Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players' Association exchanged proposals in January for possible rule changes that could create several new wrinkles to the game.
Among the proposed changes, the union requested a universal designated hitter be implemented ahead of the 2019 season, sources told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. If approved, pitchers would no longer take at-bats in National League or Interleague games.
The request was partly a response to one from the league to impose a three-batter minimum for pitchers, which would effectively eliminate left-handed specialists. That potential change is part of a continued effort to improve pace of play.
In addition to asking for a universal DH, the players' association also addressed service-time manipulation and general concerns around competition, Rosenthal added. In one proposed scenario, teams that fail to meet a specified win threshold over a number of seasons would fall in draft position.
Other changes in the discussion include a single trade deadline before the All-Star break, the expansion of rosters to 26 men with a 12-pitcher maximum, and a rule to allow two-sport amateurs to sign major-league contracts, sources told ESPN's Jeff Passan. The league is also reportedly interested in studying mound height, with the idea of potentially lowering it in 2020.
The roster expansion proposal would create 30 new major-league jobs, while the potential rule change for two-sport athletes would help entice players in a situation like Oakland Athletics first-round pick Kyler Murray to stick with baseball, according to Passan's sources.
No agreement to changes has yet been reached, though the current collective bargaining agreement gives commissioner Rob Manfred power to unilaterally implement certain changes regardless of how the talks progress.
Those changes include the introduction of a 20-second pitch clock, a reduction in mound visits from six to five, and the placement of a baserunner on second base when spring training games - and the All-Star Game - reach extra innings.