During the lockout, Major League Baseball personnel notably cannot speak with their major league players -- not about free agency talks, rehab assignments, or spring plans. That gag order extends to the press, too -- and early evidence shows that it has been effective, with some staffers mentioning fears of having their phone records checked. One executive reached out through his spouse's cell phone. "Sorry," he said, apologizing for the unfamiliar number, "I'm just trying to be careful."
It might be harder to talk about than usual, but underneath the transactional and information blackout, there is a lot going on.
Normally, personnel movement in MLB front offices and field staffs occurs in October and November, with teams conducting interviews for newly created vacancies, all the while jousting to keep their on-field talent in the face of overtures from other teams. But this offseason has been unlike any other in baseball history. The looming expiration of the collective bargaining agreement on Dec. 1 compelled teams to place an early focus on player acquisition, every would-be contender speed-dating with all of the most coveted free agents. Just about every team feasted at the trough of trades and signings before the owners initiated their lockout of the players' union. Executives didn't have the time to focus on the hiring of, say, a minor league field coordinator.
But now, contact with players has been shut down, and teams are neck-deep in those deferred conversations about filling staff vacancies. The Athletics and Mets, for example, are picking managers and coaching staffs. The Astros have to decide how to replace esteemed pitching coach Brent Strom, who landed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Cleveland front office has been raided, again.
Even those teams who have complete staffs have been busy: Some executives are already going through the early preparation for the moment when the labor shutdown ends and the resumption of signings and trades is greenlit. Whether that happens in February or March, or later, most teams believe it will kick off another unprecedented lightning round of activity, with perhaps 200 players on the move within two to three weeks after the next CBA is forged.
Here's some of what is percolating among the teams: