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Baseball focus turns to trades, free agents, A-Rod

Saturday - 11/9/2013, 2:20pm  ET

RONALD BLUM
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Baseball's business season figures to be a little different this autumn and winter.

For sure, there will be the daily rumors of trades and free-agent signings.

Then mix in the seemingly limitless legal battle between the commissioner's office and Alex Rodriguez, a possible stiffening in penalties for new drug offenders and preparations for a massive increase in instant replay next season.

And perhaps by the time the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks open next season at Sydney on March 22, Bud Selig will even have started making preparations for his departure in January 2015, even though some owners doubt the commissioner will follow through on his retirement pronouncement.

For now, though, the focus is on the marketplace. General managers gather Monday in Orlando, Fla., for three days of meetings that usually spark discussions leading to trades weeks or months later. Tampa Bay pitcher David Price, who can become a free agent in a year, seems likely to be dealt at some point over the offseason. Will Detroit entertain offers for 21-game winner Max Scherzer, another member of next year's free-agent class?

And some agents will be on hand to talk up their clients.

"There is not any time to breathe. You have move very quickly," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said.

Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Brian McCann are among the players seeking to cash in from a free-agent class lacking any ace starting pitchers. In an $8 billion-a-year industry seemingly awash with cash, long-term, high-salary deals could proliferate, anyway.

Following restraints on the bonuses for amateur drafts picks, which began in 2012, teams have more money to spend on veterans.

"The game is thriving and clubs are reveling in their financial health," agent Seth Levinson said. "More clubs should be meaningful participants in the market, which will lead to greater competition, and players should prove to be the beneficiaries of the increased competition and revenues. That competition should create a fast-paced signing period. However, each market is unique and there is a lot more art than science in understanding the ebb and flow of free agency."

And the drop in offense could cause a hike in salaries. The big league batting average of .253 was its lowest since 1972, according to STATS, and the home run average of 0.96 per team per game is down from a peak of 1.17 in 2000, two years before the agreement to start testing for performance-enhancing drugs.

"There's been a significant decline in power and production, so middle-of-the-lineup players and leadoff players, guys who can produce runs and guys who can drive in runs, are much rarer than they were in 2005," agent Scott Boras said. "Players who hit 20 home runs and drive in 80 have the value of players who in 2005 hit above 30 home runs and drove in 105."

After the GMs finish, owners take over for their quarterly meeting. Selig said during the World Series he expects a vote either in November or January to approve the expansion of video review to virtually all calls other the balls and strikes.

Agreements with the players' and umpires' unions also are necessary for expanded replay, which was tested during the past week in the Arizona Fall League.

"Three or four years ago I was telling them that I wasn't the least bit interested," Selig said after a meeting with baseball's bankers. "I said, 'Well, my father told me many years ago that life is nothing but a series of adjustments, and this is an adjustment that I just made.'"

Officials won't be leaving Florida for long. They'll return for the winter meetings, to be held in nearby Lake Buena Vista from Dec. 9-12, not too far from the Magic Kingdom. Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and perhaps Bobby Cox could gain election to the Hall of Fame from a committee on the first day of the session.

A week earlier, the players' union gathers in La Jolla, Calif., for a session of more import than usual. Union head Michael Weiner is battling a brain tumor, and former major league All-Star Tony Clark is expected to replace him. Players also could form a consensus to increase the penalty for an initial steroids violation, which has been 50 games since the 2006 season.

Selig held a news conference on March 2 asking for harsher discipline, and Weiner said players would discuss it for 2014. And that was before 14 players were suspended as a result of the Biogenesis of America drug probe, which ensnared Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta.

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