New Rules for MLB

(Jupiter, FL) A few days after announcing a series of experimental rules for the Atlantic League, Major League Baseball moved forward with their own implementation of new rules for both 2019 and the 2020 seasons.

“I think it was good for both sides to come to agreement on most of the rule changes,” said Michael Wacha, who is the St. Louis Cardinals Player Representative. “I know that they pushed some off to 2020, but I think it was a big step for us to not get some of those implemented for this year, for sure.”

Jointly announced by MLB and the Player’s Association, the following changes are effective for the 2019 season:

Inning Breaks: Subject to discussions with broadcast partners, inning breaks will be reduced from 2:05 to 2:00 in local games, and from 2:25 to 2:00 in national games. (The Office of the Commissioner retains the right to reduce the inning breaks to 1:55 in local and national games for the 2020 season.)

Mound Visits: The maximum number of mound visits per team will be reduced from six to five.

Trade Deadline: The trade deadline will remain July 31st; however, trade waivers will be eliminated. Players may be placed and claimed on outright waivers after July 31, but players may not be traded after that date.

Joint Committee: MLB and the MLBPA will form a joint committee to study other potential changes.

All-Star Game:
— All-Star Game fan voting will be conducted in two rounds. During the “Primary Round,” each Club will nominate one player per eligible position (three outfielders), who will be voted on by fans. In late June or early July, an “Election Day” will be held in which the top three vote-getters at each position in each League during the Primary Round (including the top nine outfielders) will be voted on by fans during a prescribed time period to determine the All-Star Game starters. Further details on the new fan voting format will be announced in April.

— All-Star bonus payments will be given to the top three vote-getters at each position in each League during the Primary Round (top six for outfielders). Additionally, the prize money awarded to players on the winning All-Star team will be increased beginning with the 2019 All-Star Game.

— Both Clubs will start the 10th inning of the All-Star Game, and each subsequent inning, with a runner on second base (re-entry substitutions allowed for runners).

Home Run Derby: Total player prize money for the Home Run Derby will be increased to $2.5 million. The winner of the Home Run Derby will receive $1 million.

The following rule changes will go into effect for the 2020 season:

Active Roster Provisions:
— The active roster limit from Opening Day through August 31st and in Postseason games will increase from 25 to 26, and the minimum number of active players will increase from 24 to 25. The current Major League Rules allowing for a 26th player for doubleheaders will be amended to allow for a 27th player.

— Elimination of 40-man active roster limit in September. From September 1 through the end of the championship season, all Clubs must carry 28 players on the active roster.

— The number of pitchers a Club may carry on the active roster will be capped at a number determined by the joint committee. Clubs must designate each of its players as either a pitcher or a position player prior to each player’s first day on the active roster for a given season. That designation will remain in effect for the player, and cannot change, for the remainder of the championship season and Postseason. No player on the active roster other than those designated as pitchers by the Club may appear in a championship season or Postseason game as a pitcher except in the following scenarios:

Players designated as a “Two-Way Player.” A player qualifies as a “Two-Way Player” only if he accrues at least 20 Major League innings pitched and at least 20 Major League games started as a position player or designated hitter (with at least three plate appearances in each of those games) in either the current championship season or the prior championship season;
Following the ninth inning of an extra-inning game; or
In any game in which his team is losing or winning by more than six runs when the player enters as a pitcher.

Minimum Number of Batters for Pitchers: The Office of the Commissioner will implement an amended Official Baseball Rule 5.10(g) requiring that starting pitchers and relief pitchers must pitch to either a minimum of three batters or the end of a half-inning (with exceptions for incapacitating injury or illness). The Players Association has agreed that it will not grieve or otherwise challenge the Office of the Commissioner’s implementation of the amended Rule 5.10(g).

Injured List and Option Period for Pitchers: Subject to input from the joint committee, the minimum placement period for pitchers on the Injured List shall increase from 10 days to 15 days, and the minimum assignment period of pitchers who are optionally assigned to the minors will increase from 10 days to 15 days.

Not all of the above changes have been met with a positive reception–the minimum of three batters for a pitcher being one of the more debated topics. While MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark’s official statement noted this was an “important initial step toward a broader dialogue about meeting the more substantive challenges our industry faces in the near- and long-term” he also told Jayson Stark of The Athletic that the MLBPA “did not agree to the three batter minimum”.

“Some people are for it, some people are against,” Wacha answered about the topic. “I don’t know. Personally, I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest fan of that. I think if a manager wants to waste a guy for an out, that’s his decision. They can pay the consequences with a little shorter bullpen. I don’t think it’s going to speed up the game, if that’s what they’re trying to do. But personally, I’m not really too much a fan of that rule change but I know some players are for sure.”

While not all may agree, Wacha did make clear that the opinions in the various clubhouses were heard in the discussions.

“We have meetings every off-season where we go over these topics and there’s multiple players there, all giving their insights and everything and their beliefs on what they think should go along. It’s the player’s voice and the union’s voice for sure.”

The agreement is still subject to ratification by the 30 MLB clubs and it was also stated in the release that as part of the agreement, MLB and the MLBPA will meet and discuss a renegotiation and extension of the Basic Agreement, and the Office of the Commissioner has agreed to not implement a pitch timer for the remainder of the current Basic Agreement.

photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

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