clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

OTM Roundtable: The new expanded roster rules

Are they good or bad?

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

New York Yankees v. Chicago White Sox Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

We are now in September, which is always a special month in baseball, and not just because it’s the final stretch run to the postseason. This is also when rosters expand, though it’s happening a bit differently this year. Whereas teams could always carry up to 40 players in the month of September, the rosters have been capped at 28 for the season’s final month starting this season. (It technically was supposed to begin in 2020, but COVID threw that timing off.) For this week’s roundtable, we asked the staff if they prefer the new rule or the old one?

Bryan Joiner

It’s hard to express how much I prefer the 40-man business. I cannot in good conscience understand how anyone would feel otherwise. I cannot in bad conscience understand it either. More dudes = more fun. Fewer dudes = less fun. That’s a nice little spot of wordplay in action there, but it’s absolutely true. We gain nothing with these tyrannical rules. Give us liberty or give us... more than 28 players. Not death. No death, please.

Scott Neville

I personally believe the 28-man roster is headed in the right direction. For playoff teams in particular, it made little to no sense that they were able to just have unlimited bench/bullpen depth down the stretch. I do like the idea of expanded rosters for a few reasons though. First, the additional players prevent injuries to veterans that appear to be burnt out, like Matt Barnes for example. Second, having more bench depth increases the strategy of the game for contenders, with pinch hitters and runners. My last and favorite factor is that a lot of players get their first shot in the big leagues during the expanded September rosters. That point is particularly important because for some, it will be their only cup of coffee in the major leagues. Overall I do think the 40-man roster was a bit too expansive but I would be happy anywhere in the 28 to 30 player range for September rosters.

Michael Walsh

I’m fine with September rosters being trimmed to 28, as having 15 extra players seemed excessive, but I think they could’ve met somewhere in the middle. My preference would be to allow rosters in the range of 30-31, which would give teams the opportunity to call up an extra catcher, infielder, outfielder, and a couple of bullpen arms. A 30-man roster would provide plenty of flexibility without overdoing it.

Keaton DeRocher

Well given the Red Sox current roster issues having 40 players available might help. However, I am unbothered by this rule change. There was usually only a couple of interesting September call ups anyway and then the roster goes back down for the playoffs so it’s not like they were gaining reinforcements for a deep October run, it’s just essentially a chance to get some guys to rest in a long season which is fine with me.

Shelly Verougstraete

I like the idea of only expanding the rosters to 28 players instead of the possibility of 40 players on the active roster. With so many players active at one time, many of them were relievers, and it really made the games seem so much longer as managers would use SO many pitchers during the game.

Steven Brown

I always preferred teams having the ability to call up any of the players on its 40-man rosters during the month of September. Having the flexibility to call on such a wide array of players in a crucial month and give younger or overlooked players some opportunities to prove themselves has always been a vital part of the game.

This transition could not have come at a worse time given the circumstances in the world around us at the moment. With so many COVID-19 related outbreaks on teams’ rosters over the past season and a half, the state of a 26-man roster, let alone a 28-man roster can deteriorate in a matter of days. Such has been the case in Boston over the last week. Call up the entire 40-man roster and let the kids play.

Bayleigh Von Schneider

Am I happy about the switch to 28 players for the September roster expansion? I wouldn’t say I am happy, I guess I’m more indifferent to the situation. I mean, I was indifferent before the latest COVID-19 wallop on the Red Sox. Right now, I sure would rather the Red Sox be able to bring up and use the whole 40-man roster, like in previous years. I do also understand that expanding the roster by two men, rather than by 14, keeps the rate of COVID exposure and transmission down quite a bit. At this point, with the Red Sox facing COVID hardships, keeping the roster smaller only makes sense. Personally, I was always a fan of seeing the young guys come up and show off what they could do with a call-up, but I do understand why things had to change regarding call-ups during the 2021 season.

Stephen Thompson

As a Red Sox fan, I don’t like it. Covid seems to be spreading like wildfire in the Boston dugout and it’s entirely possible that they’ll need spare arms and bats to fill in the space around what remains of the lineup’s core. Is Marcelo Mayer ready yet? Heard somewhere that Alex Cora has an opening at shortstop.

But as an observer of the game and fan of controversy, I think it’s pretty fun. Managers will never not be pelted with questions or suggestions about who should have played when and why, but a smaller roster puts some added pressure on everyone: the front office executives that decide who comes up, the players who get their shot and the managers who lead them. Sure it might take away from some exciting prospect debuts here and there, but I think it adds more entertaining tension to already taught wild card and divisional races.

Mike Carlucci

September just isn’t the same without a bunch of random guys in the dugout. Prospects, journeymen, relievers (so many relievers). It just feels like the reason for the season. I get the “pitcher parade” aspect. I really do. And that’s my biggest complaint. But with the three better requirement that’s mostly not a concern anymore. No manager can do 10 match-ups in a row. But seeing the bursting-at-the-seams dugouts in September is a fun part of the season. Watching Craig Hansen or Manny Delcarmen or old man Ellis Burks or or 2005 Hanley Ramirez get that time in the majors. Seeing a random Triple A guy come in for a three-inning save in what may not be a blowout but is a game that doesn’t strictly matter. Who’s number 73? Will they get to face some big leaguers? Will Devers get an inning off so someone can get a few big league reps at third base? It’s fun and weird and not how baseball operate - having two shifts of guys in a game - and that’s why it’s great. Especially with the pitching parade in a playoff race issue solved.

Robert Osgood

For decades, Major League teams have found loopholes to best utilize the 25-man, and now 26-man, roster. Fake IL stints for 10 or 15 days, depending on the season. Shuffling pitchers back and forth between the majors and Triple-A to bring in a fresh arm. Tanner Houck knows a thing or two about this. While this often borders on gamesmanship, at least there’s a level playing field.

No MLB rule in this generation made less sense than the 40-man roster expansion in September. The franchises who were most willing to spend would expand the roster to 30, 32, 34, as needed as the month wore on. The teams most desperate for an arm, or a pinch-runner the last week of the season would do the same. The competitive disadvantage of a last-place team with a 27-man roster facing a team battling for the division with a 35-man roster, alternating left-handed and right-handed relievers in a four-hour ballgame was making a mockery of September baseball. Whether they settle on 28-man or 30-man rosters, as long as there’s a level playing field, I’m in favor of that over the quality of your September callups deciding a pennant.

Brendan Campbell

Under normal circumstances, I think I would have preferred seeing major-league rosters expand to a full 40 players as opposed to just 28 at the start of September. However, given the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and how that has affected the Red Sox as of late, I’m fine with limiting roster expansion to just two additional players.

Yes, it would be nice if the Red Sox could bolster their bullpen and bench by making a dozen call-ups rather than two, but the thought of having 40 players sharing the same clubhouse and facilities while the team navigates its way through a COVID-19 outbreak of sorts is somewhat anxiety-inducing.

So, to put it simply, I’m curious to see how the Red Sox go about utilizing the 27th and 28th spots on their roster for the remainder of the season, because I can’t imagine those spots will be occupied by the same two players from now until October, if that makes sense.

Brady Childs

No, it sucks and there’s no reason not to have the full 40-man roster up except to not pay them. It’s absolute horse hockey. One of my favorite things about September baseball used to be the random AAAA relievers who’d come up and throw garbage innings. It used to be a great chance to expose top prospects to Major League quality pitching for a spell, but that’s gone by the wayside for the most part with service time manipulation becoming commonplace across the league. I’d give anything for baseball to just go back to what it was like in 2012.

Matt Collins

When the rule change first happened, I was all about it. To me, it always felt a little absurd that playoff races were happening while rebuilding teams called up players with really no business playing in the majors. But you know what? Now that I’m seeing it in action, I miss the 40-man rosters. This is probably a “grass is always greener” kind of thing, but for now, I’m missing the old days.

Jake Devereaux

Baseball already has pace of play issues, there is no need to exacerbate them by allowing the manager access to up to 40 players. The new roster rules expanding from 26-28 keep the game consistent. I fully support the new rule. If we are looking for a downside it’s that it may limit our ability to get a sneak peak at prospects on the 40 man roster. Patience is a virtue though, I can wait until spring training.