MLB Announces Winter Meetings Are Going Virtual

Almost everyone in baseball has at some point roamed a hotel lobby at baseball’s winter meetings.

The general managers and presidents of baseball front offices of today were once the 22 and 23-year-olds in new suits looking for their first jobs at baseball’s annual networking extravaganza.

They’ve paid for overpriced beers in crowded lobbies in San Diego, Orlando and in Nashville, where the Opryland has served as a self-contained city of baseball, contained within the walls of a very hard-to-navigate convention center/hotel.

But this year, the winter meetings are yet another traditional baseball event that has been waylaid by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The baseball winter meetings, scheduled to take place in Dallas, will be held virtually instead of in-person.

Major League Baseball announced on Friday, Oct. 30 that the 2020 winter meetings set for Dec. 7-10 as well as MLB’s Nov. 17-19 owner meetings will now take place as a series of teleconferences.

The winter meetings have been a part of baseball’s offseason calendar for more than a century. The meetings go back to the days when leagues needed to gather everyone together to sort through the myriad business, scheduling and roster moves that had to take place during the offseason.

The winter meetings rolled on year after year, even during World War II. Every year, the baseball world turns a massive hotel and convention center into the baseball capital of the world. There was one year, 1990, where MLB and MiLB went their separate ways and held their own meetings because the two sides had yet to agree on a Professional Baseball Agreement. But with that rare hiccup, it’s always been the place where an MLB GM may be making a big trade in one suite while a few doors over a MiLB GM is hiring their team’s next marketing director.

It is notable that Major League Baseball is the one that announced the move. It’s yet another sign of how MLB is taking over all the roles previously held by Minor League Baseball.

Minor League Baseball has long played a significant role as the organizer of the winter meetings. MLB has been negotiating with a team of MiLB owners on a new agreement for the operations of the minors in 2021 and beyond without the direct involvement of MiLB’s offices.

There could still be significant financial liabilities for the winter meetings. Typically, MiLB and MLB contract for large blocks of hotel rooms when they agree to bring the winter meetings to a city. Those hotel rooms are then sold to everyone who comes to the winter meetings.

There are a large number of MLB and MiLB meetings that can be moved to virtual meetings. But many of the aspects of the winter meetings cannot be replicated. The five days have always been part awards banquet, part trade show and a series of job interviews where both MLB and MiLB teams add to their staffs.

And then every night, it’s one long networking event as assistant general managers, scouts, coaches, other front office officials as well as MiLB GMs, front office employees and seemingly everyone else involved in baseball catch up in a series of impromptu get-togethers.

This year, the realities of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic realities that teams have faced because of coronavirus had long made such a winter meetings seem untenable. Now it’s official.

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