Bud Selig defiant

The GM/Owner meetings are kicking off in Orlando

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The Winter Meetings — also at Disney World — are a month away. Those get more press. But a lot of news can happen at the GM/Owner meetings which kick off today. Here are the big items on the agenda of the assembled brass:

  • Instant replay: the plan to expand replay next year has been announced but not finalized. It still has to be voted on by the owners, who may or may not have been swayed by arguments explaining how dumb a manager challenge system is. It also still has to pass by the players and umpires too. The owners will no doubt talk about this more this week and, in all likelihood, will vote on the plan they’ll submit to the other stakeholders;
  • Home plate collisions: this subject came up again in the postseason and likely isn’t going to go away. How to make the game safer for catchers and base runners who have competing claims to the plate. Thanks in part to the increased awareness of the seriousness of concussions, the tide seems to be turning toward some sort of rule change aimed at reducing or eliminating such collisions, but it’s not at all clear if there is a consensus about the best way to handle the matter.
  • The Japanese posting system: We discussed this back in September. The upshot: the Japanese players will have more freedom to pick which offers to accept rather than be forced to negotiate with the highest bidder. This seems like something more in the hands of Japanese teams, but agreement from the owners would be required to ratify any changes.

Beyond those league-wide issues, the GM/Owner meetings have slowly morphed into a somewhat better environment for teams to talk to one another about trades and things than the Winter Meetings are. There will be media there, but less of it. There will be fans and job-seekers swarming, but less of them. Most deals are done via cell phone these days, but deals which may require some owners pressing flesh to deal with transactions that big salary implications are aided by this week’s brief face-to-face. It’s not yet the Winter Meetings in all of its glory, but the GM/Owner meetings are significant.

The first round of possible news could come shortly after 5PM today. That’s the deadline for the 13 free agents who were given qualifying offers to either accept or reject them. After that: the free agent class for 2013-14 is set in stone and the real games will begin.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.