With the deadline looming for a new CBA for Major League Baseball, one thing is certain; there will definitely be changes. While there is not yet certainty that a deal will be reached, there is a general sense that with revenue higher than ever, the players and owners will reach an agreement and avoid lockout for the 2017 season. While some new elements such as an international draft and there will not be an increase in luxury tax penalties, there are rumors that the two sides are in agreement on making changes to roster sizes. How will these changes effect the league?
For starters, it will both expand and shrink roster sizes. The player’s association wants to expand rosters to include one extra spot, for a total of twenty-six players. Opening thirty new roster spots means owners have to pay thirty extra players, so in exchange, the September rosters will likely be limited to twenty-eight players. Will one extra player actually make a difference?
By adding a twenty-sixth player, teams will be presented with more opportunity. Since 2011, starting pitchers have averaged less than six innings pitched, meaning relievers have been used far more often. Despite effectively throwing less pitches, more pitchers than ever have undergone Tommy John surgery over the last few years. Adding an extra bullpen arm would prevent those injuries, and allow relief pitchers more time off between outings.
We have seen a trend towards strong bullpens over the past few years. From the World Series wins of the Royals and Giants, to this entire past postseason, the strength of a bullpen has never been more important. Adding an extra pen piece would allow more strategy. Righty or lefty specialists can again get their opportunities to play in the big leagues. The downside to an extra bullpen piece is it lengthens the time of the game. I do not mind the length, but the commissioner’s office is focused on making games shorter. Teams could always use the extra player as a batter.
With teams currently carrying twelve man pitching staffs, there are only five available bats off the bench in the National League and four in the American League. An extra outfielder, infielder, catcher, and then one or two creative options. In the National League, teams pinch hit for the pitcher, and in a lot of cases only for the pitchers. A backup catcher is saved for emergencies. Having an extra batter will allow teams to carry a special pinch-runner, or an extra player who is awful in the field, but is capable of hitting forty home runs. We can see more strategy, and less concern over replacements when there are more of them.
On the other side of things, a twenty-eight player limit makes so much more sense than forty in September. Teams get an endless array of relief pitchers today, and it is too much to have three pitching changes within a scoreless inning. A couple extra players help out, without making the game too boring.
Overall, I am a fan of the new roster size. How many of us had the dreams of being a major leaguer when we were kids? Thirty extra players will get the opportunity to live their dreams, and it will only have a positive effect on the league. The only argument against it is it could lengthen the games. If you’re a baseball fan, then that should not even matter. The amount of time that goes into a game might change by five minutes. Most. If that makes the difference to whether or not you are watching, you shouldn’t be watching baseball anyway. A twenty-sixth player is a player that makes the greatest game even better.
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