LAS VEGAS — Major League Baseball is continuing its ongoing battle with pace of play, an ever-existing war against longer games or at least ones with less action within them.
But, not all of the ideas being tossed around might have the intended impact or a proper way to be enforced.
One of the larger discussions is the idea of eliminating the defensive shift in an effort to get more balls in play. While some recently instituted measures have been aimed at speeding up games — like clocks in stadiums counting down the commercial breaks or hitters needing to stay in the box — others can affect teams’ strategies during games.
Aside from that element, baseball tends to be a cyclical game that adjusts to different trends that emerge. Right now, the three true outcomes (home run, strikeout, walk) are dominating games. A rule change, here, might not be needed or warranted.
It would also be difficult to enforce. Would teams simply not be allowed to have more than two players on either side of the infield? What’s to stop a fielder from jumping from one side as the pitch is released? What if a team wants to bring in a fifth infielder?
“Yeah, and I may be in the minority now, I don't think you can dictate to teams competitive things,” Indians manager Terry Francona said Wednesday at baseball's winter meetings. “You hear me say it sometimes, the unintended consequences. I think the game makes its changes, but sometimes they're a little slower than maybe you'd like. …
"Hitters are going to adjust. I don't think we've seen it quick enough in our game, but it will happen. And you'll see hitters making players play them more straight up. It just hasn't happened yet.”
Hitters over the last few years also started, to a larger extent than before, focusing on launch angle and hitting over shifts rather than grounding into another one. But that, too, Francona said he sees as potentially cyclical.
“We went through this with launch angle and [guys getting under the ball] that hitters have forgotten the basics of fundamental hitting, but I think you'll see guys getting back to that,” Francona said. “So I hate to reward guys who don't use the field by making a rule change. If we did that every time, our game would be all over the map.”
Rocky Mountain slugger?
Much of the talk involving the Indians has focused on Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. The Indians continue to search for trade options through a multitude of possibilities, though, which has opened the door to a wide array of potential avenues.
One of those involves potentially dealing Edwin Encarnacion or Yonder Alonso, which could open the door for a deal for Carlos Santana from the Seattle Mariners. That scenario with Santana was reported as being possible on Tuesday.
Encarnacion, meanwhile, was reportedly being targeted by the Colorado Rockies, and it was reported again on Wednesday, this time by the Denver Post. The report called Encarnacion a “legitimate target” for the Rockies.
Encarnacion is still owed $25 million and has a club option for the 2020 season.
The Indians have much to figure out concerning the makeup of their 2019 bullpen. As currently constructed, Adam Cimber, Nick Goody, Tyler Olson, Dan Otero, Neil Ramirez and others could all be candidates for expanded roles to make up for the expected losses of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.
Another option could be a larger role for Jon Edwards, whose name was brought up by Francona when speaking to reporters Wednesday. Edwards last season pitched for the first time since 2015 after dealing with multiple arm injuries, posting a 3.12 ERA in 8 2/3 innings.
Edwards might have made the postseason roster had the Indians not wanted to be cautious with him after such a lengthy road back to health. But, as Francona said again on Wednesday, he had earned that right. And Edwards figures to be among those with a chance to make a larger impact in the Indians bullpen next season.
“I think Edwards is a huge sleeper,” Francona said. “I think we thought enough about him and his future and what he’s been through to not put him on the roster, and we told him that. … We think he might actually be a really good bullpen guy.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.