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.
Arizona Phil 1 hour 2 min ago (view)
In addition to 40 players signed to 2020 MLB contracts, after releasing 22 minor leaguers this week the Cubs now have 279 players signed to 2020 minor league contracts (plus one minor leaguer on the Restricted List), for a total of 320 players in the organization (181 pitchers, 30 catchers, 60 infielders, and 49 outfielders).
JustSayin' 10 hours 16 min ago (view)
Years of over-drafting pitching shown here.
Dolorous Jon Lester 12 hours 6 min ago (view)
Some of the players cut I am not too surprised by. Some of them I think are definitely victims of the minor league pay thing and being squeezed out.
That said, I am very surprised they gave up already on Riley McCauley and Niels Stone.
Hagsag 13 hours 45 min ago (view)
Baseball America is showing a big group of players that have been released.
Arizona Phil 1 day 3 hours ago (view)
The Cubs have released minor league catcher Rafelin Lorenzo. He was selected from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the AAA Phase of the 2018 Rule 5 Draft and spent the 2019 season at South Bend. He was eligible to be a minor league 6YFA post-2020.
JustSayin' 2 days 12 hours ago (view)
The organizations will cut rosters down, as if the full-season teams were breaking camp to start the season, THEN pay the remaining minor leaguers $400/week or whatever. That's similar to what costs would have normally been but the "one last chance" players who got spring training invitations this year and didn't have an obvious roster spot won't be getting their last chance.
crunch 2 days 14 hours ago (view)
"According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, all minor league players will be receiving $400 per week from MLB through at least May 31."
so that's where that promise landed. the scary thing is that's still more than some in the low minors make on a weekly basis.
crunch 5 days 6 hours ago (view)
"Jeff Passan of ESPN writes that the players and league agreed that the 2020 season won't start until "there are no bans on mass gatherings that limit the ability to play in front of fans, there are no travel restrictions and medical experts determine games will not pose a risk to health of teams and fans." Passan does add that the two sides "will consider the feasibility of playing in empty stadiums" and also at neutral sites.
crunch 5 days 12 hours ago (view)
i miss baseball. it could happen in june...it may happen in late may...it might not happen either way.
there's so many things getting messed up right now i would get lost making a list. there's some college guys making a serious "okay, we need to look at that guy" push that's dead. former cubs draft pick russell smith (2017, LHP highschool) took last season off for injury (TCU college) and returned with a low 90s fastball, impressive control, and a MLB-quality changeup. his "comeback" was 4 games and done thanks to this current situation...
JustSayin' 5 days 14 hours ago (view)
COVID 19 + a short draft + Manfred's obsessive drive to shrink the minor leagues will change baseball forever. It WAS still America's grass roots sport. Where I live, from June through August, you could see a quality live game any day of the week, within an hour's drive. I believe that era is over. What's going on will have ripple effects, contracting serious college ball, college summer leagues and independent pro ball just as much as the MiLB systems. With those changes, some of the game's charm will also go. I've seen a kid from Cape Cod play in the Ca
crunch 6 days 12 hours ago (view)
fyi for anyone who bought MLB.tv
for "some reason" getting a cancel+refund via phone is like pulling teeth, but if you contact them via a webpage contact request many people are getting a cancel+refund confirmation within an hour or 2...
bradsbeard 6 days 20 hours ago (view)
I imagine because the new labor agreement freezes rosters as of whenever the agreement is approved by the owners and it might affect what those guys are paid under the agreement.
Hagsag 6 days 21 hours ago (view)
AZ Phil. what was the reason that a whole bunch of teams optioned or assigned players to the minor leagues yesterday on March 26 ? Thanks.
Arizona Phil 1 week 1 hour ago (view)
jdrnym: Ordinarily, players on an MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) who are on Optional Assignment to the minors do not accrue MLB Service Time, are paid at the minor league rate rather than at the MLB rate if the player has a "split" contract, and if the player gets hurt or becomes sick after being optioned, he can be placed on a minor league IL instead of on an MLB IL (so that he cannot accrue MLB Service Time or be paid at the MLB rate while he is on the IL). Also, a player who is optioned to the minors for at least 20 days will burn an option year.
jdrnym 1 week 14 hours ago (view)
AZPhil, what are the technical ramifications of optioning/not optioning guys during this period of no baseball? Seems like some teams are more eager than others to trim their roster down.
crunch 1 week 1 day ago (view)
"Major League Baseball has agreed with the MLBPA to grant a full year of service time to players in 2020 regardless of how many games the schedule includes.
Rosenthal adds, however, that the two sides have agreed to "table discussions" on how much service time the players would receive if the worst-case scenario plays out and the 2020 season has to be canceled entirely due to the coronavirus pandemic."