Welcome to Snyder's Soapbox! Here I pontificate about a matter related to Major League Baseball on a weekly basis. Some of the topics will be pressing matters, some might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things and most will be somewhere in between. The good thing about this website is it's free and you are allowed to click away. If you stay, you'll get smarter, though, that's a money-back guarantee. Let's get to it.
[NOTE: This week's Soapbox was moved up from Monday the 11th due to the timeliness of the topic]
The Major League Baseball Winter Meetings concluded sometime Wednesday night or Thursday morning, depending on when your flight out of Nashville was, and they were a bit of a dud. Juan Soto , of course, and that's one hell of a headline. Past that, the biggest moves were Eduardo Rodríguez, Craig Kimbrel and Jeimer Candelario signing with new teams. Noteworthy moves, to be sure, but left on the board were a number of the top free agents, including Shohei Ohtani.
In light of this, a topic that surfaced this week was the MLB offseason and if some changes are needed. I heard an idea to cap offseason transactions around the end of the Winter Meetings a few years ago and scoffed, initially, but now I'm starting to come around.
In fact, I'm now in favor of an offseason transaction deadline at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings.
Now, to be clear, this isn't reactive to this season. The 2022 Winter Meetings were furious and there have been several iterations in the recent past where a lot of moves happened (I can think of multiple times when I was in San Diego and they were awesome). There have also been several snoozefests (Orlando and some Nashville ones come to mind). Call it a mixed bag.
Further, just to get out in front of this: I have no issue whatsoever with how Ohtani is conducting his free agency. He's earned this right and can go through a life-changing decision however the hell he pleases. I also find it kind of funny that several other media members are acting like this is some sort of unprecedented secrecy. Because everyone knew Albert Pujols was going to sign with the Angels before that Thursday morning in Dallas during the 2011 Winter Meetings, right? How about Prince Fielder that same offseason signing with the Tigers from outta nowhere? C'mon. There's always been some level of secrecy among big-time players.
There have been plenty of Ohtani nuggets this week, too. Further, if he did something public like "The Decision," he would've been throttled for being an attention-seeking, "me first" player. I think some people just like to complain.
I do think, however, we can have a conversation about the MLB offseason without drawing sweeping conclusions about the motives of the person bringing it up (moi?!).
What I have in mind here is drawing the attention of casual sports fans who like baseball and pay attention some, but are not necessarily die-hard, watch-every-single-game fans. The latter are going to follow the rumors all offseason without getting bored. That's a given. They also are not driven away by a flurry of moves in a compact number of weeks or even days.
You know who flocks to a flurry of moves in just a few days? Yep, those casual sports fans.
There are a number of reasons that, in general, the Winter Meetings have lost a bit of luster to the point that the media coverage dwarfs actual player movement. In this day and age, front offices don't need to be together in the same place to discuss trades more freely. In addition to it being absurdly easy to call, text, etc., there's the Zoom/Google Meet/Teams family of technology where you can see facial reactions in addition to tone of voice in conversations. Herds of job seekers are hanging around the hotel lobbies during the Winter Meetings, too, which means team executives would rather avoid that and stay in the comfort of their own rooms instead of sipping on some adult beverages in the bar while discussing possible player movement.
Most of all, though, there's no real urgency to make moves while at the meetings. Why should teams hustle to conclude business when there are still months left in the offseason?
From the perspective of the casual fan, then, why not create some urgency and steal a little of the in-season spotlight from basketball, hockey and football? All three do it during baseball season. Fair's fair.
Think about the breakneck pace of free agency in the NFL, NBA and NHL in the summer. My hunch is there are a good number of casual sports fans who hear about the Winter Meetings and expect it might be something similar. In fact, that's how MLB sells the event. And then we get something like we got this past Monday and Tuesday where just about nothing at all happened.
Can't you just see this Casual Sports Fan expressing sentiment like, "I thought this was supposed to be when moves happened? This sucks." That fan then tuned out before the Soto deal unfolded, glacially, over about 12 hours on Wednesday. It wouldn't have seemed so slow if other stuff was happening, but that was pretty much all we had.
Let's say there's a 3 p.m. ET deadline on the Thursday the week of the Winter Meetings for free agency signings and trades. Obviously, there has to be a date when teams can start to make moves again, so it's kind of a timeout. Make that aforementioned deadline and then set the first day of spring training -- when pitchers and catchers report -- as the date of transaction resumption.
The hope here would be an utter blizzard of moves at the Winter Meetings, creating a free agency period -- that also includes Soto-level trades -- to rival the other major sports and, as a bonus, everyone is together in one place for the Winter Meetings. It would be the marquee offseason event in all of sports.
Remember the deluge of maneuvering before the lockout between the 2021 and 2022 seasons? It would be like that every offseason except we wouldn't be angry about the impending lockout.
The downside, of course, would be a quiet remainder of the offseason. I know every time a member of the evil media talks about something like this, motives are bound to be questioned. On that note, I'll straight up assure you that the longer Ohtani remains unsigned, the better it is for those notorious "clicks" we're accused of mining. There would also be a period every single year from the Winter Meetings until spring training started where there was precious little news to cover. Hopefully this is enough to convince you all that my goal here is not selfish in the least, other than that I always want what is best for baseball in the long run. That part is selfish and I make no apologies for it.
I do allow for the argument that the MLB offseason isn't necessarily broken and the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" logic applies. If you're making that argument, I'll say that you might be right.
I'd also counter by saying an offseason transaction deadline would make things much more exciting for fans, die-hard and casual alike, and that's the most important thing.