LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — Joe Torre and Sandy Alderson just announced that the MLB Rules Committee has voted to outlaw collisions at home plate. The decision is now subject to approval by the players. If the players do not approve the rule change it will not go into effect in 2014, but MLB would be able to unilaterally implement it in 2015. It is expected, however, that the players will approve the change.
The rule has yet to be formally defined or drafted, but the upshot of all of this will be that base runners will be required to slide into home plate, not initiate contact with the catcher. Likewise, catchers will not be able to block home plate. Rather, they must tag runners — and allow runners a path to the plate — just as any other fielder does at any other base. Players who violate the collision rules will be subject to discipline in all likelihood, though exact sanctions will be determined once the rule is finalized.
This rule change has been a long time coming. Recent public understanding of the seriousness of concussions has helped spur it on, as has high-profile injuries to players in collisions such as Buster Posey. Indeed, it was Posey’s manager Bruce Bochy and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose own catching career was cut short due to concussions, who spearheaded this rule change.
An interesting tidbit today from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who noted that ongoing talks between agent Scott Boras and the Padres have focused more on starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel than slugger Bryce Harper. Earlier this week, there were conflicting reports on the Padres’ level of interest in Harper — MLB Network’s Jon Heyman heard the club had not ruled out another big signing after getting Manny Machado, while Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune talked to multiple sources who believed otherwise — but any agreement between the two is looking unlikelier by the day.
As for Keuchel, Rosenthal cautions that a potential deal is still a “longshot,” especially as the team has other, cheaper options in mind. The 31-year-old southpaw turned down a qualifying offer from the Astros last year and is likely angling for something north of the five-year, $90 million contract extension he rejected from the club in 2016. He’s coming off of another solid performance in Houston, where he went 12-11 in 34 starts with a 3.74 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 6.7 SO/9, and 3.6 fWAR through 204 2/3 innings in 2018.
While Keuchel has failed to garner substantial interest around the league this offseason, Heyman points out that the Phillies are looking to establish themselves as frontrunners for the lefty — and they’re far less likely to have hang-ups about his asking price, too.