Major League Baseball is days away from a rapid-fire Summer Training, which will set the stage for a mad 60-game dash for postseason position, followed by a typically wild October … all while trying to manage the many challenges posed by the still-raging pandemic that disrupted the 2020 season in the first place. Sounds like a lot when you put it that way.
As one might expect, the typical roster rules for a MLB season would not work well in this scenario. Among other things, there’s a need for an actively engaged reserve corps of players with the minor-league season still on ice. Teams need a way to protect players who are injured or who contract COVID-19. The issue is all the more pressing in the early stages of the season.
MLBTR has learned and clarified many of the key details regarding the new roster rules. Here’s how things will work for the 2020 campaign:
- Each team can establish a maximum 60-man player pool, with the initial list due by Sunday at 3pm CST. Teams are not required to fill all sixty slots.
- No other players will be permitted to participate in camp. Teams are permitted to operate two separate camps if they so choose. All teams will operate an alternative training site once the season begins.
- Players on the 40-man roster need not be included in the 60-man player pool. Likewise, of course, pool players need not be on the 40-man roster — unless and until they are added to the active MLB roster.
- If a player is removed from a 60-man player pool, he cannot be added back to that team’s pool but can be added to another team’s pool. Players cannot be freely removed from the 60-man player pool without roster implications. Put otherwise: other than injured list placement, suspension, and some other infrequent designations, teams will be forced to surrender (or risk surrendering) control over a player (trade, release, DFA, outright, etc.) to remove him from the 60-man player pool.
- Teams may otherwise add already controlled or newly acquired players to their 60-man player pool. Players can be signed to the 60-man player pool without being added to the 40-man roster, but that requires 60-man player pool space (just like a typical minor-league deal requires space at a certain affiliate).
- The active MLB roster will consist of up to 30 players (and at least 25 players) at the start of the season. After two weeks of play, that number goes down to 28. After two more weeks, it drops again to 26, with a 27th player available for double-headers.
- Teams will travel with an unofficial 3-man taxi squad, the identity of which need not be disclosed. One player must be a catcher. There is no official designation or roster status associated with being a member of that group.
- As usual, a player must be on a 40-man roster in order to be added to the active MLB roster.
- Once a player is placed on the active roster, standard rules apply. Players eligible to be optioned can be sent back to camp just as if it were a minor-league affiliate. An optioned player must stay on optional assignment for ten days, unless called back owing to an injured list placement. Players who are not eligible to be optioned must be designated for assignment (and then traded or exposed to outright waivers) to be removed from the active roster.
- The trade deadline is August 31st. ONLY players in the 60-man player pool may be traded. Any player that is traded must go into an acquiring team’s player pool. (As a practical matter, it seems there’s nothing to stop teams from adding prospects to the 60-man player pool specifically in order to trade them. The acquiring team would need to be capable of carrying such players in their own 60-man player pool while still fielding a 26-man active roster of capable big leaguers.)