There are actually several proposals being discussed at the general manager meetings in Key Biscayne, Florida. The most controversial is instant replay. For their part, the Phillies voted "no" on instant replay in an informal vote that ended in a 15-15 tie. Ed Wade cited improvements in umpiring and an increased willingness on the part of the umpires to confer on controversial calls to get them right. Wade pointed out another key element that would create issues with instant replay. "We had a discussion on what would you do on plays where the play either continues or stops based on the call that the umpire makes," explained Wade. An example of a close call on a base where a runner is ruled out to end the inning and the fielder doesn't look to make another play at another base because of the call. "What do you do if a call like that would be overturned?" asked Wade.
There was also debate on how replays would be standardized since every game is not broadcast. Instant replay in baseball is a long way from becoming a reality, to say the least.
Other discussions included ideas on modifying the June Draft, a World Cup of baseball and moving the trading deadline. The proposal to move the trade deadline is probably the most imminent idea being discussed. The plan would be to erase the July 31st deadline in favor of an August 15th deadline. The thought is that too many teams are still in contention at the end of July and are slow to trade key players. With another couple of weeks to see how things play out, more players could become available and the deadline would be more meaningful. While that plan is the most talked about, it's likely that even that idea won't be put into play for the 2005 season. Instead, general managers will watch to see what difference it might make when next summer rolls around and then potentially look to make the change for the 2006 season.
As for the player moves, teams can now throw money figures at free agents from other teams and are free to sign anywhere. The Phillies were unable to sign either Eric Milton or Cory Lidle before the exclusive negotiating period ended. It was a long shot that either would re-sign rather than testing the open market. The Red Sox and Yankees may fight over Milton, while Lidle is drawing interest from some smaller market teams since he will come at a cheaper price. Both players said they were likely to test free agency, but both have said that returning to the Phillies will be an option.
As for the Phillies, they've held a number of discussions with other teams and with agents for other players. They are likely to bid on a few free agents, including Carl Pavano, Derek Lowe, Carlos Beltran and others. Beltran is likely out of the question, since he will demand much more than the Phillies would be willing to give. Pavano and Lowe may be more reasonable in their demands, but with the Yankees and Red Sox also figuring on both of them, the Phillies could get squeezed out of the picture if a bidding war starts. David Wells and possibly, Al Leiter would be more likely targets, since both would likely accept one-year offers and wouldn't command the kind of money that the higher profile targets would command. There are pretty many decent pitchers on the market, so it's very possible that the Phillies could head into spring training with a new face or two in the rotation.
Since Beltran is basically just a dream, the Phillies have contacted other clubs about filling their center field spot through trades. Seattle (Randy Winn) and Milwaukee (Scott Podsednik) along with Kenny Lofton from the Yankees are the likely targets. The Yankees might wait to see if they can upgrade in center field either through trading for Atlanta's Andruw Jones or signing Beltran before they would look to deal Lofton. As for other free agent center fielders, Steve Finley has been contacted by the Phillies and might be an option. Mariners' prospect Jeremy Reed might also be a trade prospect, although it's unclear if he would be available. "I don't see any way the M's deal Reed. He was a big part of the Freddy Garcia trade last June, and was a September callup that just absolutely tore the cover off the ball," explained Joe Kaiser of InsideThePark.com.