Rules Changes set for 2019 and 2020
The league and the players don’t agree on a hell of a lot right now, and the economic side of the game is in for a reckoning very, very soon. Sometimes, when you’re looking ahead to negotiations that are sure to be contentious like the ones for baseball’s economic system, it can be helpful to start with something a bit smaller. If you can agree on the smaller stuff, then you can start to work your way up with some semblance of good faith for you to hang your hat on. That’s what MLB and the MLBPA have done, having reached an agreement for rule changes that will be implemented either for the upcoming season or for the 2020 season. All of this comes from ESPN’s Jeff Passan, who broke the news Wednesday night. Let’s go one-by-one and look at the changes.
- Starting this year, the All-Star game voting will be changed to an Election Day style format. We discussed this not too long ago when it was first rumored, and I still pretty much have the same thoughts. Basically, it’s fine I guess. Their hope is that it will put their stars on a bigger stage and allow them to better market the best and most exciting players. I’m not sure it will work as well as they hope, but its nice to at least see them trying to market their stars more.
- Sticking with All-Star weekend, the two sides have agreed to up the Home Run Derby prize to a cool $1 million. Here, they are hoping to get more stars to participate in the headlining event of All-Star weekend. Again, I am good with that.
- There will be no more August waiver deadline, ridding us of one of the more confusing aspects of the summer. Now, the league will have just the single trade deadline on July 31, meaning acquisitions like Justin Verlander to the Astros a couple of years ago won’t be possible. Their hope is that this will make the July 31 deadline more exciting, as teams will now be forced to make decisions on their season by that date. They’re not going to get this much coverage, but looking at the NBA trade deadline and NFL free agency and it’s not hard to see why MLB wants to get more out of its most exciting transaction period on the calendar. I like this one as well.
- The changes for 2020 are even more extreme. For one thing, teams will get an extra roster spot for the entire season. This one’s pretty straight forward. Extra spots are good. The will also be eliminating the 40-man rosters in September, instead reducing the expanded roster size to only 28. That still gives teams a chance to add a couple extra players, but not nearly to the same extreme extent. I have gone back and forth on this a million times. I understand the positives for the expanded rosters, but ultimately I think it’s wild that the most important month of the regular season is played under drastically different rules. I think this is more good than bad.
- The change that is likely to be most controversial is the implementation of the three-batter minimum for pitchers. So, essentially, we won’t see any one-batter specialists starting in 2020. I don’t really like this one, though I’m open to seeing it in action. I’m curious how they battle fake injury claims to get around this rule. For what it’s worth, players didn’t technically agree to this one, but instead just agreed to not fight it when the league unilaterally implements it. In return, the league tabled the implementation of a pitch clock.
- Players are now going to be designated as position players, pitchers or two-way players, and position players will only be allowed to pitch in extra-inning games or a game with a run differential of seven or more. In concert with the the three-batter minimum I think this could work, and I like it. Call me a curmudgeon but we’ve seen way too many position players pitching of late. It’s fun when it’s a novelty, but not so much when it’s happening somewhere every night.
- Most importantly, the two sides have agreed to start negotiations on the economic stuff soon. That is a huge deal, as the CBA doesn’t expire until the end of 2021, and typically negotiations wouldn’t begin for at least a year. Clearly it is understood that these are going to be intense and important negotiations, and while starting early won’t guarantee an agreement before the CBA expires it is a good sign.
Tony Sipp agrees to one-year deal with Nationals
Before the rule changes were announced, the big news for the day was another reliever signing with a team that is not the Red Sox. That would be Tony Sipp, who agreed to a one-year deal worth $1 million with Washington. Sipp is someone that many around these parts have mentioned of late as the best non-Kimbrel arm on the market. That was probably true, but says more about the market at this point than Sipp’s talent. The former Astros lefty is fine, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure he provides a chance at finding a third late-inning arm for this team, which is what they really need in this writer’s opinion. I certainly wouldn’t have objected had the Red Sox signed him to this deal, but I’m not sure it’s too big of a deal that they didn’t.