At the GM meetings replay, expanded September rosters, pitcher headgear on the agenda

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We’ve been handling the transaction developments from the GM meetings — Walt Weiss’ hiring, the Jason Bay thing, etc. — in individual posts, but there are a couple of catchall items being discussed by the baseball brass at Indian Wells.

Replay is one.  We’ve long known that some expansion is coming, likely to fair/foul calls and to trapped balls. But Joe Torre says that maybe more is being discussed:

“[Bud Selig] was talking about really basically fair-foul, trap plays. But we’re looking into more than that,” said Joe Torre, MLB’s executive vice president for baseball operations. Torre did not detail what types of calls a broader expansion might include.

Seems like, if baseball is going to go incremental with it, the next logical step would be outs on the basepaths. Tags at second on steals, perhaps, if they wish to avoid reviewing plays with mutliple baserunners in motion. Force outs at first base. That’s just my speculation, of course.  Also:

GMs also discussed altering the longtime rule allowing active rosters to expand from 25 to 40 from Sept. 1 through the rest of the regular season. Some teams have been reluctant to use the larger limit late in the season. They have cited not wanting to disrupt minor league teams in their playoffs, and those decisions have led to big league games in which teams have differing numbers of available players.

One solution mentioned earlier this year, and mentioned by Torre yesterday, was having set expanded roster numbers in September. Rather than allowing teams to differ, with some having the same old 25 and others having up to 40 guys in the dugout, you can expand up to say 28 or 30 available per game, firm, and use any number of minor leaguers to fill those extra spots on a day-by-day basis.

Finally, there was talk about head protection for pitchers, ranging from helmets to Kevlar-lined caps.  These are preliminary discussions, however, and a full report on the feasibility and utility of such measures is due to be given teams at the Winter Meetings next month.

Kevin Kiermaier on Rays’ recent moves: “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset.”

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On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”

Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.

The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.

When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.