- Associated Press - Monday, November 15, 2010

ORLANDO, FLA. (AP) - A year after shifting their meetings from the usual resort destinations to a Chicago airport hotel, baseball general managers arrived Monday for their annual session, which is being held this year near Disney World.

The formal meetings are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, dominated by presentations from labor lawyers on free agents, salary arbitration and collective bargaining that will start next year.

But the informal sessions are more significant, with agents for many players on hand to move along the courtship process likely to intensity when they all gather for the winter meetings, to be held a 3 1/4-mile drive away in Lake Buena Vista from Dec. 6-9.

Teams’ business executives have gathered nearby for their industry meetings and owners are coming this week, too, for a session on Thursday. In addition to various reports, commissioner Bud Selig will discuss industry economics _ usually a platform for him to warn against overspending as baseball’s business season gets underway.

Four free agents struck deals Monday.

Infielder Geoff Blum became the first of the 166 free agents to switch teams, agreeing to a $2.7 million, two-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Staying put were right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who agreed to a $12 million, one-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers; right-hander Jose Contreras, who got a $5.5 million, two-year deal from the Philadelphia Phillies; and catcher Ramon Hernandez, who received a $3 million, one-year contract from the Cincinnati Reds.

Also in the backdrop is Selig’s intent to expand the playoffs from eight teams to 10. Selig said during the World Series that adding two additional wild cards is under serious consideration, and union head Michael Weiner said players were open to more playoffs.

While Selig wouldn’t rule out making a proposal for change in 2011, it is increasingly likely that an addition would start in 2012. As of Monday, Weiner said management had not approached the union about the idea formally,

When the postseason last expanded, owners voted for the change on Sept. 9, 1993, and management and the union reached an agreement the following Jan. 19. The change was to start for the 1994, but the postseason was canceled because of a 7 1/2-month players’ strike.

Gaining consensus on proposals for collective bargaining also is part of the process this week. Management is expected to propose a slotting system for amateur draft choices in an effort to decrease the amount of bonuses paid to top picks. The players’ association historically has been against limits on individual negotiations.

There are the first owners’ meetings since the resignation last month of Bob DuPuy, baseball’s chief operating officer and Selig’s No. 2. DuPuy, the chief engineer of many of baseball’s business deals, has not been replaced.

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