The Major League Baseball season now has a target date for players to report to “Summer” Training (July 1) and for a truncated 60-game season to at last begin on July 23-24. Starved baseball fans finally have some dates to look forward to — and teams throughout the league suddenly have some work to do.
Major League Baseball rosters have been frozen since late March, but that freeze will come to an end this Friday at noon ET, and any club looking to bring in new players will want to give those players as much notice as possible. Plus, with a universal DH and with Opening Day rosters expanding to 30 players (and shrinking to 28 and 26, respectively, 15 and 29 days into the season), it’ll be all the more critical for teams to have depth.
What can we expect? The trade deadline is Aug. 31, and there’s no indication that there are any restrictions on making swaps prior to the season. Perhaps that’ll prove to be the case, but to this point it seems that player movement can come back in full force in just over 48 hours. And, between some lingering names from the offseason market and the sweeping releases made by teams in the past several weeks, there are some recognizable names out there.
Still Unsigned From 2019-20 Offseason
Yasiel Puig is the big name to watch, of course. The longtime Dodgers slugger recently drew interest from a KBO team but told their GM he preferred to take another shot at latching on with an MLB team in 2020. Just last night, Puig tweeted: “Baseball is back and God knows I’m ready #letthewildhorseloose”.
Puig isn’t the only one though. Among the notable names: Russell Martin, Scooter Gennett, Melky Cabrera, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hanley Ramirez, Mark Trumbo, Clay Buchholz, Andrew Cashner, Marco Estrada, Matt Harvey, Danny Salazar, Aaron Sanchez, Jason Vargas, Matt Albers, Pat Neshek, Fernando Rodney, Arodys Vizcaino, Tony Cingrani, Zach Duke, Tony Sipp and Jonny Venters.
Released in Recent Weeks
Many teams throughout the league cut more than 30 minor leaguers beginning in late March, and while most were lower-level names that have no big league experience, there were some recognizable names among the bunch. Teams in need of depth could take a look at the likes of: Edwin Jackson, Shane Carle, Tim Melville, Carlos Asuaje, David Huff, Brock Stewart, Deck McGuire, Brooks Pounders, T.J. Rivera, Aaron Blair, Dalton Pompey, Jake Elmore, Travis Snider and others.
Just prior to the shutdown, veteran righty Jared Hughes opted out of his deal with the Astros, making him available to sign anywhere as well. Among players who were cut loose or opted out prior to the shutdown, he may be the best of the bunch based on recent track record, but there are others. Veteran righties Hunter Strickland and David Hernandez were cut loose by the Nats but have both had their share of success in the big leagues. Right-hander Sam Tuivailala was released by the Mariners as well after some velocity red flags in camp, but he has youth on his side and was a promising young reliever before injuries sidetracked him for the past couple years.
Trade Scenarios to Consider
We don’t know precisely how teams will react to being able to exchange players with each other once again. Some clubs will likely look to unload salary early on after experiencing unprecedented revenue losses — but buyers could be reluctant for similar reasons. At the same time, might the shortened 60-game season embolden less-concrete contenders to make bold plays early on? Teams like the White Sox and Reds were among the most aggressive in free agency this winter; would they take their foot off the pedal now? That seems unlikely.
The opposite could hold true as well. Normally, a team getting out to a slow start wouldn’t be seen as a nail in the coffin — the 2019 World Champs say “hello!” — but three- or four-week slump to start the 2020 campaign could push clubs into “sell” mode early. A team that starts the season 8-13, for instance, would be through 35 percent of its games and could feel forced to begin mulling tough decisions.
There’s so much that’s unknown still about just how transactions will look. The league and players union may very well still be hammering out some of these specifics. We know that each club will submit a 60-name list of players who can participate in Spring Training by Sunday, but the very fact that trades and transactions are permitted suggests that there’s room for those lists and taxi squads to be adjusted throughout the season (just as would be the case with the 40-man roster under normal circumstances). However the specifics play out, fans can ready for some actual player movement beginning this weekend.