GM gathering raises trade speculation

Gathering of GMs raises trade speculation

CHICAGO -- The Hot Stove season begins in earnest this week as the 30 general managers and their assistants get together Monday through Wednesday at a hotel at Chicago O'Hare International Airport for the General Managers' Meetings.

The meetings will be a day shorter than usual this year, with one main session on Tuesday.

"It's take care of business and get in and out," said Joe Garagiola Jr., Major League Baseball's vice president of baseball operations.

Hot Stove
Hot Stove calendar
Nov. 20: First day free agents may sign with any club
Nov. 20: Deadline for clubs to set 40-man rosters
Dec. 1: Deadline for clubs to offer arbitration in order to receive compensation
Dec. 7: Deadline for free agents to accept arbitration
Dec. 7-10: Winter Meetings
Dec. 12: Deadline for clubs to tender contracts
Jan. 5-15: Arbitration filing
Jan. 19: Exchange of salary arbitration figures
Feb. 1-21 Arbitration hearings

Garagiola and Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, preside over the meetings and bring any suggestions from the GMs back to the owners and Commissioner Bud Selig for consideration at the owners' meetings set for Nov. 18-19 at the same hotel.

That, more than trade discussions, is the focus of these meetings, although the trade market has already heated up with three deals in the days after the Yankees closed out the World Series over the Phillies last Wednesday.

The non-waiver trade period resumed the day after the regular season ended and will continue through next July 31, so teams are no longer under the restrictions that exist in August and September, when players must clear waivers or be claimed on waivers to be moved to another club or traded.

The Pirates and Rays got the ball rolling on Nov. 3, with Tampa Bay sending second baseman Akinori Iwamura to Pittsburgh for reliever Jesse Chavez. Two days later, the Marlins traded outfielder Jeremy Hermida to Boston for left-hander Hunter Jones. The next day, the Royals sent infielder-outfielder Mark Teahen to the White Sox for second baseman Chris Getz and third baseman Josh Fields.

With a relatively underwhelming free-agent class headed by right-hander John Lackey, outfielders Matt Holliday and Jason Bay, and third baseman Chone Figgins, it could very well be that more Hot Stove activity will be in the trade market. Surely, with the Winter Meetings slated for Indianapolis from Dec. 7-10 and the non-tender deadline to offer player contracts shortly thereafter, the GMs will use these few days to establish some sort of framework to improve their teams.

By then, free agency will be well under way. According to the Basic Agreement between the owners and players, the free-agent filing period extends 15 days from the end of the World Series. This year that period ends at midnight ET on Nov. 19. Until then, clubs can negotiate exclusively with and re-sign their own free agents.

Other GMs can talk with free agents from other clubs or their representatives, but can't discuss financial terms. They can talk about length of contract, guaranteed provisions, and no-trade or limited no-trade provisions, the Basic Agreement stipulates.

Last year, negotiations between the Dodgers and agent Scott Boras to retain free agent Manny Ramirez dominated the GM meetings. This year, Ramirez has already exercised a $20 million player option to remain with the club and so the focus on Tuesday may primarily be the business of baseball.

For example, two years ago in Florida, limited instant replay on boundary calls for home runs -- in or out, fair or foul -- was approved by the GMs. Last year in Southern California, the GMs approved the elimination of coin flips to decide which teams host one-game tiebreakers for the postseason.

Both measures were ultimately approved by the owners and adopted.

This year, there's sure to be discussion about extending the use of replay after a postseason in which there were numerous incorrect calls.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman said he didn't know whether expanded replay for other close calls was on the agenda, but he's in favor of it.

"I'm big on technology," Cashman said. "I'm open to any way we can help the umpires. We want what the umpires want -- to get the calls right. If the Commissioner's office and the umps' union decides we already have the best format, then this is the best format. If there's a better way, we'll discuss it and pursue it, and we'll leave it in their hands."

Mets GM Omar Minaya offered the opposing point of view: he's not in favor of expanding replay beyond home runs.

"I don't want to say that I'm a quote, 'traditionalist,' because I'm in favor of it the way it is," Minaya said. "But if you keep expanding it, it gets into areas where I'm not comfortable. Look, umpires are going to make bad calls. I just don't want to get too much into other plays. I'm happy with the way it is right now."

The authority for dealing directly with the umpires remains with the hierarchy of MLB, and Selig said during the World Series that though he wasn't in favor of a broader use of replay, baseball would analyze officiating during the offseason.

The collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the umpires expires at the end of next year, and negotiations between the two sides are expected to heat up in the next few weeks now that the postseason is complete.

As for now, MLB has been content to keep a low profile regarding those negotiations, although an adjustment on how umpires are selected for the postseason will presumably be part of those discussions.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.