The Winter Meetings are an annual event, held each December, in which representatives of all 30 Major League Baseball teams and their 161 minor league baseball affiliates convene for four days to discuss league business and conduct off-season trades and transactions. Attendees include league executives, team owners, general managers, team scouts, visitors from baseball-playing countries, trade show exhibitors, and people seeking employment with minor league organizations. The Rule 5 Draft, in which minor league players who are not on a team's 40-man roster can be drafted by a major league team, is held on the last day of the meetings.
In 2014, the 113th annual Baseball Winter Meetings were held from December 7 to 11 in San Diego, California at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. The 2015 Winter Meetings are scheduled for December 3 to 6 in Nashville, Tennessee.
The tradition of baseball holding off-season meetings during December dates back to 1876, the first offseason of the National League. At the 1876 meetings, William Hulbert was selected to be the league's president, and two teams (the New York Mutuals and Philadelphia Athletics) were expelled from the league for failing to play all their scheduled games. The Winter Meetings became an annual event in 1901.
The Winter Meetings attract several thousand participants; in 2014 organizers anticipated 3,000 attendees. These include team owners, field managers, team scouts, players' agents, lawyers and accountants specializing in baseball, and visitors from baseball-playing countries. Baseball players generally do not attend, although free agents come to introduce themselves to many teams. At the 2014 Winter Meetings in San Diego, an estimated 750 media personnel received press passes.
Player trades and signings
With all the principals in one place, the Winter Meetings are typically the site of player trades and free-agent signings. However, the informal meetings that used to take place in hotel lobbies up until the end of the 20th century have been replaced by texting and emailing; most interactions take place in the privacy of suites due to the preponderance of media personnel and fans converging on the site.
Among the notable trades and signings that have been made at the Winter Meetings are:
- At the 1988 Winter Meetings in Atlanta, the Texas Rangers closed three trades involving 15 players and signed free agent pitcher Nolan Ryan.
- At the 1992 Winter Meetings in Louisville, first-time free agent Barry Bonds was signed by the San Francisco Giants for six years and $43 million. Bonds personally negotiated to have a hotel suite at his disposal during road games.
- Albert Pujols, who had won a World Series ring with the St. Louis Cardinals that fall, inked a 10-year, $250 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels on the last day of the 2011 Winter Meetings in Dallas.
- In the space of 24 hours at the 2014 Winter Meetings in San Diego, the Los Angeles Dodgers concluded six transactions with four teams, involving 19 players and a free agent.
Concurrent with the Winter Meetings, a trade show featuring close to 300 vendors of baseball equipment, services, and promotions takes place. Another annual event is the Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities Job Fair, during which recent college graduates seeking internships and employment with minor league organizations schedule on-site interviews. The month of December is considered "the height of baseball hiring season", as 400 to 500 workers are hired each year.
Several events associated with the Hall of Fame also take place at the Winter Meetings:
- The voting bodies that superseded the Veterans Committee, which are now the only bodies that elect long-retired players and non-playing personnel, meet and vote.
- The winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting is announced.
- The Baseball Writers' Association of America conducts its annual meeting and announces the recipient of its J. G. Taylor Spink Award for excellence in baseball writing. Both the Frick and Spink Awards are presented as part of the Hall of Fame's annual induction festivities.
- The Scout of the Year award is presented in a special reception.
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