ORLANDO, Fla. — Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players’ association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn’t agree, but clubs have the right to impose those changes for 2018.

Players and MLB have held talks since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

“My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can’t get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners’ meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

Also, there are ongoing talks for a new posting system with Japan to replace the deal that expired Nov. 1, one that would allow Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani to leave the Pacific League’s Nippon Ham Fighters to sign with a big league team.

MLB agreed last month to a framework with Nippon Professional Baseball that would keep the rules of the expired deal pretty much in place this offseason, allowing a high posting fee of $20 million.

Starting next offseason, the fee would be 15 percent of the guarantee of a major league contract and 20 percent of the signing bonus of a minor league contract, a person familiar with that negotiation said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.

The union informed MLB that it had set a Monday deadline for reaching a deal, according to Manfred. The union doesn’t want the uncertainty of Otani’s situation to hold up teams’ negotiations with other free agents, another person familiar with the talks said, also speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.

“I’m hopeful that the union will find a way to get on board and we’ll open that player market up and let players who want to play here see if they can get signed,” Manfred said. “These are relatively small issues.”

QUALIFYING OFFERS: Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas and outfielder Lorenzo Cain were among nine free agents who turned down $17.4 million qualifying offers from their teams.

Chicago Cubs pitchers Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis also said no to the offers, as did Tampa Bay pitcher Alex Cobb, Colorado closer Greg Holland, St. Louis pitcher Lance Lynn and Cleveland first baseman Carlos Santana.

If they sign with new teams, their old clubs would get an extra draft pick as compensation – possibly a much lower selection than in the past under the rules in baseball’s new labor contract.

A club signing one of the players who didn’t accept would lose a draft selection – no longer a first-round pick – and possibly part of its international bonus pool allocation for 2018-19.

OWNERS WERE told experts are looking into the specifications of baseballs after a record 6,105 home runs were hit this season.

“There’s going to be activity on that front during the offseason, and we’ll have more to say on that at some point during the offseason,” Manfred said.

Owners also were updated about team decisions on expanded protective netting, made after several fans were injured by foul balls this year. MLB has not decided whether to change the league-wide minimums.

NO DECISIONS on expansion will be made until after Oakland and Tampa Bay resolve their quests for new ballpark.

“It would be extraordinarily unlikely for baseball to return to Montreal without some concrete plan as to where a team would play,” said Manfred. “We’re not going back to playing in Olympic Stadium.”

YANKEES: Hensley Meulens became the third candidate to interview for manager after Rob Thomson and Eric Wedge.

A former outfielder who spent five of his seven major league seasons with the Yankees, he’s been a coach with San Francisco for the last eight seasons and was shifted last month from hitting coach to bench coach. He managed the Netherlands at the 2013 World Baseball Classic.