MLB: Veteran Byrd leaves Pirates for Phillies on first day of GM meetings
ORLANDO, Fla. — Marlon Byrd moved across Pennsylvania to Philadelphia.
Tampa Bay is considering daring moves, and so is Texas.
And the New York Yankees, as always, plan to be in the mix for some big-time deals.
As the offseason market for trades and free-agent signings gets underway, Major League Baseball is considering some pretty radical changes for the entire sport next season.
Expanded instant replay for umpires’ calls is virtually certain to be in place by opening day, and there’s a chance a rule could be adopted to prevent runners from bowling over catchers at the plate.
“There’s a pretty good possibility that something eventually will happen,” MLB executive vice president Joe Torre said Tuesday on the second day of the annual general managers’ meetings.
Outside the formal meeting room, Byrd and Philadelphia agreed to a $16 million, two-year contract, a huge step up from the $800,000 the outfielder earned this year from the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates.
And catcher Brayan Pena finalized a two-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds worth $2,275,000. They were the first of the 168 major league free agents to switch teams this offseason.
Talk of limiting contact at the plate was the day’s most interesting development, one that could make Lou Brock’s shoulder-to-shoulder collision with Bill Freehan during the 1968 World Series and Pete Rose’s bruising hit on Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star game relics of baseball history, like the dead-ball era.
Torre said a written proposal will be developed that will be discussed when GMs gather again during the winter meetings, to be held at Lake Buena Vista from Dec. 9-12.
“There are college rules where you have to slide. I’m not saying that’s what you’re going to do,” Torre said. “The players are bigger, stronger, faster. It’s like in other sports. They’ve made adjustments and rules in other sports for that reason, to protect people.”
Torre said collisions when pitchers cover the plate on wild pitches and passed balls also are an issue. He planned to discuss the matter today with baseball’s rules committee. A change for 2014 would need the approval of the players’ association.
Torre said agreements with players and umpires on expanded video review should be in place by January.
“We expect to be all on the same page by the time we need to have it,” he said.
Virtually all umpires’ calls other than balls and strikes, checked swings and some foul tips will be reviewable. The system was tested last week during Arizona Fall League games, with two major league umpires reviewing video and making the final call.
Baseball started using video review in 2008 but limited it to home run calls. Owners likely will give their go-ahead Thursday for funding and then approve the rules when they meet in January.
GMs are spending much of this week in meetings, finding out which players might be available in trades and what prices agents are seeking for their clients.
“It’s not the most conducive time to be doing anything,” Oakland GM Billy Beane said.
With MLB receiving a large increase next year in revenue from national broadcasting contracts, agents are asking for more at this early point in the offseason.
With 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price two years from free agency, low-payroll Tampa Bay is exploring trades. The Rays’ $65 million payroll at the end of the season was 28th among the 30 clubs.
Texas also could make a big trade splash. Rangers GM Jon Daniels said he will consider offers for middle infielders Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus to clear a starting spot for 20-year-old Jurickson Profar.
While the Rangers are interested in re-signing Nelson Cruz, closer Joe Nathan could be headed elsewhere, perhaps Detroit.
Byrd already knows his destination. The 36-year-old outfielder hit a career-high 24 homers last season for the New York Mets and Pittsburgh, which acquired him on Aug. 27. He batted .364 with one homer and five RBIs in six playoff games after hitting .291 during the season with 88 RBIs, one short of his career best.
“Marlon adds a significant upgrade both offensively and defensively to our outfield,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. “He has been particularly productive against left-handed pitching, which was a serious challenge for us this past season.”
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said a determination of Alex Rodriguez’s grievance to overturn a 211-game suspension won’t deter the team from filling its holes. Rodriguez has a $25 million salary next year and could earn an additional $6 million payment if he hits six home runs and ties Willie Mays at 660. Re-signing second baseman Robinson Cano is a top priority.