Changes coming as MLB, players try head start at stopping stoppage

A baseball fan might detect that tensions between the players and league are high when White Sox spring training cuts draw heat from unaffiliated and previously unconcerned parties.

With the union getting squeezed by service-time manipulation on the front end of their careers and a free agency freeze on the back, the first work stoppage since 1994-95 becomes rather easy to envision, making the remaining three years of the collective bargaining agreement a real slog.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be, and it seems as though both sides are exploring what can be resolved before the expiration of the CBA according to a report from Jeff Passan.

Some new wrinkles regarding roster construction, trade deadlines and All-Star Game voting have already been established — and we’ll get to them in a bit — but the big takeaway is the union and management will “imminently” begin discussing how to rectify the fundamentally broken and exploitable compensation system, perhaps because the size of the overhaul requires a lot more lead time.

While a compromise could be reached in distributing more money to the younger players whom the current system underpays, the complications of doing so warrant a long runway for discussions.

Other subjects to be broached include the manipulation of service time that keeps the best prospects in the minor leagues to begin a season, the luxury-tax threshold that some believe discourage spending, and the gathering of biometric data that has become commonplace among major league teams.

This might not do much for Eloy Jimenez, Dallas Keuchel or Craig Kimbrel, but considering teams have gotten increasingly comfortable stretching every loophole, future players might be encouraged by the league’s willingness to address it sooner than later. Either that, or the actions of teams are a reason to remain highly skeptical.

As for the changes already coming down the pike:

One trade deadline: Effective this season, the league and union agreed to adopt a single non-waiver trade deadline on July 31, with no opportunities to make waiver-wire trades afterward. Ken Rosenthal sums up the pros (a hard deadline should spur action, deserving prospects can’t be buried by veteran trades) and cons (teams can’t address shortages from outside in case of late-season emergencies).

Expanding regular-season rosters: Come 2020, the league is expanding rosters from 25 to 26 players, with a cap of 13 pitchers. Maybe Adam Engel can be the ideal 26th man after all.

Shrinking September rosters: Teams will only be allowed to carry a maximum of 28 players and 14 pitches when rosters (slightly) expand, although Passan’s story doesn’t specify whether rosters can be tweaked from day to day or week to week.

All-Star Election Day: The league appears to be expanding its “Final Vote” idea to the entire lineup card.

Under the proposed plan, the standard online voting would take place starting this year. Upon its completion, the top three vote-getters at each position in each league would be on the ballot on Election Day, and whichever players received the most votes on that single day would determine the All-Star starters, according to sources.

Setting aside the increased muting necessary to make Twitter usable during the Election Day period, most of these changes seem reasonable, so long as they can be retracted should the unintended consequences be unconquerable. Removing August trades might hurt pennant races more than they help them, but at least in that respect, the White Sox will get the opportunity to learn from the sidelines where the new rules go wrong.

Update (10:50 a.m.): I scheduled this post last night, so I didn’t capture the changes coming to on-field rules in 2020:

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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There seems to be a sense of trying to work together coming out of this. And addressing the big issues sooner rather than later can only help to avoid a strike. It took several years and some juiced players to get MLB back from the last strike. Another strike of that magnitude would be devastating.


With so much money sloshing around, I feel comfortable they will work something out. Not in anyone’s interests not to


I believe the players should fight for a $1mil minimum salary, rookie eligibility ends the moment a player is added to the 26 man roster and teams get 5 years of control.
If clubs won’t pay them after the age of 30, they need to get as much as they can early and get to FA quickly.
PS- Glad there is a pitcher roster limit. Sorry, Rickey.


Now if they can just impose a bunting limit.


That Collin McHugh tweet is a little too on the nose.

As Cirensica

I will settle with a bunting tax

lil jimmy

The bunt can be very exciting. Pushing a bunt to Second on a LHP, then beating the throw to First is very exciting.


I agree. Those bunts are good because the player is trying to get a hit. Ricky’s bunts are rally killers. Plus Sox players are bad bunters. You have to be a good bunter to get one past the pitcher toward the 2nd baseman.

Trooper Galactus

Yeah, I liked bunts from guys like Podsednik and Pierre who could turn it into an actual asset. I don’t like watching demonstrably bad bunters constantly being called to employ it, or Renteria just giving away the out as a matter of course.

lil jimmy

I like it. 1 million, then 1.5, then 2 million pre arbitration. So many players never cash in.


I was thinking $1mil, then $1mil then 3 arb years, then FA.
So Blake Snell whould be in his second arb year right now and a FA afetr next season.


Mood: Does any of this fix a bad Sox front office and ownership?



lil jimmy

I really hate three pitchers in one inning to get three outs. Good riddance to that crap.
If they can just get robo Balls and Strikes, then I would never have to here about Tyler Flowers ever again.


Rick Renteria hardest hit.


Really don’t understand why the Union would agree to cap September rosters at 28. AAA guys getting called up to just sit on the bench/in the bullpen will be losing out on a real money-making opportunity. Adding a 26th man for the rest of the regular season doesn’t seem like an equal benefit. Would love to hear the Union’s rationale on this one.


I don’t think it makes a difference on the money. I think anybody on the 40-man is making MLB minimum or more. I’m sure I will be corrected if wrong. It won’t make any difference in the service time manipulation, as we’ve seen.

Lorenzo Barcelo

I think this doubles to around 82k for a 2nd year on 40 man without any prior call-up.


Thanks, Jim. Is it common for some players/high draft picks to have a negotiated 40-man roster salary above the minimum?


Did the Sox have more than 28 on the roster in September last year? I wasn’t paying attention.


I find the elimination of the revocable waiver period the most interesting while keeping the trade deadline the same. Now a significant August injury to a contender means one less option to address it.


I wonder if the reduced Sept roster will encourage more releasing of veterans who don’t fit into a team’s plans. If so, that might help teams that need to make a pickup


This is about the first time that I’ve heard of changes from a Manfred-led MLB that I actually like. Thank God for the three batter minimum. Maybe the playoffs will be watchable again

Yolmer's gatorade

I really don’t like the 3 batter minimum change. I understanding wanting to increase the pace of play, but the change really benefits clubs that can structure their lineup righty-lefty-righty-lefty. Institute a pitch clock. Stop allow batters to call for time so much. Don’t allow relievers any warm-up pitches unless there is an injury. LOOGYs and match-ups are an important part of the strategy of baseball, however. I think this rule can really change the game, and not necessarily in a good way.


There is an “or” in the rule. If there are already 2 outs the LOOGY is still the guy. Just hope he gets the job done, or, whelp.

lil jimmy

All the pitching changes at the end of the game reminds me of the endless free throws at the end of a basketball game.
Just sucks the life out of the game.


Agreed, if a LOOGY can’t get righties out, then maybe he shouldn’t be in the major leagues.

Yolmer's gatorade

I disagree with everyone above. I think the pitching changes are part of the late game suspense. The issue is how much time it takes, not the match up game. Plus, this is a change of a rule that, as far as I know, was always a bat of baseball.


This got me thinking about Damaso Marte, of course. In 2005 he made 66 appearances and faced three (or more) batters in the majority of them – 41 to be exact. So even though I remember him as a LOOGY, he really wasn’t. But the weirdest thing about his season was that he had two appearances where he faced zero batters, yet was credited with an out. Both times he came into the game and picked off a runner to end the inning.

This has been your regular Damaso Marte update (because there’s nothing more interesting to talk about on the current team…)

Trooper Galactus

I always felt like Marte was a lot better than he was given credit for and that he was underutilized by the team. He was closer quality but kept getting put into a closer-by-committee situation or just passed by in favor of others.


The single batter LOOGY is a fairly recent addition to major league bullpens. It’s really been the last 10-15 years. When teams had 10-11 man staff, they couldn’t afford to keep a guy who could only gets lefties out.

Trooper Galactus

Some of this reads like it was written by somebody who decided they’d had enough of watching games with a Renteria managed team.


Reinsdorf using his clout to Renteria-proof MLB.


Agree with hard trade deadline but should be extended to August 11 . July 28 is too short of a deadline. Strongly disagree with the 3 hitter minimium on relief pitchers. Ties the hands of the manager in formulating late game tactics.


It doesn’t necessarily tie their hands, it just makes the tactics different. 


Yes. I’m all for an early trade deadline; make it June 15, even. Doing so might lead teams to stock AAA with cromulent veterans as insurance policies for late season injuries, and that might lead to increases in minor-league salaries as they need to make the opportunities attractive enough that players will take them over going to Japan or Korea.