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.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”