The 2020 26th Man

As most of you know, MLB is planning to implement a few rules changes in 2020, one of which is the addition of a 26th man (who cannot be a pitcher) to the active list rosters Opening Day through August 31st. 

Because all MLB clubs carry 13 pitchers (usually five starters and eight relievers) during the regular season, clubs have been limited to a four-man bench (National League) or a three-man bench (American League where there is a DH), and there just isn't room on the roster to carry a speclialist or a player with a limited role or function until rosters expand in September.

But back in the day it was typical for clubs to carry only ten or eleven pitchers, so a six or seven-man bench was common, and some of the players on the bench could have a very specific role or specialty that we don't see as much today (at least not until rosters expand in September).   

In deciding who might make a good 2020 26th man, it's possible that we could see a throwback to the old days of roster construction. 

Here are the three types of bench guys we might now see for a full season with the implementation of the 26th man rule:  

1. TYPE 1: Ace pinch hitter. 

This type has to be able to hit "cold" off the bench and be able to handle high velocity FB and high-spin breaking balls from the best relievers in the game (both lefty & righty). Ideally this player can play defense, too (at least passably), but it isn't necessary. Mainly he just needs to get a big hit in a game situation when his club most needs one. 

This type generally would have more value on a National League club (where there is no DH), but he could be a fit on an American League team that features a defense-first player (most-likely a SS or a catcher) with limited offensive skills in the lineup. 

EXAMPLES: Tommy LaStella circa 2018, but also guys like Lenny Harris, Manny Mota, Smoky Burgess, Jerry Lynch, and Moose McCormick from bygone eras. 

2. TYPE 2: Pinch-runner who can steal bases pretty much at will. 

Like the type 1 player, it is helpful if this player can also play defense (usually OF), but his main job is to pinch-run and steal a base (maybe two) in a game situatiion where a run is needed to tie or win a game.  

This is the type of player clubs will often add in September (when rosters expand) or in the Wild Card game (when only one starting pitcher is needed), but now it can be for the entire season.   

EXAMPLES: Terrance Gore (acquired by the Cubs in 2018) and Quintin Berry (acquired by the Cubs in 2015). 

3. TYPE 3: #3 catcher. 

Like the pinch-running specialist, a third catcher is the type of player who is added when rosters expand in September, but now a third catcher can be available for the entire season. This type of player can be a plus if a club's top two catchers are both good hitters (as is the case with the Cubs right now) and the manager wants to be able to use the #2 catcher as a pinch-hitter without a second thought whenever necessary.

It is a bonus if the #3 catcher can play other positions as well, but it isn'r absolutely necessary. Ideally the third catcher would also be the "emergency" pitcher in a blow-out or in extra innings after all of the available relievers have been used.  

Comments

A Competitive Balance draft slot can be traded only during a period of time starting on December 2nd and extending up until two hours prior to the MLB First-Year Player Draft (MLB Rule 4 Draft), so don't be surpised if these draft picks are traded during the off-season.

Keep in mind that the slot cannot be traded for cash unless it is a financial adjustment made to offset the salary of one or more of the players involved in the trade.

Also, a Competitive Balance draft slot can be traded only once (only by the club that was awarded the pick). Once traded, the slot cannot be "flipped" to a third club.

Prior to 2017, a Competitive Balance Draft slot could only be traded during the MLB regular season, but that rule was changed with the new CBA. 

The "26th man" who was added for doubleheaders will now be the "27th man" and he can be a pitcher. 

And then the active list roster limit will expand from 26 to 28 on September 1st (max 14 pitchers in September). 

The active list roster limit changes scheduled to go in effect in 2020 have not yet been officially approved. Same goes for the three-batter minimum (or else record the third out in the inning) for relief pitchers. 

There seems to be a lot of player movement so far. Too bad the Cubs aren't involved.

AZ Phil, thank you as always for the detailed information.  How is the "cannot be a pitcher" part of the rule to be enforced?  With a few two way players and the increasing amount of mop up innings being handled by position players it seems like there could be a gray area there.  What is preventing a team from stashing an athletic relief pitcher as a "5th outfielder" that could be a pinch runner and play a passable OF when needed but could also provide them with extra relief pitcher.  Anytime I hear of a new rule I always think of how Bill Billichek would circumvent it to his advantage if he was a baseball manager. 

Yeah, I've made myself familiar with a lot of the changes, but AZP's posts have both added more information and cleared up stuff I didn't fully grasp.  I appreciate the hell out of it.  Thanks Phil, thanks TCR.

SONICWIND: As the rule is proposed, prior to the start of each MLB regular season a club must designate all players on its Opening Day 26-man roster as either a "pitcher" or a "position player." A maximum of 13 can be designated as pitchers (14 pitchers max when rosters expand from 26 to 28 beginning on 9/1). 

For players who come up during the season, the club must designate the player as either a pitcher or a position player when the player is placed on the MLB active list roster. 

A postion player can pitch in a game only if the club is winning or losing by more than six runs at the time he enters the game or if the game has gone to extra innings.  

A position player can be designated as a "two-way player" (and does not count against the maximum 13 pitchers allowed) if the player has thrown at least 20 IP during the course of the current MLB season or threw at least 20 IP in the previous MLB season - AND - has started at least 20 games as a position player (including DH) and with at least three plate appearances in each game started in the current MLB season or started at least 20 games as a position player (including DH) and with at least three plate appearances in each game started in the previous MLB season. (Presumably the in-season qualifying as a "two-way player" would only apply in the first season of the rule's implementation). 

Since there is no restriction on pitchers playing other positions, a "two-way player" would probably first have to be designated as a pitcher (and throw at least 20 innings) while playing other positions (including DH) as well (at least 20 games started as a position player with at least three PA in each game started) in order to qualify as a "two-way player."  Then once established as a "two-way player," the player would no longer count as a pitcher as far as the maximum number of pitchers allowed on the active roster is concerned. He would effectively become a 14th pitcher (prior to 9/1) or a 15th pitcher (beginning on 9/1).  

But if a player who was designated a "two-way player" prior to the start of a season because he automatically qualified as a "two-way player" by virtue of meeting the "two-way player" requirements during the previous season were to fall below the IP and/or G/PA threshold by the end of the current season, he would not automatically qualify as a "two-way player" again at the start of the next season (he would count as a pitcher until he could re-establish himself as a  "two-way player").      

What I don't know is how an Injured List assignment for an extended period of time might impact a player's ability to maintain "two-way player" status into the next season, or if what a player did in the minor leagues will count toward the 20 IP and 20 G/PA required to be designated an MLB "two-way player."

Ptchers would also be treated differently under the new rules as far as the Injured list and Optional Assignment to the minors is concerned, with pitchers having to spend at least 15 days (up from 10 days) on the Injured List before being eligible to be reinstated and at least 15 days (up from 10 days) on Optional Assignment before being eligible to be recalled (inless the pitcher is being recalled to replace a pitcher on the 26-man roster who has been placed on an MLB inactive list).  

Again, none of these rules (including the one that requires a pitcher to face a minimum of three batters or else record the final out of the inning) have been officially approved.  

I think one possible caveat that might be added to the three-batter minimum rule would be that the pitcher can be replaced prior to facing three batters or recording the final out of the inning if the other team puts up a pinch-hitter. 

The list of 4/5 starting pitchers is being reduced.

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  • crunch 40 min 32 sec ago (view)

    maybe if the cubs can squeeze a 5th in-season concert at wrigley they can sign addison russell.

     

  • Charlie 1 hour 20 min ago (view)

    Morosi reporting that the Reds are favorites for Castellanos. Seems like a good direction for them if they can deal with his defense in LF. They look to have the best sarting rotation in the division (or close to it) as things stand. If they can squeeze more offense out of the OF and skate by with their bullpen, they could hang reasonably close to the Cards-Brewers-Cubs pack. I'll be curious to see how much money they throw at him if they do sign him. Being younger has to get him more money than Ozuna, right?

     

  • Charlie 4 hours 21 min ago (view)

    Sure would be nice to rehab a player and then have them stick around and help out the team. Fingers crossed for Souza.

     

  • Arizona Phil 7 hours 13 min ago (view)

    BRADSBEARD: Unfortunately the video doesn't show how his knee looked the day after the workout, whether he can run and take BP two days in a row, if he needs to take pain meds before or after he does physical activity, and/or if he has to have his knee drained every couple of weeks. 

     

  • crunch 20 hours 35 min ago (view)

    MLB released their 2020 prospect list...  http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2020/?list=prospects

    #51 nico hoerner

    #68 brailyn marquez

    #78 brennen davis

    #95 miguel amaya

     

  • bradsbeard 1 day 8 hours ago (view)

    I thought he might be getting a minor league deal or like you suggest be rehabbing from the IL to start the year. But Rosenthal tweeted yesterday that it's expected to be a major league deal and Souza's twitter account shows videos of him running bases, taking BP, etc. Supposedly has been running at 100% since November. 

     

  • crunch 1 day 20 hours ago (view)

    left handed tyler chatwood can go ahead and get picked in the rule5 if he puts up numbers like he has recently...

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 21 hours ago (view)

    I would think it would be a low base salary (maybe $1M) with performance bonuses based upon days spent on the MLB active list. 

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 21 hours ago (view)

    If the Cubs sign Steven Souza Jr to an MLB contract and he doesn't spend most or all of the 2020 season on the 60-day IL, he has Article XIX-A rights (he has accrued five-plus years of MLB Service Time) so even though he has two minor league options left he cannot be optioned (or outrighted) to the minors without his consent.

    Also, Souza will be an Article XX-B MLB FA post-2020 if he accrues at least 100 days of MLB Service Time in 2020 (and players do accrue MLB ST while on the IL), presuming there are no player, mutual, and/or club options in the contract. 

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 21 hours ago (view)

    This might be another rehab signing, like Smyly in 2018 and Graveman last year. 

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 21 hours ago (view)

    CRUNCH: That was why the D'backs non-tendered Souza even though they need outfielders. It was a really catastrophic knee injury. He's lucky if he can walk without a limp, much less run.   

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 21 hours ago (view)

    As I mentioned here last year when he was claimed off waivers, Pelham does not have the right to elect free-agency if he is outrighted and he will not be a minor league 6YFA until post-2021 (so he will be under club control through the 2021 season, and eligible for selection in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft if he is not added back to the 40 in the meantime). 

     

  • Wrigley Rat 1 day 21 hours ago (view)

    Pelham has cleared waivers and was assigned to Iowa.

     

  • crunch 2 days 40 min ago (view)

    yeah, but he severely wrecked his left knee, like 3-4 different structures in his left knee.  he had to have a total reconstruction.

    he must have had something resembling a decent workout if he got a MLB deal, though...or the front office feels pressured to do something.  it's no secret the cubs checked in on his availabilty years ago so they do have a historical interest in him.

    found an article... https://www.mlb.com/news/steven-souza-jr-has-knee-...

     

  • Eric S 2 days 1 hour ago (view)

    Have to believe it's a bench move. Souza has an interesting background - pretty quick synopsis of him as a player and teammate in Bleacher Nation:

    https://www.bleachernation.com/cubs/2020/01/24/cubs-reportedly-close-to-signing-outfielder-steven-souza-jr/

     

  • crunch 2 days 2 hours ago (view)

    cd pellham outrighted to AAA and off the 40-man roster.