Tigers' first pick of the 2020 draft will be made in – Omaha?

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

San Diego – If the Tigers end up drafting a college player with the first pick in the 2020 draft – say Arizona State slugger Spencer Torkelson – they won’t have to distract him from the College World Series.

Commissioner Rob Manfred, in a press conference Wednesday, announced that for the first time ever, the Major League Baseball Draft will take place in Omaha, Neb., the site of the College World Series, but without any overlap with the event.

Spencer Torkelson

“To accomplish this, we're going to move the first day of our draft back two days,” Manfred said. “So instead of the draft being on Monday, June 8, it will be on Wednesday, June 10.”

Teams competing in the CWS will be welcomed to attend the opening night of the draft, as will local high school and youth league teams.

“Obviously the result we're looking for here is that many of the players being drafted are going to have a much better draft day experience,” Manfred said. “And we're going to have a much better draft day experience. The parties, meaning baseball and the NCAA, have agreed to cross-promote their respective events.

“I think after the really successful event we had with the Royals and the Tigers in Omaha (last season), this is another step forward. It's something that will solidify a strong work relationship with the NCAA, and we see the NCAA as a key organization in terms of the overall growth of the game.”

No minor issue 

Among other issues the commissioner addressed included the plan to take away affiliation of some 40 minor-league teams as a way to improve wages and working conditions in the minor leagues. The Tigers’ Double-A affiliate in Erie is one of the teams on the list.  

“This has been portrayed as a decision that has been made,” he said. “The fact of the matter is at the point in time this became public, we had precisely three negotiating sessions. It is by no means a fait accompli as to what the agreement is going to look like.

“Major League Baseball has been and will remain flexible in its negotiating position. I hope that Minor League Baseball, which has taken the position that they're not willing to discuss anything but the status quo or any changes that would provide for upgrades in adequate facilities, better working conditions for our players. That they move off the take-it-or-leave-it status quo approach and come to the table and try to make a deal.”

Tigers prospect Alex Faedo pitched for the Erie SeaWolves in the 2019 season.

It is clear, though, negotiations between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball is strained. Manfred was asked to characterize the tenor of the current negotiations.

“I think I would characterize it as a tale of two cities,” he said. “I think as between the negotiating committees the dialogue has gotten a little more positive in the most recent set of meetings. I think in contrast, I think some of the activities that have been undertaken by the leadership of Minor League Baseball have been polarizing in terms of the relationship with the owners.

“I think they've done damage to the relationship with Major League Baseball, and I'm hopeful that we will be able to work through that damage in the negotiating room and reach a new agreement. You know, when people publicly attack a long-time partner after they've committed to confidentiality in the negotiating process, usually people don't feel so good about that.”

He was asked if Major League Baseball appreciates the role the minor leagues play in both the fabric of their communities and as a conduit for fan interest in professional baseball up through the big leagues.

“The answer to that question is yes,” he said. “That's why we subsidize to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars every single year the operations of Minor League Baseball. Having said that, our players deserve to play in facilities that are up to grade. They deserve to have reasonable travel limitations. They deserve to be paid fairly.

“Given that we are already subsidizing at the level that I've previously referred to, I think it is unreasonable to come to a bargaining table and say, ‘Yeah, we got some facilities. We know they're substandard. In fact, they may not be fixable, but we're not willing to do anything about that.’ That's unreasonable.”

'Thorough investigation'

Manfred called the current investigation of the Houston Astros and the charges they used technology to steal signs “probably the most thorough investigation that the commissioner's office has ever undertaken.” He said MLB has interviewed 60 witnesses, exchanged 76,000 e-mails and countless text messages.

“That review has caused us to conclude that we have to do some follow-up interviewing,” he said. “It is my hope to conclude the investigation just as promptly as possible, but it's really hard to predict how long something like that is going to take.”

Playing long ball

On the day where a league-commissioned study determined that baseballs, for a variety of reasons, had less drag and more carry last season, but that the variability of the ball was due to the fact they are hand-made, Manfred was asked if he’d be in favor of switching to synthetic baseballs.

“I think on the spectrum of people who are prepared to fundamentally alter the game, I would be sort of on the in-favor-of-change end of the spectrum,” he said. “But I would not, am not now, and would not be in favor of moving away from the baseball that has traditionally been used to play what I regard to be the greatest game in the world.

“I think the variability in the baseball is a product of the fact that it is a man-made product with natural materials. I think that's part of the charm of the game, and the reason that I'm prepared to live with that variability is both teams play with the same baseball. So in terms of the fairness and integrity of the competition, they got one ball that's out there at a time and they're both using the same one.”

Coming soon

Manfred also confirmed that the proposed rule changes – pitchers need to face at least three batters or reach the end of a half inning, rosters expanded to 26, with a maximum 13 pitchers, and to 28 in September, and the minimum stay on the injured list for pitchers extended to 15 days – will be in effect this season.

Twitter @cmccosky