Mike Chernoff to general manager in Cleveland when Shapiro went to Toronto. Former Yankees assistant Billy Eppler is the new GM of the Angels. The Brewers hired Astros assistant GM David Stearns as general manager while Doug Melvin remains as president of baseball operations.
Many of those folks have attended GM Meetings in the past, but for most, this will be their first time with a bigger role in the decision-making process.