Manfred: Posting, rule changes moving forward

Commissioner addresses NPB agreement, pace of play, Marlins, Montreal

November 16th, 2017

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Commissioner Rob Manfred called this week's owners meetings "productive" as he addressed the media Thursday afternoon, bringing to conclusion a busy week that began with the General Managers Meetings.

A new posting system agreement with Nippon Professional Baseball, impending rule changes to improve pace of play, and the /Marlins situation were just a few of the topics the Commissioner addressed during his briefing.

One day after MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem expressed optimism that a new posting agreement would be in place sometime in December, Manfred reiterated that stance.

"I hope it's resolved," Manfred said. "We reached an agreement with the NPB and I'm hopeful that the union will find a way to get on board, and we'll open that player market up and let players who want to play here see if they can get signed."

Manfred said the new agreement would extend the parameters of the previous one -- which expired Nov. 1 -- for one year before implementing new changes. Manfred said the remaining issues "should be resolved," paving the way for Shohei Ohtani and other Japanese players to make the move from NPB to the Majors.

"We're satisfied with the way the discussions went with the NPB," Manfred said. "We think that we've reached a good set of understandings with them that would be effective for us going forward. The MLBPA needs to resolve the issues they have.

"These are relatively small issues. It would be a mistake to read any larger significance into the fact that they're trying to work out a way to get on board with an agreement that we negotiated with the Japanese. It's a cumbersome process when you have three parties. The issues, I don't think they're earth-shattering."

Pace of play

As part of the owners meetings, the Competition Committee updated owners on pace of play and how changes to instant replay worked out during the 2017 season. Halem also gave an update to the owners on the league's conversations with the MLBPA regarding rule changes for 2018.

"What's going to happen with respect to 2018 rule changes is fully dependent on which path we're on," Manfred said. "I've been really plain about the fact that my hope, my preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement, we are going to have rule changes in 2018."

Prior to the 2017 season, there had been discussions between MLB and the union regarding significant rule changes to speed up pace of play. The union was opposed to such changes at the time, and the only notable rule change for this past season was the implementation of the automatic intentional walk. Baseball's new labor agreement -- which was ratified last winter -- gives Manfred the right to implement rule changes without union approval prior to Opening Day 2018.

Marlins, Jeter and Stanton

Manfred praised new Marlins owners Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter, saying he believes they "will be great for Miami."

"Whatever little hiccups there may have been along the way, every process has its issues, but I think the outcome is outstanding," Manfred said of the sale process that concluded in October. "I think Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter are the right people to move that franchise forward."

Jeter addresses Stanton trade rumors

Asked about how Jeter the executive compares to Jeter the player, Manfred saw many similarities.

"He is really focused on making the Marlins a success," Manfred said. "I think he is going to bring the same kind of focus that made him a great player to the business side."

The possible Giancarlo Stanton trade talks, which were a predominant topic buzzing around the GM Meetings, was also addressed by the Commissioner.

"I think that it's important for new owners to come in, evaluate the state of their franchise, decide where they're headed long-term and kind of write with a clean slate," Manfred said. "I think it's unfair, really, to criticize a decision -- if it turns out to be the decision -- to move a player who has a contract that somebody else negotiated. New management often comes in with a different idea about how to put the best product on the field. I hope that the fans of Miami -- whatever decisions are made -- give Bruce and Derek an opportunity to show what their plan for moving that franchise forward is."

Return to Montreal?

Manfred also spoke about the potential for baseball returning to Montreal and whether the recent election of a new mayor would impact that situation.

"Politics kind of ebbs and flows," Manfred said. "I've been clear that expansion will come into active consideration after the [stadium] situations in Tampa and Oakland have been resolved. I'm not sure who is going to be the mayor of Montreal at that point. I do know that it would be extraordinarily unlikely for baseball to return to Montreal without some concrete plan as to where a team would play. We're not going back to playing at Olympic Stadium."