NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Baseball's annual winter meetings, featuring a week-long agenda that includes a report on the search for a new commissioner, officially begins Monday but the Hot Stove League began heating up Sunday with several All-Star names being mentioned in trade talks between clubs.
While conventioneers continued to pour into the 'Country Music Capital of the World,' general managers from several teams conferred in the hotel lobby and in smoke-filled rooms to try and work out possible trades.
Jack Clark, Jason Thompson, Al Oliver, Buddy Bell, Bill Buckner and Dusty Baker were some of the bigger names being discussed in trades. Teams have until 6 p.m. EST Friday to make any inter-league deals, and although trading has fallen off at recent meetings, there was strong speculation that this year's trade market would be a busy one.
In addition, it is likely some of the free agents who went through the re-entry draft Nov. 7 will sign contracts during the week. Among the major free agents still unsigned are relief pitchers Rich Gossage and Kent Tekulve, first baseman Darrell Evans, pitcher Milt Wilcox, outfielder Dan Ford and second baseman Julio Cruz.
While trades are always a focal point of the winter meetings, there is plenty of other business on this week's calendar. The naming of a new American League president and a report from the Search Committee on the status of the commissioner's office are among the major topics of interest.
The meetings officially open Monday with the major league draft, after which outgoing commissioner Bowie Kuhn will make his final State of the Union address. Kuhn resigned as commissioner last August after baseball's owners had voted the previous November not to renew his contract. Kuhn, who has served as commissioner since Feb. 4, 1969, was asked to stay on in the post until Dec. 31 even though his contract expired on Aug. 14.
It's possible -- but highly improbable -- that a new commissioner could be named by Thursday night. The Search Committee has been screening and interviewing applicants for more than a year and they have asked that the election of a commissioner be placed on Thursday's agenda.
However, that does not necessarily mean a new commissioner will be elected then. Baseball's rules provide that an issue which may be voted upon at the annual meeting must be noticed to all clubs in advance. Whether and in what form the election issue is actually presented to the clubs as an action item will be determined by the Search Committee.
'The election of a new commissioner is on the agenda, which is no shock to anyone, but beyond that I cannot comment at all,' said Bud Selig, chairman of the Search Committee. 'I've been asked by 10 people in the last week and I've told them the same thing and that is I can't comment.'
However, a new president of the AL is expected to be elected Thursday when the AL owners meet separately. Lee MacPhail, the current president, is moving on to concentrate solely on his new job as director of the Player Relations Committee.
Issues covering such diverse areas as drugs, broadcasting, changes in the late-season waiver procedure, the disabled list and the designated hitter rule also will be discussed during the week.
'It may be the longest agenda we have had in years,' said Kuhn. 'The business of our game continues to get more complex. Also, we are seeing the results of the formation of several new committees designed to get more ownership-level involvement.'
One proposal to be considered this week is the use of a designated hitter in all World Series games played in the home park of the AL champion. The DH has been used in all World Series games in even-numbered years since 1976 but is not used at all in odd-numbered years.