Opening Day Roster

The Cubs have been busy this past week, making final roster cuts that pared their Spring Training roster (originally 58 players in February) down to a 25-man roster on Opening Day. The 25-man Opening Day roster limit and clubs having to cut players the last week of Spring Training to get down to the limit is one of the ìRights of Spring Training,î in some cases the ìlast riteî (so to speak) for a player. But the 25-man Opening Day roster is actually a fairly recent invention. While the idea that clubs can activate their entire 40-man roster for the last month of the season--giving young players a ìcup of coffeeî or ìfull trialî after the minor leagues close on or about Labor Day--goes back about 100 years, the idea that clubs must operate with only 25 players from Opening Day through August 31st does not. A SABR researcher named Clifford Blau has actually compiled a history of roster limits, and it is interesting to note the changes over the years on his chart. 1968 was the first season in MLB history where clubs had to cut their 40-man roster down to 25 on Opening Day. During the previous 11 seasons (1957-1967), MLB clubs had to cut their 40-man rosters to 28 by Opening Day, and then to 25 by the 31st day of season. If you look back at the Opening Day rosters from that 11-year period, you would note that at least two of the three ìextraî players carried during the first month of the season were usually pitchers (and that was before the days of starting pitchers having their workoads limited by arbitrary pitch counts!). Most clubs circa 1957-67 normally carried nine or ten pitchers May through August, but they would often carry as many as 12 pitchers during the month of April. It was recognized even then that pitchers needed more time than position players to get ready for the start of the season, and having an extra couple of arms available during the first month was understood to be advisable. By May, all starting pitchers were expected to be ready to handle a full work-load (pitch a complete game, if possible), and the three extra guys (including usually a couple of pitchers) were optioned or outrighted to the minors, traded, or released. Prior to 1957, the roster limit remained at 40 until the 31st day of the season. That doesnít mean all clubs would actually carry 40 players during the month of April, just like clubs today do not activate their entire 40-man roster on September 1st just because they have the right to do so. When the roster limit remained at 40 until the 31st day of the season, clubs would (in reality) carry maybe five extra players, with the other ten usually being young players who werenít ready to play in the big leagues, and so they would be optioned to the minors to get a chance to play every day. The type of player who would be kept around during the first month back when the 40-man roster cut-down date was the 31st day of the season would be veterans at the end of their careers trying to remain in the big leagues for a little while longer, "4-A" minor league players (that is, guys who had ìmasteredî AAA but who were having difficulty making the transition to MLB), and Rule 5 Draft picks, ìbonus players,î and players who were out of minor league options (in other words, players who could not be sent to the minors without first clearing waivers). In the 1920ís, 30ís, and 40ís, the 40-man roster (or 48-man roster with a 30-man roster limit during the ìheartî of the season in 1945 and 1946 as player returned from WWII) ìcut-downî date was even later than the 31st day of the season, in some cases as late as May 15th, or even June 15th in some years! And prior to 1977, clubs had no 25-man ìminimumî roster requirement as they do now. Clubs having financial problems could play with 22 or 23 players if they wanted to do that, and some did. Beginning in 1977, the CBA required clubs to maintain a 24-man minimum active roster during the regular season, and this was expanded to a 25-man minimum (as it stands now) in 1991. So there is nothing ìwritten in stoneî when it comes to MLB clubs having to cut their 40-man rosters down to 25 players by Opening Day, or even maintaining a 25-man roster during the regular season. The current roster limits and a cut-down to 25 players on Opening Day are fairly recent inventions and are totally arbitrary, and could easily be changed in future CBAs (the current one expires on December 19th). 2006 CHICAGO CUBS OPENING DAY ROSTER * Disabled List PITCHERS (11 + 3 on 15-day DL) : Ryan Dempster Scott Eyre Bob Howry Greg Maddux Sean Marshall * Wade Miller (15-day DL as of 3/31) Will Ohman * Mark Prior (15-day DL as of 03/24) Glendon Rusch Jerome Williams Scott Williamson * Kerry Wood (15-day DL as of 03/24) Michael Wuertz Carlos Zambrano CATCHERS (2): Michael Barrett Henry Blanco INFIELDERS (7): Freddie Bynum Ronny Cedeno Jerry Hairston, Jr Derrek Lee Neifi Perez Aramis Ramirez Todd Walker OUTFIELDERS (5): Jacque Jones John Mabry Matt Murton Angel Pagan Juan Pierre ================================= OPTIONED TO AAA IOWA (8): David Aardsma, RHP Angel Guzman, RHP Rich Hill, LHP Roberto Novoa, RHP Felix Pie, OF Jae-Kuk Ryu, RHP Geovany Soto, C Ryan Theriot, INF OPTIONED TO AA WEST TENN (4): Brian Dopirak, 1B Carlos Marmol, RHP Scott Moore, 3B Jose Reyes, C
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Comments

Spring has sprung.
Lets go Cubs!

from the other thread, right as it died

cincy tomorrow:
47 degrees
20% chance of rain
25 MPH WINDS out of the west. (aka OUT TOWARDS RIGHT FIELD....wow, get ready for another power showing in cincy)

get out the zambrano sinker!!!

also, it looks like it's raining now and will continue to rain until about 3 am.....great, the cubs get to start their season on a slick track....be sure to stretch, ARam...

also, no surprises in dusty's lineup. no qualms from me on this one:

Pierre
Walker
Lee
Ramirez
Jones
Barrett
Murton
Cedeno
Zambrano

Question for AZ Phil or anyone --

Can a player agree to a minor league assignment, even if he is out of options? I know that once a player is out of options, a team can't send him down (i.e. another solution -- usually a trade --must be found), but I'm wondering if the player can waive that requirement if he wants to.

For example, Wellemeyer seemed pretty bummed about being traded, but the Cubs had no choice but to trade him after it was determined that he wasn't going to make the 25 man roster. Given the fact that he is supposedly a lifelong Cub fan, could he have agreed to one last minor league assignment to prove himself?

Without being too picky, it's be nice to see Murton hitting ahead of Barrett.

I hope there's no rainout tomorrow, even though I thought the Sox rain delay was funny. Worth your $500, people? LOL.

Re Wellmeyer and options in general
The problem as I understand is that once
a player runs out of options he has to clear
waivers from every other MLB team ( starting
with the worst teams first) . If a team claims
such a player he has to go on the 40 man
roster but I believe Hendry believed that
given the constant need for half way decent
arms, Wellmeyer would have been claimed
so getting even a little something for him
was better than letting him be claimed
for nothing

cubs.com lists a 41st player on the 40-man roster, pitcher Clay Rapada, who pitched in High-A Daytona last year

re: options

you can't individually negotiate away rights that are agreed upon in the collective bargaining agreement (see: ARod not being able to say "make my contract smaller" in order to be traded to the red sox)

the players' union doesn't want precedents to be set that could make teams expect for other players to do similar things for them later.

it's stupid, but that's the labor unions for you.

It's not stupid, it's the whole concept of collective bargaining.

This was done to make sure that talented players were
not kept from playing by orginizations that may simply
not have needed their talent at the time. A team is given
pleny of time "options" to get a player to the MLB level
and keep him there but when they have used this up
OTHER teams get a chance to pick him up and let him play
Same reasoning behind the rule 5 draft. It is a perfectly
logical rule, good for the player and baseball. Wellemeyer
might be "bummed" having grown up a Cub fan or whatever
but he will get chance to play in the MLB this season
which he probably would not if he had been kept

Yeah, labor unions. They're what's wrong with everything. If only huge corporations could find a way to get a little power in this country, huh?

NATE: Clay Rapada is NOT on the 40-man roster. He was just one of several players from the Minor League Camp who were invited to accompany the cubs to Las Vegas.

#3 of 11: By 433 (April 2, 2006 11:43 PM)
Question for AZ Phil or anyone --

Can a player agree to a minor league assignment, even if he is out of options? I know that once a player is out of options, a team can't send him down (i.e. another solution -- usually a trade --must be found), but I'm wondering if the player can waive that requirement if he wants to.

For example, Wellemeyer seemed pretty bummed about being traded, but the Cubs had no choice but to trade him after it was determined that he wasn't going to make the 25 man roster. Given the fact that he is supposedly a lifelong Cub fan, could he have agreed to one last minor league assignment to prove himself?

--

433: The only way the Cubs could have sent Todd Wellemeyer to Iowa out of Spring Training is if he had been placed on Outright Waivers, and wasn't claimed by anybody (as happened with David Kelton at this time last year). But the fact that the Marlins were willing to give up two players for him means the Cubs weren't going to get Welly through waivers anyway, so that's that.

The only way a player can refuse an outright assignment to the minor leagues is if he has at least three years of MLB service time and/or has been outrighted to the minors previously in his career. Such a player can choose to be a free-agent immediately, or else defer the choice until the end of the MLB regular season. If the player accepts the minor league assignment and defers the opportunity to be a free-agent until after the season, the club then has the option to reacquire the player and place him back on the 40-man roster anytime up to ten days after the close of the regular season.

Players with at least six years of combined minor league/major league service time who are outrighted to the minor leagues for the first time in their career or who have less than three years of MLB service time would be eligible for free-agency as a so-called "six-year minor league free-agent" if not added to an MLB 40-man roster within ten days after the close of the MLB regular season (as was the case with David Kelton last year).

433, the player can accept a minor league assignment if he is out of options and clears waivers. It would be an interesting question if a player wanted to accept the minor league assignment rather than be claimed by another MLB team. I will have to look that up. In normal times, it would be inconceivable that a player would refuse a major league claim in lieu of a minor league assignment--especially given the salary difference. But I guess it is even conceivable that a player could prefer AAA Iowa (with likelihood of promotion) than being claimed by the Kansas City Royals.

AZ Phil, I believe the stricter roster limits that began in 1968 were a direct result of expansion. Baseball was adding 4 teams in 1969 (San Diego and Montreal in the NL, Seattle Pilots and Kansas City in the AL). This was the largest single-year expansion in modern times and third time baseball had expanded in the 1960s. The perceived woeful experience of the 1961 and 1962 expansion teams (Los Angeles Angels, Washington Senators in the AL in 1961 and Houston Colt .45s and New York Mets) no doubt caused pressure to limit rosters so as to "free up" more talented players for the expansion teams.

To clarify my prior response on outrighting--AZ Phil is right about when a player cannot refuse an assignment. And it turns out that the situation that I was interested in does not arise. The "six year minor league free agent," or a player that has been outrighted before, or a player with more than three years major league playing time, do not go through the waiver process, they can become total free agents, free to sign either a major or minor league conract anywhere. That is how guys like Marquis Grissom, Augie Ojeda, et al. become "non-roster Spring Training invitees." Sorry for any confusion my prior post might create.

OK, I think see what 433 was asking. Could Todd Wellemeyer refuse to go to a team that claims him off waivers and go to the minors with the Cubs instead?

No, he has to go to the team that claims him, because he doesn't have any "no trade'" rights.

The only way a player can refuse a waiver claim is if he has "no trade" rights (written in his contract like with Kerry Wood, 10/5 man, Type XX FA through June 15, et al).

Perhaps AZ Phil or another expert can help me on this ... but I recall one year in which all MLB clubs had a -- let's call it a "gentleman's agreement" ("collusion" being such an ugly word) to use a 24-man roster - that is, one player fewer than they were allowed to have, in order to save money. This was in the 1960s, if my now-porous memory is serving me correctly. The "agreement" didn't last very long - as soon as one club broke it, all the others did.

Does anyone else know anything about this blip in MLB labor relations?

*Worth your $500, people? LOL.*

What price do you put on seeing the WS Banner raised?

What price do you put on seeing the WS Banner raised?

Doh!

#16 of 18: By Brown Line (April 3, 2006 12:03 PM)
Perhaps AZ Phil or another expert can help me on this ... but I recall one year in which all MLB clubs had a -- let's call it a "gentleman's agreement" ("collusion" being such an ugly word) to use a 24-man roster - that is, one player fewer than they were allowed to have, in order to save money. This was in the 1960s, if my now-porous memory is serving me correctly. The "agreement" didn't last very long - as soon as one club broke it, all the others did.

Does anyone else know anything about this blip in MLB labor relations?

--

BROWN-LINE: After a 24-man roster limit was put into the CBA in 1977, the owners tried a half-ysar experiment (April through June 1978) where clubs rosters were set at 24, but it was abandoned.

In 1987, as part of the Grand Ueberroth Collusion Plan of 1987-89, teams "coincidentally, individuually, and independently" decided to play with only 24 players (which they had had the right to do since 1977, but had only talked about doing for years). They continued to go with 24-man rosters for a total of three full years (1987 through 1989), until the lockout of 1990 resulted in a new CBA that permitted clubs to play with 24 players in 1990, but required clubs to go to 25-man rosters (minimum) in 1991.

However, several clubs jumped the gun and went to 25-man rosters on Opening Day 1990, so all of the other MLB teams immediately went to 25-man rosters, too, so as to not be at a competitive disadvantage. And that was the end of the 24-man roster.

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