SAN DIEGO — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the league is hopeful that a sales process involving a change in ownership of the Los Angeles Angels could be completed by Opening Day of next season.
« My understanding is that the club would like to have the sale resolved by Opening Day, » Manfred said at the annual meeting of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America during the winter meetings on Tuesday. « Whether that happens depends in part on the bidding process and how quickly they get documents signed. »
The Angels have been owned by Arte Moreno for more than two decades, but Moreno, 76, announced in August that the club would seek « strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the team. »
Even with the team in ownership limbo, the Angels have continued to be active this winter, signing pitchers Tyler Anderson and Carlos Estevez to multiyear contracts.
While baseball’s rulebook continues to evolve, one change that hasn’t yet been instituted at the big league level is an automated balls and strikes system (ABS). Manfred suggests MLB is still collecting information.
« It’s an interesting question, » Manfred said, responding to a query about whether an ABS system might be in place as soon as the 2024 season. « Whether it’s going to happen in 2024 or not depends on what the owners decided they are going to take to the [joint rules] committee and how the players respond. The one thing I will say is that from a developmental perspective, we learned a lot about ABS in 2022, suggesting that we’re probably not through learning about ABS. »
Manfred also addressed the interest that the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, who play in baseball’s two most venerable ballparks, have expressed in hosting future All-Star Games. After pointing out that future All-Star Games have already been awarded to Seattle (2023), Texas (2024) and Philadelphia (2026), Manfred said, « The windows for the Red Sox would be 2025 and after 2026. » Later, Manfred said that the Cubs have also shown interest in bringing the Midseason Classic to Chicago, and termed MLB’s options for holding the annual showcase « an embarrassment of riches. »
« As long as I have this job, I think you can count on the fact that the Orioles are going to be in Baltimore, » was how Manfred summed up his thoughts about litigation that has arisen among members of the Angelos family, which owns the Orioles, over the future of the team. « I’m sorry there is litigation involved. It attracts negative attention to the game. Having said that, I’m really comfortable with the way the club is being run and Major League Baseball’s relationship with the club. »
Manfred reiterated that if the Oakland Athletics ultimately decide to move to Las Vegas, « there will not be a relocation fee. » As for the long-discussed timeline about the Athletics’ attempt to get a new ballpark development underway in Oakland, Manfred said, « We’re not any reasonable timeline for the situation to be resolved. If you read the collective bargaining agreement, you know there is kind of a natural trigger in there. I think it’s the 15th of January, 2024. They need to have a deal by then, so this is a very, very important year. If Oakland wants to keep the A’s, they need to get a deal in front of the A’s that’s acceptable. »
In terms of the future of broadcast distribution and the struggles of regional sports networks, Manfred said, « The RSN model as it exists today is probably not sustainable over the long haul as a result of the number of people who are opting out of the cable When you accept that as a reality, it creates an opportunity for conversations between clubs, content owners, broadcasts entities — RSNs and otherwise — and distributors as to how that is going to be reshuffled, directed at coming up with a new model that is sustainable. Most important from our perspective is our reach in terms of fans being able to get games whether they are in or out of the bundle. »
Overall, Manfred struck an optimistic tone about the state of the game, including the plethora of rule changes that go into effect next season, such as a ban on extreme defensive shifts, the addition of a pitch clock and limits on how often a pitcher can throw over to first base.
« I think it’s going to be an interesting year, » Manfred said. « Much for you all to write about. But I do think the changes are going to make the game better. »