Baseball may return in the coming months, but not without some massive—yet temporary—changes to some of the core aspects of the game, such as each teams’ designated roster size.
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In this article, we’ll be addressing an interesting topic that pertains to the Mariners’ roster if Major League Baseball returns in the summer. @Malcontent47 writes, “If the season starts in June or July with a 30-man roster to make scheduled double headers easier to play, who are the extra 5 (later corrected to say 4) guys?”
If baseball is going to return, there absolutely needs to be a full-season roster expansion to 30 or more players. There’s also going to be a need for some sort of team of reserves that don’t count towards an organization’s MLB roster who can play fairly regularly in exhibition matches or at least practice with the team in order to stay prepared in the event of the inevitable injury bug, given that the 2020 minor league season is bound for cancellation.
That brings us to the all-important question which will help us determine who exactly the Mariners will look at to fill the extra spots on their expanded roster: what do they do with some of their top prospects that were poised to break into MLB action or at the very least make a big jump in their development this season?
We’ve talked at length about the sudden possibility of Jarred Kelenic making the Mariners’ Opening Day roster and have come to the conclusion that it likely isn’t the best idea and feel confident in saying Seattle’s front office would likely share that sentiment. When you consider the fact that Kelenic has just 92 plate appearances at the Double-A level and forcing him onto your roster would waste one of his six years of club control, it just doesn’t seem to be the smartest decision for an organization that has thus far played things pretty conservative with the growth of their prospects.
That also means you can eliminate any hopes of seeing Julio Rodriguez in a Mariners uniform this year, despite the circumstances.
Logan Gilbert and Justin Dunn, however, are a different story. Both young pitchers were on the cusp of cracking the team’s 26-man roster before the world went bonkers and appear ready to make that next step. If the plan is to play doubleheaders on most days during the rebooted season, teams will need to go beyond your normal five-man rotation, and Gilbert and Dunn appear to be the first two names in line to take up those potential openings.
It’s also possible that someone like Nick Margevicius or Wei-Yin Chen could fit that bill as well, though if the roster expansion is limited to just four extra spots, I believe Gilbert and Dunn would ultimately be the final selections.
This all also depends on what the restrictions are on positions added to the rosters. As MLB expanded its rosters from 25 to 26 this offseason, they put a cap on the amount of pitchers a team could have at one time to 13. If they want to maintain that balance between pitchers and positional players and the rosters go up to 30, would they only allow two arms and two bats? How would that change your strategy?
From a positional standpoint, you’d likely be looking at the loser of the battle between Tim Lopes and Dylan Moore and possibly Jose Marmolejos with Braden Bishop and Kelenic as outside contenders. Carlos González is another option, though it seems that the team was preparing to move on from him at some point during Spring Training.
The Mariners have options there, so that isn’t really an issue. The headache comes back to the pitching conundrum, which is why you cannot limit the rosters to just 30 players if you expect teams to play multiple doubleheaders on a weekly basis.
Depending on the schedule, teams would need roughly seven or eight starting pitchers plus a couple additional relievers just to ensure the proper rest for each arm. That would then open the door for some of the pitchers that were on the bubble in Spring Training such as Dan Altavilla and Gerson Bautista. It could also mean that some of their more intriguing relief prospects like Aaron Fletcher, Sam Delaplane, Wyatt Mills, and Joey Gerber could be under consideration as well.
To circle back to the sole purpose of your question of which four would make it if the rosters expanded to just 30, I would have to go with Gilbert, Dunn, Moore (assuming Lopes won the job in March), and Marmolejos. The latter three appeared to be the “last three out” in March while Gilbert is just too close to exclude.
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