Major League Baseball’s expansion to 26-man rosters has raised a lot of questions from both an organizational and league-wide standpoint, but a new rule has provided a little more clarity as to how exactly teams will piece things together.
Per Jayson Stark, Major League Baseball has officially alerted its teams that no more than 13 pitchers can be stowed on a roster at one time. In the event of a game postponement and subsequent doubleheader, however, teams will be allowed to call up a 27th man, which can be a 14th pitcher. This new rule particularly affects the Mariners, a team that’s historically maintained large bullpens in the past and quite possibly would have strongly considered a nine-man ‘pen for the 2020 season.
Seattle will now likely enter the year with a bullpen unit of eight as they’ve done in years past. While nothing has come of Ryan Divish’s report of a potential Yoshihisa Hirano signing, the expectation is that there will be roughly 11 relievers fighting for five spots in the Mariners’ bullpen, with Hirano (or another free agent reliever), Sam Tuivailala, and Carl Edwards Jr. practically locked in. Of those 11, Dan Altavilla and Matt Magill are the only ones without a minor league option left, while Rule 5 selection Yohan Ramirez has to make the roster or be offered back to the Houston Astros.
What this also means for the Mariners is that there is now officially a competition to be the team’s 13th and final positional player, likely a second utility man. The problem is, we don’t even know who their first utility man will be entering the season, though Dylan Moore and Tim Lopes will likely have the inside track to the spots. The Mariners, however, have brought in some competition for those two in Patrick Wisdom and Sam Haggerty, which should set up another fun storyline to follow during Spring Training.
But while the balance of 13 pitchers and 13 positional players is enough to make Thanos proud, the limit on arms could be a problem for some teams given another new rule change. In Rob Manfred’s tireless effort to address the pace of play in baseball, relievers are now required by rule to face three batters before they’re allowed to be taken out of the game, unless they’re injured. This means even more strategy on the manager’s behalf, and potentially more tired arms.
This pitcher limit also raises a few other question, especially in regards to two-way players like Shohei Ohtani and Brendan McKay. There will be loopholes; there always are. It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out, as the Mariners, along with the 29 other teams in the league, will have to readjust and find new ways to be creative in constructing their roster.