Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are discussing potentially drastic changes to the on-field game and economic landscape of the sport in the middle of a collective bargaining agreement, a significant departure from the past that speaks to the chasm between the parties but represents a thaw in the chill that has divided the sides, sources familiar with the talks told ESPN.
Dueling proposals from MLB on Jan. 14 and the union on Friday covered a wide range of topics, according to sources. Among them include:
A three-batter minimum for pitchers
A universal designated hitter
A single trade deadline before the All-Star break
A 20-second pitch clock
The expansion of rosters to 26 men, with a 12-pitcher maximum
Draft advantages for winning teams and penalties for losing teams
A study to lower the mound
A rule that would allow two-sport amateurs to sign major league contracts
With owners meetings set to begin this week and spring training next week amid another tepid free-agent market, the willingness to bandy about ideas -- and the openness to addressing concerns -- is seen as a step in the right direction by both sides. Whether any substantive change comes of it, sources said, remains unclear.
The three-batter minimum for pitchers, first reported by The Athletic, is perhaps the most controversial measure, as it would ostensibly eliminate a job created by modern bullpen use: the one-out left-handed reliever. MLB's proposal of the idea illustrates the league's concern with both time and pace of game, as constant bullpen shuffling has contributed to the average game time lasting longer than three hours. The rule would apply to all pitchers, except in instances in which pitchers finish an inning or are injured, sources said.