Potential Changes to the MLB Pro Rules?

With the 2018 Winter Meetings taking place, there have been 3 new rules put up for a vote, with two of them surrounding coaches. Coaches have been a lot of the talk in the past 2 seasons after Houston spent $17.592 million, and that doesn’t include their manager or any of their minor league staff (where they have another coach making an additional $5.84 million). Boston had signed their manager to a $1.884 to manage their AA team (since promoted to their ML position) despite him never coaching above A+. Their pitching coach makes $1.098 million, and it was signed originally to coach A-ball. Their hitting coach makes $2.204, since he was the best option on the market this offseason. They also have two other coaches in the minor leagues making $2.504 and $1.504 million each. Cincinnati is paying their bench coach more than double what their manager makes. Kansas City doled out $2.392 million for a manager with only 1 season above AA, and only led that team to an 83-79 record. Miami is paying Joe Girardi $2 million after he was fired midseason. When Atlanta moved on from Fredi Gonzalez, he signed a $2.406 million deal, despite having just 2 postseason appearances in 5 seasons. The Twins dished out a $3.1 million deal for a hitting coach coming from a team off of 3 straight losing seasons. The Yankees are paying $6 million for a pitching coach that came from a team that finished in the bottom half of runs per game during his tenure. The Mets manager makes more than all but 5 of his players will next season. The Phillies are spending $6.714 on their assistant GM, who used to be a scout. The Padres gave a pitching coach with no experience a $1.124 million deal, to coach in the minors. Seattle has 3 minor league managers making over $1 million, including Buck Showalter making $4.01 million in AA, after leading Milwaukee to the playoffs the season before. Tampa Bay’s trainer will make close to the same amount as the team’s scouting director, hitting coach, pitching coach and bench coach combined. And lastly, Washington is paying a manager with no experience $2 million, per year, for 4 years.

Why are these personnel so costly you might ask?

(Let’s leave behind this idea that our league is real, and understand the limitations of the game.)

The game allows coaches to be signed to 5 year deals, and most younger coaches will take nearly any job. And with the newer versions of the game, you can no longer see anything about a coaches ratings. The only way you can know is in the small writeup on any coach, if it says that they’ll make a great manager. And most coaches will sign extensions without putting much thought into it. That means that when these is a coach with a decent reputation and some proven skill available, most teams jump on them, and it turns into a giant bidding war.

That’s where the first rule change comes into play.

The idea is that teams would be able to sign away a coach from another team, as long as they would be promoted to the ML level. While all of the details are not decided, the original proposal would allow for a team to protect a player, ensuring they would not be able to be stolen no matter what. Then each team can bid on coaches they want, but they would need to offer a promotion, as well as an increase in salary. The original team would be able to retain the player as long as they matched the offer.

This idea is amazing. It would still lead to an increase in coach contracts, but it would allow for it to be in some sort of check. It would also ensure that the best coaches are at the ML level, instead of stashed in the low minors as a hitting coach.

I don’t think this is the perfect solution, as it would still result in a bidding war, but it certainly seems to be a step in the right direction. There would still be a battle for the coaches that are not deemed good enough to be ML coaches, so teams have the best minor league managers, but then those coaches would be stolen next season when someone gets fired.

This leads us into the second rule proposed.

Right now, many coaches will accept demotions. You don’t want someone as your major league hitting coach anymore? Make him your AA manager and make the AA manager your ML hitting coach.

This is just continuing the trend of hoarding the best coaches in the same system. Teams have backup managers, hitting coaches, pitching coaches, maybe a trainer stashed away, and almost everyone has a scouting director or manager as their assistant general manager.

Personally, I don’t know how this will be policed, especially at the minor league level. That, and not every team values the same minor league levels the same. For me, a rebuilding Astros GM, I care most about my A+ and AA coaches, as that’s where my future is.

The way this rule works best is if it’s enforced at the major league level. When Colorado is fed up with pitching coach Jeff Schwarz, he shouldn’t be demoted to A-ball, even if he’s willing to accept it. In real life, which we try to model ourselves after, no organization thinks a coach is so bad they deserve to lose their job at the major league level, but is good enough to instruct the future. And no coach would be willing to take that demotion. They’d rather try to find another ML job with another team, and if there is none available, then they’ll try to find one in the minor leagues or with a front office.

These rule proposals may not pass, and they may not be the perfect fixes, but coaches have been a major topic, and to see the league attempting to address the issues is a great first step.