Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association engaged in a back-and-forth regarding potential rules changes to improve pace of play and discussed other measures, including a universal designated hitter and requiring pitchers to face at least three batters before being removed from a game.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the news, noting MLB made a proposal to the players' union Jan. 14 that included the three-batter minimum rule. The union responded Friday with a proposal that included a plan for the National League to adopt the designated hitter as soon as the 2019 season.
According to Rosenthal, "further ideas and potential tradeoffs are certain to be explored in the weeks ahead" as both sides look for ways to improve the sport and draw bigger audiences.
One notable part of the Players Association's response was aimed at competitive integrity and suggested teams' draft positions could be lowered if they do not win a set amount of games during a series of seasons.
That would, in theory, provide a disincentive for tanking and stripping down major league rosters to improve draft positioning as a rebuilding method for struggling clubs.
Rosenthal noted the failure to reach an agreement would give Commissioner Rob Manfred power to implement three of his proposals from last year. That power was collectively bargained, and the proposals were a 20-second pitch clock, decreasing a team's mound visits from six to five per game and a rule that would put a runner on second base in the 11th inning and beyond in the All-Star Game and spring training contests.
MLB's most recent proposal called for mound visits to be reduced to four as soon as this season and three in 2020.
Pace of play has been a significant talking point in recent years, especially as times of games have increased. According to Baseball Reference, the last seven seasons ranked among the top eight in baseball history for longest average game.
The 2017 campaign set a record with games averaging three hours, eight minutes, while the 2018 season landed third (three hours, four minutes).
Proposals such as a pitch clock, fewer mound visits and longer pitching stints would surely decrease the time of games, while a universal designated hitter would likely result in more balls in play and further excitement for fans.