This year's meetings began Wednesday and run through Friday at the Hyatt Grand Championship Resort in Indian Wells, Calif.
There have already been signals that the GMs are ready to move quickly on their offseason endeavors. The Blue Jays have traded infielder Mike Aviles, acquired as compensation for letting manager John Farrell go to the Red Sox, and third baseman Yan Gomes to the Indians for reliever Esmil Rogers. The Royals picked up right-hander Ervin Santana from the Angels for Minor League pitcher Brandon Sisk. The D-backs acquired Heath Bell from the Marlins and traded Chris Young to the A's. A significant trade that would have sent Cubs closer Carlos Marmol to the Angels for right-hander Dan Haren reportedly fell through at the last minute.
That flurry of activity could be a result of the new rules governing free-agent compensation. Teams had to give their free agents a $13.3 million qualifying offer by Friday in order to receive Draft-pick compensation if they sign elsewhere; players have until this Friday to accept. Previously, teams had until early December to offer arbitration.
"It's a little different than in the past," said Cubs GM Jed Hoyer. "We always predict how the market is going to play out, but it's hard to know because of the timing. But I do think the fact that the qualifying offer stuff will be over fairly quickly could lead to a little bit of a faster market."
"One [free agent holding out for a big contract] can change a market. There's no way to anticipate that. Any of a certain number of certain variables could throw that off. But it could speed things up, because you'd have more information on an earlier date than you've had in the past."
Braves GM Frank Wren also believes trades and signings may come together more rapidly than in the past.
"The timetable for some of the offseason dates has been moved up as part of the new Basic Agreement, which should lead, in some cases, [to] guys having a better feel for their position in the marketplace," Wren told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I would think that would lead to some possible quicker decisions, but it's hard to say. Every market takes on its own characteristics."
Of the 137 players who became free agents at the end of the season, nine received a $13.3 million qualifying offer. One of those nine, David Ortiz signed a two-year deal Monday to stay with the Red Sox.
Agents also attend the GM Meetings, which adds another layer of drama. This year's free-agent class includes starting pitchers Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse and Ryan Dempster, outfielders Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton, Ichiro Suzuki, Torii Hunter and Angel Pagan, third baseman Kevin Youkilis, reliever Rafael Soriano and catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
Other storylines this week: The Blue Jays and Rockies have managerial vacancies, and Rick Hahn of the White Sox will be attending his first Meetings as a general manager. Hahn was promoted from assistant GM when Kenny Williams was elevated to executive vice president.
Hahn has hit the ground running after 12 years as Williams' assistant. He's already extended the contract of right-hander Jake Peavy and exercised the team's option on right-hander Gavin Floyd, giving the White Sox potentially six starting pitchers. That could turn out to be depth or assets to wheel and deal.
"It's nice to be able to insulate and not rush that," Hahn told the Chicago Sun-Times. "We always prefer to have more depth than less with pitching. [And] having very good depth allows us to explore other opportunities."
Yes, the agenda also includes actual meetings. While the subjects to be under discussion are not announced, standard topics each year include procedural issues governing rules and rosters, umpiring, a summary of instant replay for the season, international issues, medical practices and amateur baseball.