Historically, the Winter Meetings are the 5 busiest days of the off-season. This year it takes place in San Diego from Sunday the 8th of December until Thursday the 12th. While technically, the meetings are the official annual meeting for owners and executives from the Minor Leagues, a great deal of MLB business has been consummated during the meetings since they were first crashed by Branch Rickey in the early 1930’s (exactly which year seems to vary by source). 4 concurrent but important happenings occur during the meetings:
The PBEO Job Fair
The Professional Baseball Employment Opportunity job fair offers a chance for those outside the industry to apply for positions with clubs. Depending on position sought, there may be opportunities! Most of the jobs available will be with minor league organizations or are for current MiLB personnel who wish to interview with a MLB team. Most scouts get hired as well as management/accountants to work on the “house” side of an MLB front office. People with PhD’s or professional degrees will show up at the meeting for the purpose of getting interviews and networking but are unlikely to get a job on the spot.
The National Agreement
The official beginning of negotiations to revise the National Agreement (between the majors and the minors) due to expire next year. Since 1883 the Majors and Minors have had a contract governing interaction between both parties. This agreement is set to expire at the conclusion of the 2020 minor league season and needs to be renegotiated. Usually, this process is a rubber stamp affair but this year’s negotiations have already proved acrimonious. MLB is proposing to contract 42 milb teams to simplify each MLB team’s minor league structure (MLB teams currently have between 5 and 8 MiLB affiliates. MLB is proposing to standardize this at 6 per team). The minors are not taking it well so far!
On the Braves front, our Advanced Rookie team in Danville is on the chopping block while our A+ team, the Florida FireFrogs, is currently without a home stadium and may face contraction as well. The home stadium for the FireFrogs in 2020 should hopefully get ironed out this week.
The Rule 5 Draft
Since the advent of the Rule 4 Amateur Draft in 1966, minor league players stuck in a farm system have been made available to the other teams who might employ them on their MLB squads (there was a Rule 5 draft from 1946-1965 that operated under far different rules). Players not on a team’s 40-man roster after either 4 or 5 years of MiLB play are eligible for selection. Teams draft in reverse order of won-loss record for 3 rounds. Teams are not required to make any selections at all and picks may be traded.
On the Braves front, Dan Winkler (just signed by the Cubs) and Grant Dayton were former Rule 5 pickups by the Braves while Darren O’Day was picked by the Orioles many moons ago. Ender Inciarte was also a Rule 5 pick by the Phillies, but was returned to the Diamondbacks. While the team is not expected to make any picks this year, several of our prospects may appeal to other teams. Thomas Burrows, a lefty reliever, is the likeliest to get taken. Others of note include RHP Brad Roney, and LHP Corbin Clouse.
The Meat Market
I lump trades and free agents into this category. Every agent in the business will be meeting with every GM/player acquisition person in an attempt to find the best fit for their clients. Meanwhile, most of the trades which will occur between today and spring training will be outlined as possibilities over the next few days. Very few trades traditionally get done during the meetings but the decisions driven by the basics of need, desire, player valuation and availability will be mostly threshed out for later. Some trades will happen, of course, as Jerry DiPoto still has a job while Tampa and Pittsburgh still have payroll responsibilities.
On the Braves front, Coppy liked trading during the meetings: AA so far has not. Still, possible Braves deals would be setting up a trade for an outfielder, 3rd baseman or top starter; continued talks with Josh Donaldson about returning to the team, and, crazy pie-in-the-sky deals for players like Francisco Lindor or Mookie Betts. Last year, if you remember, we explored trading Austin Riley ++ for J.T. Realmuto. I’m glad we didn’t do that one.
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