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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  • JustSayin' 2 hours 2 min ago (view)

    Theo got a good question at the conference on minor league salaries and went on record that they are unfair.  That was followed by "keep your ear to the ground" or some similar cliche.  I find this interesting.  Fan dissatisfaction this offseason is maily focused on ownership being cheap but you have to admit there is a (slim?) chance that the baseball moves we want to see are not currently possible.  It's hard to say the same about MiLB salaries.  Those don't even factor in the luxury tax.  You could raise every player in the system to middle class for the cos

     

  • Dolorous Jon Lester 2 hours 28 min ago (view)

    As part of the 2019-2020 Cubs offseason dumpster diving extravaganza, I wonder if they will kick the tires on Zack Cozart. Can handle 2B SS 3B and isn't far removed from being a great defender and at least decent hitter. 2 years of injury is a concern, but he'd receive only ML minimum.

     

  • crunch 15 hours 45 min ago (view)

    WAS is now floating c.kieboom as a 3rd base option...along with asdrubal cabrera backing him up there.

    the bryant service issue delay may end up lessening his trade value as teams (especially his #1 rumored suitor, WAS) prepare their teams in the offseason.

    it's unfortunate that the cubs major offseason team building is based on waiting to find out how much getting rid of bryant is worth because of service time concerns.

     

  • Arizona Phil 21 hours 13 min ago (view)

    Another possible unintended consequence of the new restriction on September call-ups is that contending clubs will send MLB-ready pitchers and position-players who in previous seasons would have been called-up to MLB in September to the Arizona Fall League, just to keep them in game shape in case the pitcher or position player is needed as an injury replacement in September or in the post-season.  

     

  • Arizona Phil 23 hours 48 min ago (view)

    One thing about Josh Phegley is that not only is he out of minor league options but he also has Article XIX-A rights (he has accrued at least five years of MLB Service Time), so he can't even be outrighted to the minors without his consent if he were to be added to the 40.

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 23 min ago (view)

    The Cubs have reportedly signed veteran MLB catcher Josh Phegley (ex-OAK and ex-CHW) to a minor league contract and an NRI to Spring Training (contract is pending because it has not yet been filed with MLB). 

     

  • CubbyBlue 1 day 3 hours ago (view)

    Yeah but that person figured out a way to make a profit off of it, so... hey WAIT!

     

  • crunch 1 day 13 hours ago (view)

    "Cubs' pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said Friday that Brandon Morrow (elbow) will be on the same schedule as the rest of the Cubs' pitchers during spring training."

    that's cool.  no restrictions unless the team chooses to be cautious, evidently.

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 19 hours ago (view)

    The Danny Hultzen and Carlos Asuaje minor league contracts have been filed with MLB, but no Jason Adam or Tyler Olson contract filings (yet).  

     

  • cubbies.4ever 1 day 20 hours ago (view)

    My son's name is Tyler Olsen (obviously spelled different, and only 6 but a future Cub), so I am rooting for Tyler to make the team. 

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 20 hours ago (view)

    And Tyler Olson has a similar profile as Casey Sadler (out of minor league options and has Article XX-D rights if he is added to the 40), the only difference being (unlike Sadler) Olson will come to Spring Training not on the 40 so he can be sent to Iowa without restrictions, but if & when he's added to the 40 he isn't a Des Moines - Chicago shuttle-rider candidate. 

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 20 hours ago (view)

    Unfortunately (for the Cubs) Casey Sadler doesn't fit as a Des Moines - Chicago shuttle-rider because he is out of minor league options and he can elect free-agency if he is outrighted (he has Article XX-D rights because he been outrighted previously in his career). 

     

  • cubbies.4ever 1 day 20 hours ago (view)

    I agree, this offseason has been a disgrace.  If I'm Theo I'm thinking I am in OAK or CHI?  This ownership has given him nothing this year.  Even the cheap Twins are willing to sign Josh Donaldson and the Cubs biggest transaction this offseason may be adding Miguel Amaya to the 40 man.

     

  • tim815 1 day 21 hours ago (view)

    The Cubs have a better talent pipeline than on Thursday.

    I'm good.

     

  • crunch 1 day 21 hours ago (view)

    at least they gave up a chunk of nothing for him (clayton daniel, no power (not even doubles power), not notable speed, middle IF/OFr).

    it would probably be better appreciated by fans if the entire offseason wasn't stuff like this.

    it's obvious the front office is trying to work with what they have...which is little to nothing from the ownership.

     

  • cubbies.4ever 1 day 21 hours ago (view)

    Cubs acquire Casey Sadler from LA....another Tommy John Surgery pitcher.  Theo does it again.