SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed optimism on Wednesday that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement will be in place by the time the current deal expires Dec. 1.
"Look, I think we're going to make a deal before the expiration of the agreement," Manfred said at the annual General Managers Meetings. "I remain optimistic that we'll be able to do that. Collective bargaining is one of those processes where it's difficult to predict with certainty when things are going to take place.
"I think what I've said is there are a couple of natural deadlines. One is the beginning of free agency, the other obviously is the expiration date. We missed deadline one, so we're looking at deadline two."
Manfred and his chief labor negotiator, Dan Halem, updated the general managers and their staffs on the state of labor negotiations. However, until a new agreement is in place, teams will continue to operate under the current deal.
"I think there's been a lot of public comment to the effect that the absence of an agreement creates a certain amount of uncertainty," Manfred said. "As we've learned the last couple of days, markets don't like uncertainty. It's just something we have to deal with. It's a natural product of the expiration date that we've always had in this agreement during the middle of the offseason. I think the union understands that as well."
Manfred also discussed a variety of other topics during a news conference, including:
• Expanding the current Draft system to include international players. He would not address specifics of such a system because it's part of labor talks, but he once again offered his support.
"I don't want to get into the proposals," Manfred said. "From my perspective, there's two things about the international Draft that are overriding in terms of their importance. No. 1, I believe that in today's Major League Baseball, entry-level talent is crucial and that an effective Draft system is a really important way to preserve competitive balance. It's not about money. It's not about paying people less. It's about access to talent and divvying up that access in a way that is pro-competitive balance.
"Secondly, one of the things I've learned in this job is that transparency is a great thing. It solves a whole lot of problems that are difficult to handle otherwise, and a Draft is a very transparent system. And I think the industry, the amateur players outside the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico would benefit greatly from a system that is more transparent."
• Discussions with the International Baseball Federation about the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, which will include baseball as an event.
"We've had an exchange of letters," Manfred said. "We've asked them to come in and explain exactly what the program is going to look like in order to put us into position to make a firm evaluation of what can be done and what can't be done. That meeting has not taken place yet."
• Pace of play.
"Pace of play is one of those topics that is going to be a constant, ongoing, year after year challenge for us," Manfred said. "I really mean this. I think our players' hearts are in the right place. But because we play 162 times in 183 days, it's easy to lose focus on that issue, and I think we lost a little bit of focus this year. I think we're going to look for mechanisms to try to keep it in front of people's minds as we go forward.
"We are going to look at all of the issues that relate to pace of game. I don't want to single any one out. On each and every topic, there's some limiting factors. You've got to weigh those things and figure out what set of changes you can make over a period of time to get the sort of result you're looking for."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.