Want to get the 2020 MLB season jump-started sooner than later? There has been some chatter going on about that and the Atlanta Braves could stand to benefit.
Oh, what should have been: at this point, the Atlanta Braves should be working the final weekend before breaking everything down to head... er, West... to begin the regular season in Arizona.
They would have done so with an already-expanded roster: 26 players instead of the 25 that we've been used to over the past few decades of play.
Come September, though, there was going to be another rule change: the traditional September call-ups could not encompass the entire 40-man roster. It would be a maximum of 28 players at a time instead.
The rationale: much better competitive balance and 'fairness' between teams as some clubs have better minor league depth, others chose to use fewer bodies, etc.
What if the expansion to 28 happened for the entire season... short as it might be?
There's been no official word at all from the league office, though there have been some discussions and comments, including one from Phillies manager Joe Girardi via an MLB Network interview that one of our sister sites quoted last week.
There are a lot of possible implications of such a change, so let's outline a few of those here:
- Possibility of a shorter 'extended Spring Training' cycle with starting pitchers not necessarily needing to be completely stretched out.
- Possible leverage for the owners in their discussions with the Players Union over the subject of service time for these lost days/games.
That latter point is a biggie: if there is any semblance of a 2020 season, there is no way that they would want their members losing a year. Fred raised this point in a slightly different context yesterday, and it's truly going to be noteworthy as we go forward.
For example, they'd want 2nd-year arbitration-eligible players to become third-year arb. eligibles for 2021. Obviously, ownership doesn't want to see that calendar page turned so quickly, particularly if some of these players never get onto a field for more than a few weeks.
That argument won't die quickly.
For the Atlanta Braves, allowing 2 extra players (essentially a total of 3 extra above 2019) would be a huge help, given both the position battles that were on-going and the struggles of a couple of 'regulars' that the team is counting on.
- Can't decide between Johan Camargo and Austin Riley? Keep 'em both.
- Can't decide between Felix Hernandez, Sean Newcomb, and Kyle Wright? Keep 'em all... even if Cole Hamels is back and healthy.
- Maybe you've got a huge stable of starters with such a move (7 of them)... scratch an excess reliever instead. 7 starters, 7 relievers.
As noted, teams with deep minor league support typically have been able to benefit from a massive September call-up train; the Atlanta Braves could likewise benefit in a 28-man scenario since the top of their minor league system is so good.
There's Another Angle
From our friends at Knockahoma Nation (well... the one who isn't 'replacement level'):
What if the Atlanta Braves tried to weasel an additional year of team control for Riley? If all things remain the same - that players require 172 days to click over another year on their service time clock - this shortened season could present an opportunity to keep Riley in the minors long enough to make that happen.
Let's hope not, for they would arguably be doing so to the detriment of the major league club, but that's yet another reason why this battle over service time and roster size is not trivial.
This is going to be a 'thing' because baseball's owners would almost certainly be more willing to pay two extra players on their active roster than to have to pay perhaps half a dozen an extra year of arbitration monies at next year's prices... or in some cases, lose a player to free agency without a chance to get expected trade value.
So far, this argument has been behind closed doors. Wait until things calm down and we're getting geared up to play again: then things will get warmed up, for sure.