Posted on March 14, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
After much speculation, Major League Baseball has reached a deal with the MLB Players Association on new rules that will be implemented either this season or for the 2020 season. More radical rules like a pitch clock or universal use of the DH are not part of this set of changes. However, there will be noticeable alterations to the game, starting on opening day this season, which is just two weeks away. Here is a closer look at the rule changes that have been approved.
No Waiver Trades
The July 31 trade deadline is officially the be-all and end-all of trade season. MLB will no longer permit waiver trades in August. Players can still be placed on waivers and claimed during that time. However, players will only be eligible for the postseason if they are traded before the July 31 deadline, creating a little urgency for teams sooner in the summer.
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Fewer Mount Visits
Last year was the first time MLB put a limit on mound visits. This season, mound visits will be reduced further from six to five, at least in the first nine innings. It was rare that managers came close to running out of mound visits last season, but one fewer this year could make them value those visits even more.
Breaks in between innings will be slightly shorter in 2019. For games televised locally, mid-inning breaks will be reduced from 2:05 to 2:00. Commission Rob Manfred also has the right to reduce that number to 1:55 in 2020. Meanwhile, games televised nationally will have their breaks reduced from 2:25 in between innings to 2:00.
All-Star Game Festivities
Big changes are coming to the All-Star Game festivities. It will start with voting. There will now be an initial round of voting with the top three vote-getters at each position advancing to “Election Day,” which will be held on a single day in early July to determine all-star starters. During the game itself, a runner will now be placed at second base at the start of every inning starting in the 10th inning. Finally, the winner of the Home Run Derby will receive $1 million with the total prize money for participants increasing to $2.5 million.
In addition to these changes, MLB and the Players Association have agreed to form a committee that will study other rule changes that may be needed. There are also several changes already set to take effect in 2020:
More Time on Injured List
After dropping the injured list from 15 days to 10 days prior to the 2017 season, MLB is going back to 15 days in 2020. Teams have taken far too many liberties the past couple of seasons with the 10-day DL in place. It’s also worth noting that pitchers who are optioned to the minors will need to stay there for 15 days, not 10.
This may be the most controversial rule change coming to baseball. Unless there is an injury, starting pitchers and relief pitchers must face a minimum of three batters or complete a half inning before being removed from the game. With this rule, MLB is trying to avoid delays and improve pace of play, especially in the late innings. However, some players have spoken up about a three-batter minimum being bad for player safety if pitchers have worked multiple days in a row. One expected by-product of this rule is the elimination of specialty pitchers who may only be brought in to face one batter.
The 2020 season will see rosters expand from 25 to 26 players, and 27 players for doubleheaders. However, before the start of the season, MLB will determine a maximum number of pitchers that teams can carry. Players will then have to be designated on the roster as either a pitcher or position player unless they fit the criteria for being labeled a “Two-Way Player,” which requires a requisite number of games started as a position player and innings pitched the previous season. Finally, September rosters can no longer be expanded to 40 players. Instead, teams will be allowed to increase their roster to 28 players on September 1.